The Appalachian Forest Museum

Highlands Nature Sanctuary 7660 Cave Rd.
Bainbridge, OH 45612

937-365-1935   |
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

The Appalachian Forest Museum

Nestled between Rocky Fork State Park and Paint Creek State Park in southeastern Highland County is the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, a distinctive area of temperate deciduous forest in the Appalachian foothills. The Appalachian Forest Museum gives context to this natural area.

The 2,200-acre Highlands Nature Sanctuary is home to the Appalachian Forest Museum, which sits on a cliff high above the Rocky Fork Gorge, one of the largest gorges in the Eastern United States. The museum explores the global significance and natural history of the temperate forest through ten murals placed among replicas of old-growth trees found in the forest. Follow the deer tracks through the museum, read the labels, and look for familiar flora and fauna in each mural to learn about the story of the biome throughout its 33-million year history. The beautiful murals were painted in oil by Ohio artists John Agnew, Robert Dafford, Ann Geise, and Geoff Mowery. The museum and part of the nature sanctuary are the former home of 7 Caves, a popular tourist attraction that has been “re-wilded” and repurposed, along with other private properties acquired by Arc of Appalachia in this unique corridor.

A library offers opportunities for the whole family to interact with natural materials, games, and books related to the forest and its animal inhabitants and talk with a naturalist who is familiar with the museum and the nature sanctuary. Visit the museum’s website to learn more about events and educational opportunities at the museum such as Appalachian Forest School advanced naturalist courses and the Artists in Sanctuary Program.

The museum also acts as the visitor center for the Highlands Nature Sanctuary so pick up a one-day hiking pass and get outdoors to experience the unique biome that the museum explores through its murals. Two loop trails that go down into Rocky Fork Gorge begin at the museum, and the other 15 miles of trails wind their way through the area between Rocky Fork State Park and Paint Creek State Park.

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Notes for Travelers

Wildflowers flourish on the dolomite cliffs of the Rocky Fork Gorge, so the Highlands Nature Sanctuary is home to a stunning wildflower display each Spring. The nature sanctuary trails are open during the museum’s open hours from April to October. Valley of the Ancients is a popular trail that begins at the museum and takes hikers down into the Rocky Fork Gorge past Marble Cave, which used to be part of the 7 Caves tourist attraction and is the only cave that can be explored because it is not inhabited by bats. Dogs are allowed on Crowpoint Trail. Visit the museum’s website for more information about overnight lodging in retreat suites, cabins, and group lodges to extend your stay at Highlands Nature Sanctuary. Call ahead for large groups visiting the museum.


Bridget Garnai

Additional Resources

Arc of Appalachia. “The Eastern Forest.”

Rutkow, Eric. American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation. New York: Scribner, 2014.