Magic in the hills

Athens, Ohio is what I personally consider to be hippy heaven on Earth. This lovely little college town is filled with spunky free spirits, some of the best food on the planet, and a brilliant institution. But what really makes Athens so special is all of its hidden gems. I could go on and on about all of the fascinating nooks and crannies around this town, but for now I am going to focus on one of my personal favorites; Witches Peak (also known as Witches Hill and Witches Tit).

Being in the middle of Appalachia, Athens has a variety of rolling hills that are great for hiking. There is the ever so popular, Strouds Run. Then you have Radar Hill, with the spooky Ridges planted on top. And we can’t forget the most famous, Bong Hill. However, just across the street from Bong Hill is its lesser known sister hill, Witches Peak.

All of the hills in the Athens area are wonderful hiking spots, but Witches Peak is more than just a hiking trail to me. Bong Hill may have a nice view and Strouds has a lake, but Witches Peak has the beauty. The hill is enclosed in a grove of trees that makes you feel like you are in a completely different world. It’s enchanting.

View from the far side of Witches Peak

I love Witches Peak because I feel at peace when I am up there. For one, it is always less crowded than Bong Hill. You may see fellow hikers up on Witches Peak, but it is never as packed as Bong Hill. It is also quiet at the top of Witches. You can hear the breeze whistle through the trees up there; I love being able to hear that sound.

Green encompasses the top of the hill, even during the coldest months of the year. There is also a copious amount of boulders and rock formations scattered throughout the hill, that are great for climbing. To top it off, there is even a little cave like structure to burrow under. Witches Peak is like my playground. I can climb trees, run around in the leaves, and scale giant rocks all while taking in Mother Nature’s beauty surrounding me.

Witches Peak in the summer

Now, I’m sure you are wondering where the name “Witches Peak” came from. Rumor has it that there was a Satanic worshiping witch cult that did rituals on top of the hill in the 70’s. However, there is no confirmation of this rumor being true. Chances are it was just made up to scare freshman but hey, anything is possible right?

Call me crazy, but I am someone who likes to believe in magic. Witches Peak is one of my favorite hidden gems in Athens because it’s a place where I feel like magic could exist. Not the kind of dark, Satan worshiping magic that may have gotten the hill its name; but a playful, warmhearted magic. I often say that if I was a mythical creature, I would be a woodland faerie. I think if I was, that Witches Peak would be my faerie wonderland.

Witches Peak in the fall

*Note: Pictures do not do Witches Peak justice.

The view of campus from Witches Hill from athensohio

A quiet place amid the bustle of Athens

While I spend an inordinate amount of time (and money) at Donkey Coffee, and often spend time with my friends in various places around campus, my absolute favorite place in Athens is Strouds Run State Park.

Strouds can be found at 11661 State Park Rd., after traversing up the steep hills of eastern Athens and the winding, tree-line roads of the state park.

Strouds is a great place for hiking, swimming, canoeing or any other outdoor activities. On nice days, the park and beach area are often packed with visitors, from old couples relaxing on a picnic bench, to college students throwing a Frisbee on the beach, to young families hiking together.

Some of my favorite memories from my first semester of college were made at Strouds. During one of my first weekends in Athens, a group of my friends and I spontaneously decided to go to Strouds. We all packed into a Green Cab, gawking at the narrow, curving streets of Athens that were previously unknown to us.

When we arrived at our destination, we spent the whole day lying on the beach and swimming. I remember being in awe of the natural beauty of the park, and I felt grateful to attend school in such a picturesque, serene area.

Dow Lake in Sept. 2016

About a month later, I found myself at Strouds again after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. After services, it is customary to perform tashlich, which involves casting bread into a body of water to rid oneself of the regrets of the past year. The congregation at Hillel decided to do tashlich at Strouds, so my friend and I rode in the car of an older couple from the community.

After Rabbi Danielle handed out stale challah and leftover cookies from Shabbat services to congregants, we dispersed around the beach to do tashlich and quietly self-reflect.

Of the forty-some people who were there, I spent the longest time sitting by Dow Lake, in awe of the scenery around me. I thought a lot about the past year as I crouched in the soft grass—the places I’d traveled, graduating high school, beginning college—and what I looked forward to in the upcoming year.

After I did not have any more bread to toss into the lake, I joined the rest of the congregants on the beach. They were all gathered around Luna, the one year old daughter of Lauren, a Hillel employee, for Luna’s baby naming. It is traditional for Jewish kids to be given their Hebrew names sometime during their early years of life, and Luna’s parents chose to have the ceremony on the banks of Dow Lake that day. Lauren emotionally spoke to members of the Athens Jewish community of the origins of her daughter’s Hebrew name. It was an incredibly special moment to be a part of.

Taken while hiking on one of Strouds Run’s many trails

I have always loved hiking and connecting with nature, and Strouds is the perfect place to do that. On nice days, I crave the feeling of solitude and peace I know that I can find at Strouds. Even though it is over six miles away from campus, I am happy to make the trip and reconnect with the world around me. Amidst the stress of school and work, I know that I can go to Strouds and find solace.

Athens’ little secrets

Here is something that may surprise you: Athens has a lot to do! But not every student makes the effort to check out some unique spots in-and-around Athens. So we decided to take you to a few places beyond Court Street that students may not think about when they explore Athens.


Athens Farmers Market

Make sure to check out this market on Saturdays from 9am-12pm on Saturdays, 9am-12pm Wednesdays (April-December) and 4pm-7pm Thursdays (May-September). Athens favorites such as Jackie O’s and Casa Nueva have booths where they sell some of their best foods (such as bread and salsa). Check it out though to see all the vendors, you can even grab a slice of pizza or a vegetable taco for lunch!

The Athens Farmers Market is located on 1000 East State Street, inside the parking lot of the Athens Mall. Here is the map if you want to find it. Starting in the fall of 2016, there will be a bus that will take you to the farmers market if you do not have a car.

Directions to the market from Court Street (in front of College Green)
Directions to the market from Court Street (in front of College Green) via Google Maps


Strouds Run State Park

About 15 minutes outside of Ohio University is a state park that stretches over 2,606 acres and includes hiking trails and a beach for anyone to enjoy. On a perfect day, this is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the weather. At Strouds, there are almost 80 campsites and 35 miles of trails that you can hike on (25 of those miles can be open to bikes).

The park is located on 11661 State Park Road in Athens, here is a map for directions.

Directions to Strouds Run from Court Street (in front of College Green)
Directions to Strouds Run from Court Street (in front of College Green) via Google Maps

Premiere Video



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In an age where video stores close in favor of websites like Netflix and Amazon, Premiere Video serves as the exception that video stores cannot compete against the Internet. This store has hundreds of movie titles (both DVDs and VHS tapes) and offer great deals on a regular basis. So if you have a DVD player and/or a VCR, look no further than Premier Video for your movie needs.

Premiere Video is located on 284 East State Street.

Directions to Premiere Video from Court Street (in front of College Green)
Directions to Premiere Video from Court Street (in front of College Green) via Google Maps


ReUse Thrift Store

You can't miss the colorful facade of ReUse, their sign is just as quirky as the store.
You can’t miss the colorful facade of ReUse, their sign is just as quirky as the store.

ReUse is located on 100 Columbus Rd. On a nice day, enjoy a 40 minute walk from Campus taking W Carpenter St. all of the way until you hit Columbus Rd. There is also a bus that you can take for that costs a dollar per trip. Honestly, this thrift store has character. They have everything from clothes for 25 cents to cheap silverware and the occasional Hula girl. If you want to pull together a complete look for under five dollars while simultaneously getting a taste of real Athens county, ReUse is a must-go.

The Antique Mall 

I had a hard time leaving the antique mall without feeling sentimental.
There is something about antique malls that makes one feel mighty sentimental.

Make a day of thrifting on the West side of Athens. Just down the road from ReUse at 180 Columbus Rd. rests an AMAZING antique mall. The Athens Antique Mall is two floors of Appalachian gold. They have vintage clothing, mirrors, old books, records, trinkets and boxes galore. Even if you don’t have the money, making a trip to look around and see artifacts and history is well worth it. Plus you never know what you will find …


Hopefully none of you will say, “oh I wish I visited…” once you graduate from OU. These three places are just the tip of the iceberg, there are many places around town to visit and experience.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and explore Athens!





Top 4 places to hike in Athens

For those looking to do some off-campus exercise in lieu of going to Ping, hiking in Athens is a great option.

The Athens area offers a plethora of scenic places to spend the day hiking on Appalachian trails. Here are the top four places in Athens to go hiking:

1. Strouds Run

Strouds Run is only a 15-minute car ride north of the Ohio University campus. The trails at Strouds Run wrap around the beautiful Dow Lake, where students can also go canoeing or kayaking. Many of the trails are open to mountain biking as well. Strouds offers miles of trails by the lake and up into the surrounding hills.

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The trails that wrap around Dow Lake stretch nearly 12 miles all the way around.
A parking lots entrance to some of the trails at Strouds Run.
The trails in Strouds are heavily wooded and feature patches of pine forest as seen above.
A photo taken in early spring of 2015 on Sundown Trail at Strouds Run.

2. Sells Park Trails

The entrance to the trails at Sells Park stem off of East State Street via Avon Place. From OU’s campus, the trip would only take around 10 minutes by car or 25-30 minutes on foot. The trails at Sells Park wind up and down the hilly area, and feature dozens of massive boulders. The trails actually connect to Strouds Park, if one were to hike far enough.

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Sells Park leads to several other trail networks.
One of the trails that stems from Sells Park, taken during winter 2015.
Like many of the trails near Athens, the Sells Park trails can be both steep and muddy.

3. Trails at The Ridges

If you’re looking to hike in Athens without driving off campus, look no further than the trails by The Ridges. Ohio University owns a huge portion of forested land near its Ridges facility across the Hocking River from campus. The “nature walk” trails move through forests and meadows, and also pass through old cemeteries with unmarked graves.

The university owns the entire portion of land devoted to the trails.
The nature walk trails start only a short walk away from OU’s main campus.



4. Bong Hill and Witches Hill

Many students know about Bong Hill, the infamous hill with a stunning view of OU’s campus. What many students may not know about is the hill’s neighbor, Witches Hill, with even steeper inclines and a different view. The trails to these hills can be accessed across Stimson Ave over the Hocking River, and include very rocky and steep inclines.

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Witches Hill trail also includes boulders.