The prime feature of this preserve is a narrow, east-west gorge cut by the Licking River through the famous Black Hand sandstone formation. It also boasts the only bike trail in Ohio's state nature preserve system; more than 4 miles of bike trail crosses the preserve. The preserve is rich in natural as well as early Ohio history. The name "Blackhand" originated from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph that was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river.
The engraving was destroyed in 1828 when canal builders dynamited the cliff face, during construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge. Sections of the canal towpath and canal locks may be seen from the trails along the river. The dry hilltops are dominated by oak-hickory mature woods along with Virginia pine and mountain laurel. Yellow birch, cherry birch and eastern hemlock grow on northerly exposures. It is an excellent site for viewing woodland spring wildflowers.
- Open 1/2 before sunrise, 1/2 hour after sunset
- Stay on designated trails
- Pets are permitted only on the Blackhand Trail (paved bike trail) and must be controlled on a leash no more than 6 feet in length in hand. Pets are not permitted on other trails in the preserve.
- Bicycles, skates and skateboards are permitted only on Blackhand Trail.
- Fishing is permitted along the north shore of the Licking River south of Canal Lock Trail; along the south shore of the Licking River from the main (east) parking lot to the Blackhand Trail bridge.
- Click here for all rules.
10 miles of trails:
Blackhand Trail (paved trail) - 4.3 miles
Canal Lock Trail - 0.4 miles
Chestnut Trail - 2.3 miles
Marie Hickey Trail - 2.0 miles
Oak Knob Trail - 0.6 miles
Quarry Rim Trail - 1.0 miles