Brilliant blues and fiery orange stripes pop against the backdrop of the lush Hocking Hills landscape. We’re not talking about summer skies or glowing sunsets that also define the region, but a collection of magnificent butterfly wing sculptures on the new Hocking Hills Butterfly Trail.

Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center
Credit: Explore Hocking Hills

The butterfly trail takes groups on an interactive journey to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of these spectacular insects. The route includes 14 stops aimed at teaching groups and visitors about the importance of butterflies and their role as global pollinators.

“The Hocking Hills Butterfly Trail encourages stewardship of our natural areas by demonstrating how important pollinators are to the wellbeing of the very thing visitors come here to experience: nature and wildlife,” says Karen Raymore, executive director of Explore Hocking Hills. “A diverse group of partners came together to implement the trail, creating outstanding visitor experiences that educate while making each stop fun and interactive.”

A partnership project led by Logan in Bloom and the Hocking Hills Tourism Association includes a colorful map and passport that features 14 pairs of human-sized butterfly wings of species found throughout the Hocking Hills. The larger-than-life wings, which also serve as “selfie stations,” give visitors a colorful way to capture memories and learn about each featured butterfly, its habitat, food sources, and positive environmental impact. The trail also showcases the beauty of the region as the route travels through the rolling hills, open prairies, and dense forests of the Hocking Hills.

The 14 featured butterflies and their stops include:

  • Monarch – Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center
  • Great spangled fritillary – Capital University Primmer Outdoor Learning Center
  • Orange sulfur – Hocking Valley Community Hospital
  • Silver-spotted skipper – Worthington Park
  • Clouded sulfur – The Bowen House
  • Red admiral – Hocking County Historical and Genealogical Society
  • Pipevine swallowtail – Hocking Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Viceroy – City of Logan Community Garden
  • Red-spotted purple – Logan High School
  • Pearl crescent – Chieftain Elementary School
  • Hackberry emperor – Rockbridge State Nature Preserve
  • Eastern tiger swallowtail – Appalachia Ohio Alliance Conservation Demonstration Site
  • Spicebush swallowtail – Bishop Educational Gardens
  • Eastern comma – Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center

Two stops on the trail offer a more hands-on learning experience to dive deeper into local pollinator biology. Groups can learn about the entire lifecycle of monarchs at the waystation and butterfly garden at Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center, from young caterpillars feeding (May-August) to their becoming chrysalides, and finally, emerging as monarchs (late August-October). Visitors can take part in monarch migration research by tagging and releasing butterflies at the very beginning of their annual journey from the Midwest to Mexico. At Butterfly Ridge Conservation Center, hiking trails through 21 acres of native pollinator-friendly prairie, forest, and gardens give groups the chance to walk through butterfly habitats. Butterfly Ridge also hosts an after-dark program—a safari-like journey where groups discover and identify various moth species at night by attracting the insects with light.

A printable Butterfly Trail destinations map and visitor passport are available for download, helping participants navigate and track their stops along the route. These resources, and a free butterfly trail sticker, can also be picked up in person at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center in Logan, Ohio.

Written by Erica Zazo

Featured image: Eastern tiger swallowtail; Credit: Butterfly Ridge