Visit and explore Belmont County
By Barb Ballint, BCTC Executive Director
We all know too well the feeling of being confined to our homes. We all have a new appreciation for our family outings or the opportunity to just take that Sunday ride for ice cream. As we adjust to our new normal, we come to terms that our vacations may look a little different this year. Plans have changed and short trips and staycations will be the trend.
Belmont County, Ohio has several communities that may be just what you are looking for. The area is known for its courtesy and hospitality. And that is because the residents have been able to hold on to that sense of community, that sense of small town, where you still see those who live there greeting each other from across a busy street or getting a wave from a car as it drives by.
This area is also known for the beautiful landscape. Nothing is more beautiful than a drive on one of the county’s scenic byways. Drover’s Trail, which passes through the rural area, offers views of the valley from the hilltops along the way. On this 39-mile byway you will find small farms and hardwood timber along the trail, which extends from SR 147 from Bellaire to SR 800 from Barnesville to Hendrysburg. The route was once known for its soft surface, which was easier on the hooves of livestock and know as the drover’s route. The Drover’s Trail connects with both Historic National Road Scenic Byway and the Ohio River Scenic Byway. It is also close to the villages of Belmont, Bethesda and Morristown, which all have unique histories.
When driving along Drover’s Trail, you will travel through the historic downtown area of Barnesville, which is known for its Victorian architecture and home of one of Ohio’s best Pumpkin Festivals. While in Barnesville, you will see the history of the area through murals painted on the side of brick buildings that depict the community’s industrial and cultural history. There are many reasons to stop along the route in Barnesville. You may want to visit the unique shops and hometown eateries. Dive deeper into the community and visit The Watt Center for History and The Arts. This community landmark once served as offices for the Watt Car & Wheel Co., founded in 1863. Or stop by the well-known Belmont County Victorian Mansion Museum. From the picturesque gazebo and wrap around porch outside to the stunning wood, fret work and marble fireplaces inside, a visit to this gorgeous 26-room mansion will transport you back in time. And antique enthusiast will enjoy the Barnesville Antique Mall, which has three floors of unique finds. Outside of Barnesville before the I70 overpass, be sure to stop at the Dickinson Cattle Company, one of the most visited attractions in the area. Climb aboard the big blue bus, take a ride into a field and let the giant Texas Longhorn cattle eat “cow candy” out of your hand. Where else in this part of the county can you get a close view of BueLingo and African Watusi cattle. The route ends in Hendrysburg, birthplace of the well-known country movie star “Hop-A-Long Cassidy.
One might think after taking this drive, they have seen most of the area. But the county is geographically spread out. So, there is a lot more to see. A lot more for sure. If you head east on Interstate 70, each exit offers a place to see, from museums to a covered bridge. You can also enjoy a walk along trails at Barkcamp State Park or Zion Christian Retreat with cabins and trails. Both offering breathtaking scenery. The bird watching enthusiast will also enjoy these spots, which are conveniently located off the interstate.
If you need some retail therapy, you are not going to want to miss stopping by the Ohio Valley Mall, which offers something for everyone. The mall is in St. Clairsville, which is the county seat. This area of the county is home for most of the retail businesses. Many of the chain restaurants and lodging facilities sit close to the mall and are visible from the interstate. The drive through traveler will find everything he is looking for in this area.
But if you want to stay close to history, you will want to travel on the Historic National Road, Route 40, the first federally funded road in the nation. This is where you will also find more of the unique and locally owned businesses, such as The Pike 40 Restaurant, Route 40 Lumberjaxe, Three Lab’s Salvage, Kirke’s Homemade Ice Cream, Ebbert’s Farm Market, Vino Di Piccin Winery and Tasting House, Fat Apple Bakery, Attic Pickers and more. This historic byway will take you to the Ohio River, which separates Ohio from West Virginia and connects with the Ohio River Scenic Byway, known as Route 7. This part of the county is rich in history, where you will find some of Ohio’s earliest settlements.
This area is found to be extremely popular to those interested in history. Walnut Grove Cemetery, dating from 1795 is Martins Ferry’s oldest pioneer landmark and the resting place of the Zane and Martin families, as well as veterans dating from the Revolutionary War. The Betty Zane statue, at the entrance of the cemetery, is a reminder of the heroine of the last battle of Fort Henry. This community is known for its tradition and pride. Come Friday night, the streets empty to cheer on the community’s high school football team. The Sedgwick Museum Exhibits include school and sports memorabilia as well as period furniture, glassware, textiles, and commercial and industrial materials, once manufactured in mills and plants located in the county’s riverfront communities.
Driving south along the river, you will want to stop by the Imperial Glass Museum and the Plastic Toy Museum, both located in Bellaire. The route continues to the farthest south point of the county, Powhatan Point, which is known for its beautiful marina area. This is a beautiful area, especially when decorated with the fall foliage.
The drive around the county is beautiful, but if you want to ensure that you truly see it all, you will need to contact the tourism office. One read cannot possibly replace the actual experience. So, when you are ready to travel, and it is safe to do so, visit Belmont County. We have something to offer the whole family! We will be here waiting for you!
You can find these travel ideas and more on the Belmont County Tourism Council website visitbelmontcounty.com. Be sure to look at our travel guide, sign up for our newsletters, explore “virtual” tours, and follow our social media pages to keep up to date on everything happening in Belmont County.