Ohio State Parks Activities
To say that there are tons of great camping sites in Ohio would be an understatement. At Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park, outdoor enthusiasts love to pitch their tents among the park’s towering rock formations. Without a doubt, this is one of the most scenic spots in Ohio.
The 677-acre Kelleys Island State Park is another favorite among avid campers due to its convenience and easy accessibility. just two hours away from both Toledo and Cleveland, the park features a sprawling well-kept camping ground, as well as plenty of recreational activities. Plus, the downtown area is just a few minutes away so you’ll still have all the modern conveniences you desire.
If you want to explore the unique terrain of eastern Ohio, then head over to Barkcamp State Park, known for its picturesque rolling hills and wide array of outdoor activities. Families with hyperactive members will definitely enjoy this park!
Nicknamed the “Canoe Capital of Ohio,” Mohican State Park is the destination to go to if you’re looking for a rustic camping experience with plenty of outdoor fun. The park is situated right next to a 4,525-acre state forest so keep an eye out for the great many diverse wildlife that have made their homes within.
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Over nine hiking trails can be found at Hocking Hills State Park, all of which will take you through the park’s spectacular rock formations and waterfalls. These vary in difficulty level and two routes are even handicap-accessible. Guests who also want to explore the nearby Hocking State Forest should take on the six-mile Buckeye Trail, which winds through both the forest and the park.
If you’re looking for a day hike without all the crowds, then the trails at Burr Oak State Park are your best bet! Seven hiking trails that span over 28 miles are found here, ranging in difficulty from easy to moderate. A crowd favorite during the autumn season, the park’s beautiful scenery can’t be found anywhere else.
More than 74 miles of hiking trails meander through Caesar Creek State Park, which can be used to access the park’s various highlights, such as Horseshoe Falls, a 104-foot swinging bridge, a pioneer village, and more.
For hikers looking for a challenge, head over to Great Seal State Park where the nature trails are notoriously steep, going through some of the park’s roughest terrain. Keep in mind that hikers taking on these routes should be experienced and reasonably well-conditioned.
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An 18-mile backpacking trail that will take you around Burr Oak Lake can be found at Burr Oak State Park. This route links up with the Wildcat Hollow Trail in the adjacent Wayne National Forest so backpackers looking for a lengthy adventure are sure to love this one.
The largest state forest in Ohio, Shawnee State Forest features the Shawnee Backpack Trail, a premier route that covers over 60 miles with seven different camping sites. For those wishing to explore the beauty of the Buckeye State, this trail is made for you.
The main highlight of Tar Hollow State Forest is its 21-mile Logan Backpack Trail, created and maintained by a Columbus Boy Scout troop. Backpackers are also afforded a special camp located by the fire tower, which they can avail of before heading out on the trail.
Anglers from all over Ohio love to fish in Mosquito Creek Lake, situated within Mosquito Lake State Park in Trumbull County. This large body of water has some of the best large crappie, yellow perch, and northern pike fishing in the Buckeye State and walleye is also stocked annually. Moreover, the lake hosts numerous fishing tournaments every year, including the annual Mosquito Madness Tournament, which had been won the previous year by a team of anglers who managed to catch ten fish that weighed a total of 32 lbs!
Pymatuning Lake at Pymatuning State Park is another incredible fishing hole although keep in mind that only those with an Ohio fishing license are allowed to cast their lines here. This is the largest inland lake in the state with muskie and walleye both stocked annually and caught in fair numbers. Anglers have also reported catching bass, yellow perch, and sunfish in fair numbers. Additionally, the park hosts a yearly walleye tournament, which features over 80 anglers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.
Anglers looking to reel in largemouth bass and sunfish may also do so at Lake Milton, situated within Lake Milton State Park.
The Buckeye State offers the Ohio State Parks Geocache Challenge to avid geocachers, allowing them the opportunity to hunt and log caches that have been cleverly hidden all over the state. Over 75 state parks participate in this program, including Alum Creek State Park, Geneva State Park, Cowan Lake State Park, East Harbor State Park, and Caesar Creek State Park.
Day Use Areas
Have an unforgettable picnic at John Bryan State Park, which many consider to be the most scenic spot in Ohio with its spectacular limestone gorge carved by the Little Miami River. This tranquil backdrop is perfect for a picnic and the park also offers a massive network of hiking trails so you can burn off the calories after a large meal.
Kelleys Island State Park is another favorite picnicking site with its sprawling day-use area and abundance of picnic shelters. The park is especially popular in the summer so it does tend to get rather crowded here.
The diversity of scenery and wildlife at Deer Creek State Park makes it a must-visit! With grills and picnic tables scattered throughout the park, picnicking here will undoubtedly make for a memorable experience.
The Dow Lake Loop at Strouds Run State Park is the best mountain biking trail in Ohio. At 15 miles, this trail features some of the most challenging terrains in the Buckeye State and should only be taken on by intermediate and advanced riders. This ride is perfect for a weekend adventure but keep an eye out for its many upturned roots, steep drops, and loose rocks!
The 23-mile Mohican Mountain Bike Trail at Mohican State Park is another crowd favorite. An incredible and flowy singletrack, it features a series of punchy climbs although there are also a couple of bailout points along the way for riders who can’t take it anymore. However, the scenery that this trail will take you through makes the ride well worth it.
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The nearly 3000-acre Salt Fork Lake, tucked within Salt Fork Lake State Park, is one of the best boating spots in Ohio, a favorite among those who want a lakeside respite after an exhausting work week. Boats with unlimited horsepower are permitted here and the lake has eight ramps, as well as two marinas, which are both equipped with amenities such as gas, docks, and supplies.
Many consider the lake at Alum Creek State Park to be one of the best water recreation areas in the Buckeye State, popular with boaters, kayakers, and those learning to sail. Located in central Ohio, the lake has a ton of designated spots for boaters to enjoy their unlimited horsepower vehicles and skiing. There are four boat ramps, a full-service marina, and an abundance of docks. Guests can also rent a life preserver at one of the park’s ramps.
The diverse lake opportunities at Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area make it a prime boating destination! Located within are lakes with launch ramps for boats with up to 9.9 horsepower while smaller ponds scattered all over the park are ideal for kayaks and paddleboards.
Indian Lake State Park in west-central Ohio is also a crowd favorite, popular with guests looking to explore the area aboard a watercraft vehicle. The boater-friendly man-made Indian Lake features five launch ramps, as well as a dedicated kayak launch. This spot is also popular for water skiing and jet skiing.
Birding enthusiasts visiting Ohio should stop by Headlands Beach State Park, a mile-long sand beach with an adjacent swampland where a variety of incredible species can be found. This is one of the best birding sites in Ohio, known for its abundance of waterfowl and gulls. In the spring, guests love to keep an eye out for the warblers and Ospreys that are often observed here during this season.
The diverse habitats located within and surrounding Buck Creek State Park is also home to hundreds of bird species. Rarities have been spotted here too, including the Red-necked Phalarope and the Little Gull. Meanwhile, large populations of nesting birds like the Vesper Sparrow, the Acadian Flycatcher, and Dickcissel can be found in this park.
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The public beaches at Alum Creek State Park are a summer favorite among Ohio residents. Swim in clear, crystal-blue waters as you try to beat the scorching sun!
The reservoir situated within Caesar Creek State Park is another popular swimming hole, especially for guests looking to spend a few days in the park’s many log cabins. After swimming, be sure to explore the incredible and informative nature center found here.
Rock Climbing and Mountaineering
For the best rock climbing opportunities, check out John Bryan State Park, which offers six designated climbing sites, as well as one rappelling area. Found within the park is the Little Miami River gorge, which is lined with 30-60 foot limestone cliffs that make for perfect climbing! Keep in mind, though, that lead climbing and bouldering aren’t permitted at this park. More importantly, each site can only accommodate ten people at a time so stopping by during the off-season is highly recommended.
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For a horseback riding experience like no other, head over to Malabar State Park. Start your ride at the Main Barn – a fully-functioning barn dedicated to sustaining life and preservation of Ohio agriculture – where you can see history come to life. Afterward, take the trail through the dense woods to a 15-site horseman’s camp where you and your mount can take a rest by the campfire. The park boasts of well-kept trails that offer good footing for both beginners and advanced equestrians.
Bridle trails are found all over the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Park and an equestrian campground offers riders a relaxing respite after a long day of riding. Take in incredible views of crystal blue water, as well as the bubbling creeks that are dotted all over the park.
Alum Creek State Park has over 50 miles of equestrian trails that meander through the woods. The park also offers camping facilities for guests coming with their own horses.
A whole slew of breathtaking caves and underground caverns can be found within Hocking Hills State Park. One of the more popular ones is Old Man’s Cave; legend says that this was the home of a hermit named Richard Rowe during the 1700s.
The Whispering Cave is another favorite spot for caving enthusiasts. One of the newest sites to explore in the park, guests love exploring this beautiful natural wonder, which looks straight out of a fairytale.
Restaurants and Dining
Many state parks in Ohio are home to exceptional dining options. Bromfield’s Dining Lounge at Mohican State Park, for instance, offers guests breathtaking views of the surrounding forest, as well as of Pleasant Hill Lake. Their menu features a ton of delicious dishes, including seafood and unique sandwiches.
At Deer Creek State Park, make sure to stop by for a meal at Rafter’s Restaurant for a peaceful, secluded, and picturesque experience. Enjoy a bistro-style breakfast, lunch, or dinner at this tranquil spot.
Nestled within Malabar Farm State Park is the Malabar Farm Restaurant, housed in a restored 1820s stagecoach inn featuring upscale French and home-cooked cuisine. The restaurant’s cozy and laid-back atmosphere will undoubtedly make you feel right at home.
At Salt Fork State Park, take in great views of Salt Fork Lake as you tuck into your meal at the Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center. Be sure to order their weekend specials that feature the very best of local ingredients – they’re well worth the price!