28 Best Ohio State Parks to Explore This Year
Ohio has 75 beautiful state parks, and each is open year-round with free admission, numerous activities, interesting histories, unique natural features, and a diverse array of flora and fauna. All of them are worth visiting, so where should you start?
Our team at Rooted in Ohio has put together a list of our favorite Ohio state parks. They’re organized by region, so you won’t miss anything when you embark on your next Ohio road trip!
Within one of these best Ohio state parks is a location listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Read on to find out more and discover the natural beauty of Ohio!
Can’t-Miss State Parks in Northwest Ohio
Maumee Bay State Park
1400 State Park Road, Oregon, OH 43616
Maumee Bay State Park is perfect for visitors and nature enthusiasts of all ages, featuring hiking trails, swimming, a lodge, a golf course, and a seven-lane archery range.
Families can take a walk down the Storybook Trail (one of several found in Ohio state parks) to explore nature while following a children’s story.
Commonly spotted wildlife include frogs, butterflies, and white-tailed deer. It’s also a fantastic spot for bird-watching, as over 300 species have been documented in the park.
Catawba Island State Park
4049 E. Moore’s Dock Road, Port Clinton, OH 43452
This lovely park is open during the day and is right on Ohio’s Great Lake. Visitors can boat and kayak, fish, and more in Lake Erie. There’s an abundance of songbirds in the area, with hundreds of species spotted, making it a fantastic spot to relax, picnic, and bird-watch.
In the winter months, popular activities include ice skating and ice fishing. This park is just one of five located on Lake Erie.
East Harbor State Park
1169 N. Buck Road, Lakeside-Marblehead, OH 43440
East Harbor has the biggest family campground of all the Ohio state parks, with available cabins, 354 electric sites, 51 full hookup sites, and 168 non-electric sites. Reservations are required for all campsites.
The park is located close to one of Lake Erie’s beautiful public beaches, where visitors can swim and relax on the shore. Deer are commonly spotted in the area as well.
Middle Bass Island State Park
1965 Fox Road, Middle Bass Island, OH 43446
One of the “wine islands,” this Ohio state park features the historic Lonz Winery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although it’s no longer producing wine, you can learn about and tour the remnants of the facility, which dates back to the early 1900s.
Other activities include boating, cornhole, and primitive camping — the campground is open from May to October. Bicycles, kayaks, and paddleboards are available to rent on site.
Oak Point State Park
Bayview Avenue, Put-in-Bay, OH 43456
Oak Point State Park is a quaint park nestled between Squaw Harbor and Fishery Bay. The park has boating, fishing, and picnicking amenities with lovely views of Lake Erie. There are 20 boating docks available for either day or overnight rental.
This Ohio state park is close to many other fantastic travel destinations, including Perry’s Cave, The Butterfly House, Perry’s Victory, the International Peace Memorial, the Put-in-Bay Winery, the Jane Coates Wildflower Trail, and the Green Island Lighthouse.
Grand Lake St. Marys State Park
834 Edgewater Drive, St. Marys, OH 45885
In 1949, this was one of the first areas to be dedicated as an Ohio state park. At the time of its construction — originally as a feeder reservoir for the Miami and Erie Canal — Grand Lake St. Marys was the world’s largest reservoir.
The state park has about 50 miles of shoreline for boating, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, picnicking, and limited hunting. There are also two off-leash dog parks: the Fur-Ever Friends Dog Park and the Celina Rotary Dog Park.
Best Northeast Ohio State Parks
Geneva State Park
4499 Padanarum Road, Geneva, OH 44041
The nearly 700-acre Geneva State Park is located on Lake Erie’s northeastern shoreline, providing plenty of opportunities for visitors to swim, boat, fish, lay out on the sand, and explore estuaries and marshland.
For outdoor enthusiasts wanting to extend a day trip, there are plenty of available lodging options. The Geneva State Park Campground offers cabins and full hookup, electric, and non-electric tent camping sites.
Another option is the nearby Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, located in Ohio’s wine country, which offers fine dining, family activities, and stunning views of Lake Erie.
Mohican State Park
3116 State Route 3, Loudonville, OH 44842
Mohican State Park’s thousands of acres of forest were, at one point, used as Native American hunting grounds. Later on, in the 1800s, the famous “Johnny Appleseed” cared for apple tree nurseries here.
Today, you can enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking, picnicking, and more. Some of its must-see features include Clear Fork Gorge, Lyon’s Falls, the Mohican State Scenic River, and the nearby Pleasant Hill Lake (an excellent fishing spot).
Plant and nature enthusiasts will enjoy a diverse variety of flora and fauna, including bald eagles and the hard-to-find walking fern.
Kelleys Island State Park
920 Division Street, Kelleys Island, OH 43438
One of the most unique features of Kelleys Island State Park is the glacial grooves that can be found within its bedrock. This massive tract of grooves, which is 15 feet deep and 35 feet wide, is said to be the largest in the world. It’s easily accessible, too, right near the campground.
Swimming, hiking, bird-watching, boating, and fishing are other available activities in this Ohio state park. You can even hike to Inscription Rock to discover ancient petroglyphs!
Headlands Beach State Park
9601 Headlands Road, Mentor, OH 44060
Headlands Beach State Park is known for its vast sandy beaches on the shores of Lake Erie, which is 35 acres long. Aside from swimming, relaxing in the sand, and hunting for seashells and rocks, you can hunt for colorful varieties of sea glass!
The natural sand dune habitats within the park provide great wildlife-watching opportunities because they’re home to animals like bald eagles, red foxes, and monarch butterflies.
Guilford Lake State Park
6141 Clewell Drive, Lisbon, OH 44432
This Ohio state park features a pet-friendly campground with 40 electric sites, all with beautiful views of Guilford Lake and quick access to water activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing. Paddleboats, kayaks, sporting equipment, and boat docks are available to rent on site.
Also, the park hosts events, such as Great! Blue Herons and Discover Guilford Lake, both of which are educational presentations followed by a guided group hike. Advance reservations are required to camp at Guilford Lake and can be made online or over the phone by calling 866-644-6727.
Beaver Creek State Park
12021 Echo Dell Road, East Liverpool, OH 43920-9719
With over 2,700 acres to explore, Beaver Creek State Park is a great spot for families and adventurers alike. Family-friendly activities include camping, fishing, picnicking, a nature center, playground equipment, and several easy trails, such as the Nature Center Trail and Overlook Trail.
The Friends of Beaver Creek State Park also operate Pioneer Village, which has a gift shop, water-powered grist mill, covered bridge, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, chapel, and more.
Adventurers can enjoy mountain biking trails and bridle trails with access for horseback riders. The Vondergreen and Dogwood trails are designed for use by advanced mountain bikers looking for technical challenges and fantastic scenery.
Favorite State Parks in Eastern Ohio
Salt Fork State Park
14755 Cadiz Road, Lore City, OH 43755
Salt Fork State Park is the largest state park in Ohio. Its more than 17,000 acres include a large lake, woodlands, meadows, valleys, and serene streams. The park’s namesake is from a salt well located in the southeastern region of the park that was formerly used by Native Americans.
Aside from its abundant outdoor activities, the park is known for its excellent 18-hole golf course and the Kennedy Stone House, an 1800s historic home that has been restored and turned into a museum.
Wolf Run State Park
16170 Wolf Run Road, Caldwell, OH 43724
Wolf Run is a peaceful state park nestled within the Appalachians where tranquil hills and mountains intermingle with idyllic woodland scenery. Forest covers more than 70 percent of the region, and while you hike or camp, you may spot wildlife like deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, and great horned owls.
You can also swim, boat, and fish at Wolf Run Lake. Boats with up to 10 horsepower are permitted; with calmer waters, anglers can find an abundance of bluegill, bass, crappie, catfish, and trout.
Central Ohio State Parks to Explore
Alum Creek State Park
3615 S. Old State Road, Delaware, OH 43015
Alum Creek State Park is an easily accessible escape to nature, located just north of Columbus. It’s the perfect spot for dog lovers — the park includes the 4-acre Friends of Alum Creek Dog Park, which even has a fenced-in water swim and play area just for furry friends.
Other park features include lake swimming, watersports, horseback riding, and family-friendly mountain biking. The Storybook Trail is perfect for children — as you walk along the trail, a story unfolds. At the trailhead is also the Free Little Library, where you can take home or donate books.
Delaware State Park
5202 US Highway 23 N., Delaware, OH 43015-9714
Delaware State Park is known for its more than 1,000-acre lake and large selection of watersports opportunities, including a fenced-in dog park and swim area.
Aside from the reservoir, there are abundant hiking trails through woodlands, meadows, and wetlands. Some of the top hiking trails are the Big Foot Trail, Fisherman Trail, Lakeview Trail, Dam Trail, and Briar Patch Trail.
This Ohio state park is also the perfect destination for bird-watchers in search of bluebirds. The park has a trail with nesting areas specially designed to attract bluebirds. Many other species of songbirds nest in the park too.
John Bryan State Park
3790 State Route 370, Yellow Springs, OH 45387
John Bryan State Park is home to a National Natural Landmark, the Little Miami River gorge. You can hike a variety of trails throughout the 752-acre park to experience the region’s nature and see the gorge’s beautiful waterfall, as well as limestone and shale formations.
Paddlers can access the river by launching just outside of the park. Rock climbing enthusiasts can also enjoy the park’s public rock climbing and rappelling area.
Buckeye Lake State Park
2871 Liebs Island Road, Millersport, OH 43046
This is Ohio’s oldest state park! In the mid-1900s, Buckeye Lake State Park even featured an amusement park and dance hall. Today, these are no longer open, but the park is still very much worth a visit to enjoy Buckeye Lake.
The more than 3,000-acre lake is popular for anglers, boaters, and watersports enthusiasts, with unlimited horsepower boating permitted and nine launch ramps. You can enjoy the multi-use trail that travels along the shore from North Shore to Lieb’s Island as well.
A.W. Marion State Park
7519 Warner-Huffer Road, Circleville, OH 43113
This Ohio state park features acres of woodlands to explore, with Hargus Lake at the center. The Hargus Lake Perimeter Loop is a 4-mile trail with beautiful views that meanders around the entirety of the lake.
The Multi-Use Trail is another popular hiking trail in the park. It’s 7.3 miles long and can be used by both hikers and mountain bikers.
A.W. Marion is also known as a great spot for fishing. The lake is stocked with a variety of fish, including largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, and bluegill. If your pets are tagging along, stop near the southwest side of the lake at the park’s designated dog swim area.
Popular State Parks in Southeast Ohio
Hocking Hills State Park
19852 State Route 664, Logan, OH 43138
Hocking Hills is one of the most popular state parks in Ohio and has also received national and international acclaim for its beautiful features, such as caves, waterfalls, scenic cliffs, gorges, and seasonal wildflowers.
Visit Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, Whispering Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, and Cedar Falls to see some of the magnificent nature that Hocking Hills has to offer.
Available activities include hiking picturesque trails, camping, fishing, disc golf, and hunting. The park also hosts a variety of ongoing group events, such as kayaking, archery, family-friendly educational classes, and more for nature lovers.
Lake Hope State Park
27331 State Route 278, McArthur, OH 45651
Lake Hope State Park is located within the Zaleski State Forest and contains nearly 3,000 acres of woodlands, gorges, ridges, a lake, and even remnants of old mining equipment.
For those looking to stay in the park for multiple days, there’s a family campground, vacation cabins, backpacking sites, a hunter’s camp, and an equestrian camp.
Popular hiking trails include the Buzzard Cave Trail, Tulip Trail, Greenbriar Trail, and White Oak Trail. Deer, wild turkey, and beaver can be spotted frequently throughout the park.
Burr Oak State Park
10220 Burr Oak Lodge Road, Glouster, OH 45732
Enjoy the beauty of the Appalachian foothills and surrounding woodlands at one of the best state parks in Ohio. Boat, swim, and fish at Burr Oak Lake, or hike one of many forested trails. Several connect with the Buckeye Trail, a statewide trail that’s popular for backpacking.
The full-service lodge at Burr Oak State Park is perfect for family trips with amenities such as a tennis ball and basketball court, an indoor swimming pool, miniature golf, a gym, and a playground. For those looking for a more rustic stay, the park also has cabins and campsites.
Stunning Southern Ohio State Parks
Scioto Trail State Park
144 Lake Road, Chillicothe, OH 45601
This Ohio state park is located within the Scioto Trail State Forest and provides stunning views of the Scioto River Valley. It’s the perfect place to find peace and solitude. Visitors can swim, fish, and paddle in the lake or explore the surrounding woodlands.
There are three hiking and biking trails ranging from easy to difficult — the Friendship Trail, 3-C Trail, and Church Hollow Trail. Keep an eye out for the wild morel mushrooms during your trek!
Great Seal State Park
4908 Marietta Road, Chillicothe, OH 45601
The Great Seal State Park features adventurous hiking trails with access to hills that overlook the scenic Scioto River Valley. These same hills are shown on the Great Seal of Ohio, the park’s namesake.
There are over 23 miles of trails to explore here, including varying difficulty levels of hiking, mountain biking, fitness, and horseback riding trails. Several multi-use trails include Rock Garden, Shawnee Ridge, Sugarloaf Mountain Trail, and Bunker Hill.
Must-Visit State Parks in Southwest Ohio
Rocky Fork State Park
9800 North Shore Drive, Hillsboro, OH 45133
Rocky Fork State Park’s more than 2,000-acre lake has a marina, docks, six boat launch ramps, and no limits on horsepower, making it the perfect spot for boaters and watersports enthusiasts.
It’s also a great place for fishing, with plenty of bass, bluegill, crappie, saugeye, white bass, channel catfish, and flathead catfish, the latter of which can grow up to 40 pounds.
Hiking trails around the park provide access to a scenic gorge, dolomite caves, natural wetlands, and more.
Hueston Woods State Park
6301 Park Office Road, College Corner, OH 45003
Surrounding Acton Lake, one of the most unique features of the Hueston Woods State Park is its abundance of prehistoric marine life fossils. These fossils are mostly from the Ordovician period and can be found within the limestone and shale bedrock of park creeks.
The park is also known for its picturesque covered bridge, more than 12 miles of hiking trails, excellent bird-watching, fishing, a Nature Center, and over 20 miles of mountain biking trails.
Shawnee State Park
4404 State Route 125, West Portsmouth, OH 45663
Many years ago, this region was used by Native American Shawnee Tribes for hunting. Today, the Ohio state park encompasses more than 1,000 acres within the Shawnee State Forest, which locals often refer to as the “Little Smokies.”
The park offers a fantastic variety of trails and opportunities to kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or pedal boat in Roosevelt Lake and Turkey Creek Lake.
Shawnee State Park also has a Historic Log Cabin and family-friendly Nature Center. The Nature Center has a “mud kitchen” and garden for children, as well as naturalist programs and events for those of all ages.
East Fork State Park
3294 Elklick Road, Bethel, OH 45106
One of the largest state parks in Ohio, East Fork is comprised of nearly 5,000 acres of forest, hills, cascades, grasslands, rivers, and East Fork Lake. Within the state park is the Little Miami River Basin, where remnants of ancient human life have been found.
The lake is a popular spot for both unlimited horsepower boating and paddling, as well as fishing and swimming.
Diverse multi-use trails offer hikers, horseback riders, bikers, and backpackers a fantastic selection of beautiful scenery. One of the lengthiest trails at 33 miles is the Steven Newman Worldwalker Perimeter Trail, which wanders along the park.
Accessible Ohio State Parks
There are quite a few Ohio state parks with wheelchair-accessible amenities, trails, and campgrounds with ADA accommodations. Several amazing options include:
- Hocking Hills State Park with accessible trails — Ash Cave, Conkle’s Hollow, and Hock-Hocking Expedition Trail
- Barkcamp State Park with accessible electric campsites and scenic paved trails
- Mount Gilead State Park with paved trails and campgrounds with accessible, full hookup sites
- Quail Hollow State Park with the Nature-For-All trail, which features an herb garden and woodlands
- Salt Fork State Park with the Forest Crest Nature Trail and accessible electric campsites
- Rocky Fork State Park with a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier
Visiting Ohio State Parks
This list includes some of the best state parks in Ohio, but there are still many other unlisted, amazing parks and other outdoor destinations to explore!
Interactive Map of Ohio State Parks
- A.W. Marion State Park
- Alum Creek State Park
- Barkcamp State Park
- Beaver Creek State Park
- Blue Rock State Park
- Buck Creek State Park
- Buckeye Lake State Park
- Burr Oak State Park
- Caesar Creek State Park
- Catawba Creek State Park
- Cleveland Lakefront State Park
- Cowan State Park
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Deer Creek State Park
- Delaware State Park
- Dillon State Park
- East Fork State Park
- East Harbor State Park
- Findley State Park
- Forked Run State Park
- Geneva State Park
- Grand Lake St. Mary’s State Park
- Great Seal State Park
- Guilford Lake State Park
- Harrison Lake State Park
- Headlands Beach State Park
- Hocking Hills State Park
- Hueston Woods State Park
- Independence Dam State Park
- Indian Lake State Park
- Jackson Lake State Park
- Jefferson Lake State Park
- John Bryan State Park
- Kelleys Island State Park
- Kiser Lake State Park
- Lake Alma State Park
- Lake Hope State Park
- Lake Logan State Park
- Lake Loramie State Park
- Lake Milton State Park
- Lake White State Park
- Little Miami State Park
- Madison Lake State Park
- Malabar Farm State Park
- Marblehead Lighthouse State Park
- Mary Jane Thurston State Park
- Maumee Bay State Park
- Middle Bass Island State Park
- Mohican State Park
- Mosquito Lake State Park
- Mount Gilead State Park
- Muskingum River State Park
- Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park
- North Bass Island State Park
- Oak Point State Park
- Paint Creek State Park
- Pike Lake State Park
- Portage Lakes State Park
- Punderson State Park
- Pymatuning State Park
- Quail Hollow State Park
- Rocky Fork State Park
- Salt Fork State Park
- Scioto Trail State Park
- Shawnee State Park
- South Bass Island State Park
- Stonelick State Park
- Strouds Run State Park
- Sycamore State Park
- Tar Hollow State Park
- Tinkers Creek State Park
- Van Buren State Park
- West Branch State Park
- Wingfoot Lake State Park
- Wolf Run State Park
Plan Your Ohio State Parks Tour
Aside from the many beautiful Ohio state parks, there are nearly 20 state forests and various state nature preserves, wildlife areas, national wildlife refuges, and even a national park.
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is located in Northeast Ohio, provides more than 125 miles of hiking trails and the opportunity to paddle along the Cuyahoga River. Plus, it has fantastic areas to bike, horseback ride, picnic, and more.
Explore the outdoors, and tell us about your favorite Ohio spot!