The sanctuary celebrates the Eastern forest in its small forest museum that overlooks the gorge.
It is run by a nonprofit group but is a state-dedicated nature preserve. It gets no state money for operations, just a designation.
The Millers donated the land with its natural stone arch to the state in 1982. It is a geologic and botanical preserve.
My favorite trail on a three-day spring visit was Barrett's Rim, a two-mile hike. The sanctuary touts the trail as being the jewel of the gorge.
The trail started crossing a tall-grass prairie and then slipped into the woods. It dropped into the gorge near pretty Kellogg's Branch and ran under the cliffs and next to the gurgling stream.
Then, bam, the cliffs are there. They stand up to 80 feet tall and stretch for nearly a mile. It provokes a wild feeling, and you are sure that you can't possibly be in Ohio.
The trail is tucked at the base of the dolomite cliffs and next to the stream. The rock is tough, gray-brown and filled with holes.
Barrett's Rim is a botanical treasure, filled with verdant plant life. Vegetation thrives on the rock walls, turning them green. The cliffs are home to thousands of saxifrages, Sullivantia sullivantii. It is found only in Ohio and two other states.
The trail climbs past the Portal, a water-carved ravine, to ascend to the wooded plateau. It then returns hikers to the trailhead.
Both the 1.25-mile Cedar Run Trail and the two-mile Kamelands Loop offer access to the inner gorge. The Kamelands Loop also features a rock bridge along the trail.
The 0.33-mile Etawah Woods Trail begins near the forest museum and dead-ends on the creek near the Three Sisters, three picturesque house-size boulders that have toppled from the cliffs into the stream. There are 66 stone steps leading hikers into the rock-walled inner gorge.
It is one of the few places in Ohio where the gray polypod or resurrection fern grows.
"Foot for foot, this trail offers some of the most beautiful scenery" in the sanctuary and in the Arc of Appalachia, organizers say.
The Etawah (pronounced etta-WA) Trail was named after an American Indian maiden who reputedly leaped into the gorge to join a lost lover.
On one occasion, Shawnee Indians tied captive Daniel Boone to a tree overnight in the gorge.
The Ravenswood Listening Trail offers up-high views into the Hozho Canyon. The Taloden Woods Trail, a one-mile loop with another one-mile spur option, climbs a forested ridge.
Hikers must have a day pass, $6 for adults and $3 for children. That includes admission to the Appalachian Forest Museum.
The preserve is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends from April through October. Members can hike daily year-round.
The most useful information sheet is the trail guide with directions to trailheads scattered across the preserve. Most of the trails are moderate in difficulty, but they are short. The longest is a three-mile loop. They may be steep, rocky, narrow and uneven.
Etawah Woods, a 47-acre tract, was the first to be acquired in 1995. It is one of the prettiest sections of the gorge with arborvitae on the cliffs and hemlocks and Canada yew deep in the gorge.
Since 2005, the sanctuary has been working to improve visitor services and build its appeal. The sanctuary offers lodging in four old houses it has acquired along the gorge.
What could be better than sitting on a deck with a favorite beer after hiking four trails, watching a full moon rise over the gorge with redbud in bloom and hearing coyotes howling across the gorge?
The sanctuary is managed by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System that covers 5,000 acres in 14 preserves in southwestern Ohio. That includes two state historical sites: the Serpent Mound and Fort Hill, ancient Indian archaeological ruins, that the group manages for the Ohio Historical Society.
For information, contact the sanctuary at 7660 Cave Road, Bainbridge, OH 45612, 937-365-1935, http://www.arcofappalachia.org. For lodging, call 937-365-1936 or go to http://www.forest-lodging.org.
Bob Downing: firstname.lastname@example.org