When it comes to exploring Ohio, there are many options, especially if you are an outdoors enthusiast. Are you looking for the best state parks in Ohio? Then you’ve come to the right place!
1. Best State Parks in Ohio
Ohio is home to more than 70 incredible state parks with stunning landscapes that showcase the state’s beauty. Located in some of Ohio’s premier outdoor destinations, from Lake Erie’s shores to the Appalachian Mountains’ southern rolling hills, you will explore some of Ohio’s best outdoor recreation.
In Ohio, unlike most other places in the country, most of the parks do not charge an entrance or parking fee. Most of the listed parks are free to enjoy at your leisure. Those interested in camping will be in luck, as 57 state parks cover the entire state of Illinois and offer more than 9,000 campsites. Access to a wide range of amenities makes it easy to be immersed in nature, right?
Also, several state parks in Ohio offer tent camping and lodging options such as cabin rentals or indoor accommodations. The gardens are open year-round, offering numerous activities, fascinating histories, unique natural features, and a wide range of flora and fauna species.
A trip to the Midwest would only be complete with experiencing some of the loveliest vistas, unique opportunities, and fun experiences that state parks in Ohio offer. All of them are worth a visit, so you may need clarification about where to start. If that is the case, then you should read our list of the best state parks in Ohio that are mentioned below-
1. Kelleys Island State Park
2. Hocking Hills State Park
3. Mohican State Park
4. Alum Creek State Park
5. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
6. Delaware State Park
7. Beaver Creek Valley State Park
8. Tar hollow State Park
9. Salt Fork State Park
10. Shawnee State Park
11. Indian Lake State Park
12. John Bryan State Park
13. Maumee Bay State Park
14. Lake Hope State Park
Now, let’s explore the list in detail to make things easier for you.
1.2 Kelleys Island State Park
Kelleys Island Park is the first state park we feature on our list of the best state parks in Ohio. The views of Lake Erie are spectacular, and the ancient ruins that can be explored make Kelleys Island something special, almost making you forget that you’re in Ohio. They established the Kelleys Island State Park in 1956, which consists of a total of 676 acres of land.
At the Kelleys Island State Park, there are six miles of hiking trails, ruins of historic lime kilns and quarrying operations, a sand beach, and a spacious State Park Campground with 129 campsites, including yurts with kitchens and baths.
The list continues further: there are a lot of other activities to enjoy on Kelley’s island, such as fishing, camping, hiking, and more. You will find a playground for kids, a volleyball court, a fish-cleaning hut at the campground, and direct access to the sandy beach of the Kelleys Island State Park.
1.2 Hocking Hills State Park
Located in the near vicinity of the Hocking Hills region, Hocking Hills is one of the prettiest and most well-known state parks in Ohio. The Hocking Hills State Park offers a wide range of activities to keep you occupied. Among its many activities, Hocking Hills offers many ways to spend time with your family, including camping, hiking, canoeing, zip-lining, and much more.
There are more than 25 miles of hikes throughout the park, and the fascinating rock formations, waterfalls, and caves are all intriguing. You can find some of the prettiest views in the entire state along the hiking trails to Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, and Cedar Falls.
With 99 acres dedicated to rock climbing and rappelling, the Hocking Hills State Park is a popular destination among travelers. In addition, fishing and birdwatching are also other popular activities to enjoy.
1.3 Mohican State Park
The Mohican State Park boasts more than 1,000 acres of the most spectacular habitats and geology. Located five miles northeast of Loudonville, Ohio, it is a 1,110-acre state park located on the south shore of Pleasant Hill Lake and just a short drive from downtown.
Visitors to the Mohican State Park can enjoy various naturalist-led activities during the summer months, including movies at the campground amphitheater and family games, nature hikes, and a tour of the grist mill between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The park is in the center of Loudonville and is close to Pleasant Hill Lake. Throughout the state park area, there are several activities that you can enjoy, like hiking, cycling, fishing, boating, and sightseeing. Among its many must-see features is Clear Fork Gorge, Lyon’s Falls, the Mohican River, and Pleasant Hill Lake, which is situated nearby.
1.4 Alum Creek State Park
The park’s northern region is dotted with quiet coves filled with shale cliffs that invite solitary fishermen for a fishing expedition as sunseekers mingle with thousands of people on Ohio’s largest inland beach. There is no better place to escape to natural beauty than Alum Creek State Park, located just north of Columbus and easy to access.
Having a 4-acre Friends of Alum Creek Dog Park with a fenced-in swimming pond and a play area just for dogs, it is a perfect spot for dog lovers. Aside from lake swimming, water sports, horseback riding, fishing, boating, ice boating, mountain biking trails, and an ice fishing and ice boating program, the Alum Creek State Park also offers many other activities.
A walk along the Storybook Trail is the perfect way for children to learn about a story. As you walk along the trail, a story unfolds. There is also a Free Little Library at the trailhead where you can take home or donate books, and it is free to use.
1.5 Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Next on our list of best state parks in Ohio is Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located in Northeast Ohio. This 32,572-acre park offers more than 125 miles of hiking trails and the opportunity to paddle along the Cuyahoga River through the park.
There are more than 100 waterfalls in the park, along with rolling hills, forests, narrow ravines, rivers, and wetlands. Several activities can be enjoyed there, from playing golf to riding on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
The National Park offers everything you need to have incredible outdoor recreation – fantastic hiking trails, wildlife viewing, waterfall-chasing, and nature photography. There is undoubtedly something for everyone to enjoy! And if you want to read more about the national state parks in Ohio, click here.
1.6 Delaware State Park
How about a total of 1,686 acres of wilderness available on the shores of a 1,300-acre lake that is just waiting for you to explore it sounds? Fascinating, right? Put Delaware at the top of your list of best state parks in Ohio.
As well as accessing the reservoir, numerous hiking trails wind through woodlands, meadows, and wetlands. The Big Foot Trail, fisher Trail, Lakeview Trail, Dam Trail, and Briar Patch Trail are just a few numerous available trails.
Delaware State Park has more than 200 improved campsites open to RV Camping and travel trailers. Also, only the grounds have electricity. Several bluebirds can be found in this park, which makes it an excellent destination for bird watching.
1.7 Beaver Creek Valley State Park
Beaver Creek Valley State Park is one of Ohio’s most popular state parks due to its clear streams fed by the “Big Spring.” Beaver Creek State Park is situated amid a dense forest between Akron and Pittsburgh, offering visitors many opportunities to explore nature and learn about the area’s history.
The park contains Little Beaver Creek, one of the premier wild and scenic rivers in the state and the country, and offers acres of wilderness forest. This park is extremely popular with hikers as it provides a lot of campsites and one of the best canoe routes in the entire state. Trails for mountain biking and bridle riding are available to adventurers.
Among the highlights of Beaver Creek State Park are the pioneer village and Gaston’s Mill-Lock, which is one of the best places to learn more about the lives of early colonists. You should take advantage of this place if you are interested in history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts.
1.8 Tar hollow State Park
Tar hollow State Park is reminiscent of the way to see a slice of Ohio as it was when the first settlers stepped foot in the state. Laurelville, Ohio, is an attractive town that sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Plateau and is surrounded by the Tar Hollow State Forest, which is part of this State Park.
The state park serves various outdoor activities, including picnic shelters, a general store, camping, hiking trails, boating, fishing, and swimming in Pine Lake. You can rent kayaks in the general store, an 18-hole mini-golf course, and camping necessities are available.
There are also a lot of backpackers from Columbus that visit the park every year. This State Park in Ohio, a heavily forested state park, is home to several beautiful, leafy views that visitors of all ages will delight in.
1.9 Salt Fork State Park
You know the old saying, “Bigger is better” the Salt Fork State Park is a perfect example of this particular statement. This park is the largest geographic park in the Ohio State Park System in Eastern Ohio. Having over 17.000 acres and encompassing a 3,000-acre lake, Salt Fork State Park offers a wide range of outdoor activities and is ideal for those who like to be active outdoors year-round.
Salt Fork State Park is also famed as the park’s home to a terrific 18-hole golf course, built in 1890, and the Kennedy Stone House, which was restored in the 1800s and is now a museum dedicated to the history of the area.
There are many activities that nature lovers can take part in at Salt Fork Reservoir, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, swimming, and boating. Any season is a great time to visit the area, as Salt Fork Reservoir is home to an abundance of magnificent wildflowers and various animals like wild turkeys and songbirds.
1.10 Shawnee State Park
As one of the best state parks in Ohio, Shawnee State Park sits in the heart of the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Forest with plenty of natural attractions that reflect the natural beauty of the southwestern Ohio region. It is straightforward to understand how the area substantiated its nickname by looking toward the Ohio River from the Region’s rugged beauty. Views of the river and the surrounding countryside lend an almost capricious appearance to this region.
The park offers various trails and opportunities to participate in many activities, including kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, and pedal boating in both Roosevelt Lake and Turkey Creek Lake. A nature center, lodge, cottages, and campsites at Shawnee State Park are also available for those who would like to spend the night there.
It is one of the most highly rated state parks in Ohio, so make sure to book in advance to ensure that you get to take advantage of all that this park has to offer.
2. Other State Parks In Ohio That Are Worth Exploring
2.1 Indian Lake State Park
The only sounds interrupted by this park’s peacefulness are the honkings, quacks, trumpeting, and squawking of hundreds of migratory birds reading in the waters of this park on their way south as they migrate. There are approximately 20 miles from Lima to Indian Lake State Park, located around a 5,104-acre reservoir in western Ohio.
There are a lot of activities to keep you busy at Indian Lake, such as boating, fishing, jet-skiing, water skiing, swimming, hiking, picnicking, and camping. During Winter, you can enjoy different activities like snowmobiling, ice skating, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice boating, as well as enjoy your chances to do some ice skating. On the lake’s northwest shore, there are a total of 443 campsites. On all sites, pets are welcome as well.
Even if you only want to go birdwatching, this is an excellent spot to do it at. As this lake is located along one of the major migration routes for birds, it is an ideal area for many birds, such as Canada geese, grebes, ducks, swans, egrets, and herons, to stop and rest.
2.2 John Bryan State Park
The limestone gorge in John Bryan State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Ohio, and a visit to the state parks in Ohio would only be complete with a visit there. Located in Greene County, Ohio, the John Bryan State Park covers an area of 752 acres. This remarkable geologic feature is the work of the Little Miami State and National Scenic Rivers.
As the Little Miami River runs through the park, it has carved an impressive limestone gorge that can be seen from numerous vantage points. The state park is home to a National Natural Landmark, and this feature makes a visit to this park worth the trip.
At John Bryan State Park, you will find a warren of hiking trails that meander past waterfalls, flowing streams, and cascading waterfalls. Aside from canoeing and disc golf, other activities include fishing, picnicking, rock climbing, hiking, and biking trails.
As the spring months approach, the park will be covered in a riot of colors as more than 300 wildflowers bloom. If you are thinking of making a trip to Ohio in the spring, remember to look at this place before you leave.
2.3 Maumee Bay State Park
On the shores of Lake Erie, Maumee Bay State Park is nestled in the northwest corner of Ohio, close to Toledo. There are many things to see in the park, including wide sandy beaches, rolling meadows, marshes overflowing with birds, walking trails through wet forests, and wetlands full of wildlife.
A wide variety of activities are available at the park throughout the year, including hiking, picnicking, golfing, fishing, hunting, bird-watching, boating, swimming, and geocaching. Guests can stay overnight in resort lodges and cottages in the park if they wish to do so. A campground, as well as a gateway rental service, is also available.
There is plenty of things to do at Maumee Bay. Whether kayaking small inland lakes, taking an adventurous trip to Lake Erie, playing golf on the golf course, renting a bicycle, or fishing, so can always have things to do there. Perfect picnic spot, right?
2.4 Lake Hope State Park
The last state park we feature on the list of best state parks in Ohio is Lake Hope State Park. Within the Zaleski State Forest, the Lake Hope State Park occupies nearly 3,000 acres of forests, valleys, cliffs, a lake, and even a remnant of old mining equipment that may have been used during the mining age. Due to the gentle streams and lush vegetation that cover the landscape, one can see the rich history and culture of much of Southeast Ohio.
Aside from offering a large sandy beach for swimmers of all ages, the park also offers a small playground, a dining option at Lake Hope Lodge, renowned fishing, and numerous trails.
Also, those wanting to spend multiple days in the park can choose from various accommodations, including a family campground, backpacking sites, vacation cabins, a hunter’s camp, and an equestrian center. So, start planning your trip now.
So, this was the list of our best state parks in Ohio. It will not matter what part of Ohio’s state parks you find yourself in; you will have access to some of the best outdoor recreation in the Midwest. Also, if you want to read more about Ohio, click here. We hope you have a great time there with your family.
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