Clifton Gorge is located in Clifton, Ohio and is the site of one of the most beautiful water cut gorges in the country. The park is operated by the state of Ohio and is open year-round from dawn to dusk.
I rate this site a 9 because of its amazing beauty and semi-remote location. There are two other cool parks in this area; Glen Helen in Yellow Springs and John Bryan in Clifton.
There is no camping at the gorge, but you can find facilities with no running water (i.e. no showers to wash your stinky feet) at John Bryan.
This park is home to one of the most wonderful outdoor educational facilities in the state of Ohio. The over one thousand acre park offers a variety of trails and hosts natural wonders like the Yellow Springs, a Pine Forest, and a waterfall. Words do not give this park justice. This park is also a 9 on the Ohio state park scale.
There are two museums on the grounds (seasonal I think), and a small gift shop open during the day. Again, there is no camping, but John Bryan makes a suitable site.
Yet another wonderful hiking area but not quite as astounding as its neighbors, Glen Helen and Clifton Gorge. The Ohio state park hosts a campground with amphitheatre, picnic shelter, playground, restrooms (no running water for showers, sorry), and a camp store. During the summer months the campground can be quite crowded and the bathrooms can become a little 'odiferous' shall I say. So word up - camp away from the johns if possible!
Rangers are relatively peaceful but take their duties seriously! There are quite a few local youth who think the campground is a party area, and the rangers do not put up with their antics! There are no alcoholic beverages permitted (being an Ohio state park) but the rangers may be tolerable if you keep the beverages in coozies or unmarked containers and don't treat the park like a bar! For all its amazing attributes, I am inclined to rank this a 7 for hiking and a 7 for camping.
For more information see John Bryan
This park is located in College Corner, Ohio near Miami University. The park offers camping, hiking, swimming, boating, golf, and has a lodge (used for business and pleasure ventures) and cabins. While this park seems to have it all, recreationally, the hiking trails are not that great - somewhat boring actually. And if you don't like bugs, watch out for this place! There are blood sucking gnats (the dreaded vampire drosophila) and biting flys
(makes Jeff Goldblum look harmless). The lake is your normal Ohio lake with less than 1 foot of visibility (maybe less during the peak months) but is good for water skiing and sailing. I rate this park a 5 for hiking and a 9 for camping. For more information see Hueston Woods
Two words to describe this Ohio state park 'Truly Amazing'! I thought that Ohio was a relatively boring, flat state until I checked out this place! For sports enthusiasts, there are miles upon miles of hiking trails through gorges, caves, etc. There is also rapelling, horseback riding, canoeing, and golf. Nearby, Lake Logan, and Rose Lake offer fishing for saugeye, largemouth bass, crappie, nothern pike, plus channel, flathead and bullhead catfish!
Hiking trails run all throughout the state park, the state forest and the natural areas and preserves. The Buckeye trail links to the trails at Old Man's Cave and runs through Hocking country northward. The Grandma Gatewood trail is a 12-mile round trip from Old Man's Cave, through Cedar Falls to Ash Cave and back again. Beware of this trail though. It is easy to get lost (we did) so start out early in the morning so that you have plenty of daylight in front of you. If all else fails, hit the road Jack (we also had to do this) as it will take you back to the campgrounds, parking lots, etc.
The state park's campground can be packed in the summertime months (especially on holidays and weekends) so call in advance for availability (740) 385-6165. If the campground is full, don't fret. There are several in the area! One of my favorites is the Top O' the Caves. If you like tentin' it, there are sites in the woods that are way cool! For more information on this most excellent (10 for hiking, 10 for camping, 10 ALL AROUND!!) go to Hockinghills.com.
Zaleski State Forest
The Zaleski State Forest is the second largest forest in the system. The forest is located in Vinton County, the least populated county with the heaviest forested terrain in the state of Ohio. Our backpacking group took to the Trail sometime around dusk, and suprisingly, we were able to navigate to the camp area without getting too lost! There are a total of three cleared camp areas with pit latrines and drinking water that can provide adequate facilities for overnight hikers.
Interesting sights on the trail include Indian trails and mounds, old home sites, scenic overlooks, abandoned mines and the Enderlin Forest. The main trail is a loop of 23.5 miles. There is also a 10-mile day loop trail. The Zaleski State Forest is also home to a 48
mile bridle trail system offering equestrians the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of this area as well. This area features a seven acre facility for primitive camping including latrines, hitching posts, a parking area and a pond.
This is a great place to go if you want to get away from civilization for a little while! However, if you want to camp, be prepared to 'pack it in' and 'pack it out' as the closest camp areas aren't close to the parking areas! For backpacking in Ohio, I rate this a 9! Truly enjoyable! For more information check out
Zaleski State Forest!
Lake Hope State Park
Another great place to check out while you're vacationing in the Zaleski area is Lake Hope State Park! The park lies entirely within the 24,000-acre Zaleski State Forest in the valley of Big Sandy Run. Attractions of the park include a dining lodge, cottages, camping, boating, swimming (there are private outdoor showers for your convenience), fishing and hunting,
picnicking, and hiking. There are fifteen miles of hiking trails that traverse the lake and scenic woodlands of the Lake Hope area that photographers and nature buffs will delight at. This park offers the beauty and remoteness of Vinton County, with the modern day conveniences (running water, beds, restaurants, etc) that
the primitive camp areas of Zaleski State Forest don't have! While Lake Hope StatePark is small and not as glamorous as the other state parks in Ohio, the true nature lover will find those characteristics attractive. This park gets an 8 for hiking, and a 7 for camping. For more information see Lake Hope!
Buck Creek State Park
This park, located outside of Springfield, provides an excellent place for fishing, skiing and sailing! There is also a large beach for swimming, and outdoor shower facilities to wash that icky lake water off of you afterwards. The snack bar is nothing to sneeze at either - but nothing gourmet is created there of course!
For sailors with larger craft, watch your rudders in the North Bay area. Procure a depth map and heed it well - otherwise, scrape the heck out of your rudder and risk getting stuck. Who wants to dive down under those crystal clear Ohio lake waters and help free the boat? Not our intercollegiate sailing team (which we nevertheless had to do)! We used to rent a slip there in the summers (we were definitely favorites of the rangers - NOT!)
There are also cabins and camping facilities in the park. Picnic shelters and areas provide a good place to have reunions and parties (no alcohol of course because it is a state park - but the coozie and unmarked container guideline applies).
The hiking trails leave something to be desired. This park's forte is definitely the lake. Hiking ranks a 3 and camping gets a 7. For more information see Buck Creek State Park
Deer Creek State Park
Deer Creek State Park is about 40 minutes South of Columbus and is a major resort offering all kinds of entertainment for the sports enthusiast! The best feature of the park is the lake, a 1277 acre reservoir, which draws all kinds of power boaters, including skiiers, fishers, racers and cruisers. The lodge at Deer Creek is uniquely designed to use the sun's energy to supplement its heating system. There are 110 guest rooms, many with a
panoramic view of the lake. The lodge has an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool and exercise room. A restaurant, lounge and meeting rooms provide additional accommodations. Other attractions at the park include cottages, camping, hunting, lake swimming, picnicking, and golfing. There are only 7 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of bridle trails, so don't visit this park if your expectations are great for trekking through
the back country. The main feature of this park is the lake - but power boaters rule, as the park allows unlimited horsepower. Hiking ranks a 3 and camping gets an 8! For more information see Deer Creek
Caesar Creek State Park
This park is to Cincinnatians what Deer Creek is to Columbusites! The best feature of the park is the 2830 acre lake which has no restrictions on horsepower. However, unlike Deer Creek, Caesar Creek has great hiking trails! 43 miles of hiking trails to be exact, accompanied by 31 miles of bridle trails! The park offers camping, but doesn't have the way cool lodge and cabins that Deer Creek has. Caesar Creek is located in Waynesville, Ohio which
is similar in topography to Hocking Hills and Vinton County areas. The forested acres are spread out over beautiful, rolling hills. The park is busy with activity, and is therefore, not as remote, but check it out! I'm sure you'll find something of interest there! For more info go to Caesar Creek
Indian Lake State Park
Indian Lake, located in Lakeview, Ohio, is a nice little park that really draws the fishers! When I was a kid, my parents and I would go there at least twice a summer. Indian Lake allows unlimited horespower and is the only inland lake in Ohio with lighted buoys for night navigation. Similar to Kiser Lake, Indian Lake is a glacial deposit site. These glaciers created several
kettle lake formations of which Indian Lake is comprised. The hiking trails are really deficient, but the scenery is pretty! This park scores a 9 for camping because it has heated showers, flush toilets, laundry facilities and a camp commissary!! Check it out at Indian Lake
Kiser Lake State Park
Kiser Lake, located in Rosewood, Ohio is cool for three reasons: the Shawnee Indian history, scuba diving in the lake, the no motor boat rule. You know what that means?! Lots of sailing!! There are a few hiking trails in the park, but nothing worth traveling great distances (i.e. more than 30 miles) for. However, the natural attractions are quite cool due to the fact that the area was a glacial deposit site.
This park gets a 6 for hiking - not because of the trails, but because of the groovy nature features. Camping gets a 5 because there are no showers and the latrines are smelly in the heat of the summer! For more info see Kiser Lake