Spruce Hill Earthworks

Black and white map of Spruce Hill in 1846
A drawing of Spruce Hill Earthworks taken from Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, c.1846.  Click this image for a larger version of the original Squier and Davis plate.

Squier & Davis

Prehistoric History

Spruce Hill is a small sliver of Ohio's geologic library, rich with a beautiful biodiversity, and laden with evidence of the prehistoric Hopewell culture. Even the trail that leads up to the storied plateau area contains geologic "windows" that allow us to see back in time. The sediment-washed trail has countless exposed layers of shale which date to almost 400 million years ago. Rippled sandstone, which dots the trail, is direct evidence that the area was once under the cover of a sprawling ancient sea. The lush woodland hillsides nurture rare and exotic flora and lively fauna of all shapes and sizes.

Mystery and Awe

Built primarily of stone, a low perimeter walls encloses the 140-acre plateau of the mesa-like ridge top. At intervals along the walls is evidence of mysterious burning that produced heat higher than an open fire can generate. Spruce Hill proper is a prominent feature in the Paint Creek Valley, once affording grand vistas of the surrounding floodplain below that included the geometric ceremonial complexes of nearby Baum Earthworks and Seip Earthworks.

What To Do

Spruce Hill Earthworks is not open to the public for daily visitation. Be sure to read the Ranger Recommendations on hiking the site when you are fortunate enough to visit. Ocassionally, the park co-hosts a guided hike with a ranger. Please check the park Calendar to see when the next hike is offered or you can Contact Us.

Present and Future

Read the 1998 Spruce Hill Summary Report that explored the feasibility of adding the site to the park. Spruce Hill Earthworks is owned by park partner, the Arc of Appalachia. Hopewell Culture NHP co-manages and provides interpretation of the site, together with the Arc of Appalachia.

Please keep in mind, there is NO hunting or artifact gathering allowed ANYWHERE on the site.


Visiting the Site

Spruce Hill is not open to the public on a daily basis. There is a locked gate that restricts access to the parking lot and hiking trail. While visitors are allowed to access the site with proper permissions, most visitors will be disappointed as there are NO visible markers, NO signage (interpretive and directional) and most importantly, there are NO visitor facilities. Additionally, there is NO visible archeology at the site. You will not be able to determine or find any archeological features. For this reason and for your safety, it is important that visitors not venture from trails in an attempt to locate features/archeology.

For those wishing to visit the site, it is important to know the following:

  • Exploration and/or excavating of any kind is strictly prohibited at this site.
  • Each and every vehicle that enters the site must have a permit that is issued to each vehicle. Multiple cars will require their own separate permit, even if all vehicles are part of the same party. Each driver must fill out the permit information for each vehicle.
  • Permits are issued on the day of visit only. Permits will not be issued for a future date for any reason. Multiple visits on multiple days will require a permit for each day, issued on the same day of the visit as permits are Single Day Use Only. There are no exceptions to this policy.
  • Permits will not be issued over the phone or through email requests for any reason. Each vehicle's driver MUST physically go to the Mound City Group visitor center and obtain your permit for your vehicle, in person. There are no exceptions to this policy.
  • Upon arriving, the lot will not be mowed. Closed-toed shoes/sturdy hiking boots are recommended for this hike. When you set out on your hike up to the plateau, the trail follows an old logging road from the west edge of the parking lot.
  • Under no circumstances are visitors permitted to drive any vehicle up the trail to the plateau or on the plateau. This includes any all-terrain two-wheel or four-wheel vehicles, regardless of size. Operation of a vehicle beyond the parking area will result in resource destruction to the trail and the plateau.
  • Once at the top, the area flattens out and you will encounter tall, thick vegetation as the site has not been mowed or regularly maintained. Again, closed-toed shoes/sturdy hiking boots are recommended.
  • Please stay on the trail as most of the existing trail on the plateau is flat. Areas off of the plateau trail have severe ridges and depressions from previous years of agricultural farming. The trails are not marked, but you should be able to determine the trail route as vegetation may not be as tall as non-trail areas.
  • Trails will likely be in poor condition as minimal maintenance has been performed. Please try not to venture off of trails, for your safety and to preserve the site's resources.
  • Launching, landing and operation of any type of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV / drones) are not permitted within National Park Service boundaries, which includes the parking area of Spruce Hill, the trail up to the plateau and the plateau itself. Read more about Unmanned Aircraft in the National Parks.
  • To obtain a permit to access the site, please proceed to the park's visitor center on the day of your planned visit. If you have questions about the site or the permit itself, feel free to call us or email us with your questions.

Ranger Recommendations

Things to keep in mind if you will be hiking Spruce Hill:

  • During the spring and summer there is an abundance of ticks and other small, biting insects. Be prepared to encounter them when you visit Spruce Hill in the spring, summer and early fall. Read more about ticks and minimizing tick exposure.
  • Be advised, the hike up to the plateau is considered "moderate to difficult." It is an uphill hike with steep changes in elevation.
  • Please stay on the trail as most of the existing trail on the plateau is flat. Areas off of the plateau trail have severe ridges and depressions from previous years of agricultural farming.
  • When you are ready to leave, be cautious on your descent on the trail. The steepness of the descending trail may not appear to be as severe as it really is. This is why it is important to have on a good pair of hiking boots with good sole treads.
  • There are NO restroom or visitor facilities at the site as this is a primitive site. Please plan accordingly before you arrive to the site.
A colorful field of spring flowers in full bloom
A sea of Goldenrod covers the plateau of Spruce Hill Earthworks in the spring.

NPS Photo / Tom Engberg

A rocky trail surrounded by trees
Exposed shale on the right side of the trail leading up to the plateau of Spruce Hill Earthworks.

NPS Photo / Tom Engberg

Last updated: August 12, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

16062 State Route 104
Chillicothe, OH 45601


(740) 774-1126

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