In the woods near Zaleski State Forest, you’ll find one of the last physical reminders of the ghost town of Moonville.
In 1856, a local man named Samuel Coe gave the Marietta and Cincinnati (M&C) Railroad permission to construct a new rail line across his property near the now Zaleski State Forest. The railroad line had obvious benefits for Coe, offering him an easy way to ship coal on his property, so he offered the land for free.
Around the railroad, a new community was born. Moonville was home to mostly miners and railroad workers and although it could never be described as a booming metropolis, it was a tight-knit community of about 100 people at its peak.
By the early 1900s, coal mines in the region started closing and the community began to dwindle. By the mid-1940s the last family living in Moonville abandoned the town. Now, the only tangible remnants of Moonville are the old schoolhouse’s foundation, a train tunnel, and the community cemetery.
But just because people don’t live in Moonville full-time doesn’t mean that it’s faded completely into obscurity. These days, the ghost town moniker is metaphorical to some but literal to others.
Every year, paranormal believers gather at the Moonville Tunnel to see if they can catch a glimpse of one of the many ghosts of railroad workers that were said to have been struck down by a train.
Even if you aren’t a believer in the supernatural, there are still plenty of reasons to visit the tunnel. The abandoned railroad line is being converted into walking and biking trails.
The Moonville Rail Trail is a 10-mile trail that takes visitors through the beautiful woodlands of Zaleski State Forest, as well as the Lake Hope State Park wetland areas.
The trail passes through the 100-foot Moonville Tunnel, but it’s not the only tunnel you’ll see along the way. The King’s Hollow Tunnel is a 120-foot tunnel carved through rock and lined by wooden beams.
Finding Moonville Tunnel can be a little tricky, but ODNR provides these instructions to find it.
“From US-33, turn south onto OH-278 towards Lake Hope State Park. After passing Lake Hope, turn left on Wheelabout Road. Stay straight on this road. This becomes a gravel path and eventually crosses a one-lane bridge. Park near the old rail bed and cross Raccoon Creek to pick up the trail. Moonville Tunnel is about 100 yards from this point.”
Southeastern Ohio is notorious for spotty cell phone service, so it may be worth printing out your instructions before you head out. Here are a few other tips for visiting the tunnel.
- There are no bathrooms available near the tunnel, so make sure you find a place to relieve yourself before you head out. There are restrooms available at nearby Lake Hope State Park.
- The tunnel gets pretty dark, even in the daylight hours, so be sure to bring a flashlight.
- If you park in the lot nearby, the tunnel is accessible to wheelchairs.
- The Moonville Tunnel is located in a remote area. Be sure you come prepared for the great outdoors by bringing bug spray, appropriate footwear, water, snacks, and anything else you might want for a day out in the woods.