Ohio state parks are just as diverse as the terrain of the state itself. Inland lakes, caves, reservoirs, and beaches provide plenty of opportunities to explore nature while the parks and islands in the north along beautiful Lake Erie showcase a completely different side. In the south lie the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains where visitors can take in amazing views that get even better when the seasons change from summer to autumn. There is something for every outdoor enthusiast in Ohio.
Maumee Bay State Park just outside of Toledo, is a perfect way to experience the history and beauty of Lake Erie. The park's wetlands contain a wide variety of animal life and over 300 species of birds, including great blue herons, Canada geese, and ruddy ducks. Ring-necked pheasants also populate the park's meadows. Visitors enjoy water activities like swimming, fishing, boating, and paddle-boarding as well as trails for mountain biking, hiking, ATVs, and snowmobiles. Bird watching is one of the most popular reasons people visit the park. It sits along the Lake Erie Birding Trail, and bird lovers flock to the area to watch warbler migration every spring.
Salt Fork is Ohio's largest state park, covering more 17,000 acres in the eastern part of the state. There are 14 different hiking trails to explore, including a 10-station archery trail that is truly unique. A large, 3,000-acre lake is the main attraction. It features two marinas and is used for boating, fishing, and water skiing. The park also has the largest inland beaches in the state. There are 2,500 feet of sandy beaches on the lake along with amenities like lockers and showers to make a day exploring the park more enjoyable.
Located just east of Dayton, John Bryant State Park is one of the most scenic areas in Ohio. The Little Miami River Gorge features several overlooks where visitors can view layers of beautiful limestone while looking at the river 100 feet below. Part of this area has even been designated as a national landmark. An 18-hole disc golf course is a popular attraction, but most people visit to explore the outdoors. There are nine different hiking trails to explore, some with views of waterfalls that are just as spectacular to see in the winter.
Kelley's Island is located in the western basin of Lake Erie and is accessible only by ferry from nearby Marblehead and Sandusky. The park includes two nature preserves. One is a unique ecosystem featuring prairie grass, lichen, and several rare plants. The other is a 30-acre North Pond, a marsh that provides plenty of opportunities for bird watching. Bald eagles are often seen in the area. There are a lot of hiking opportunities at the park, including four miles of multi-use bicycle trails. Boating and kayaking are popular, too, as is spending the day at the small beach. Kelley's Island is a great winter destination, as well, with opportunities for ice skating, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing.
Geneva State Park is located on the northern shore of Ohio, about halfway between Cleveland and Erie, Pennsylvania. It is a popular place for boating and fishing and features a marina that is only a short distance from the lodge. Visitors can rent paddleboards and jet skis or sign up for a fishing charter to catch walleye and perch. The 300-foot beach is popular, too, and there are campground, cabins, and cottage available for overnight stays. Six multi-use trails run through the park and are used for biking and hiking in the summer and snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter.
With its dense forests and miles of trails, Tar Hollow offers plenty of ways to explore the Ohio wilderness. It is located southeast of Columbus and a great place for hikers. The 21-mile Logan Backpacking Trail is a challenging hike for experienced backpackers. There are hiking trails and bike trails winding through the park as well as bridle trails and a horse farm. A small 15-acre lake is a nice spot for canoeing and kayaking. Tar Hollow is particularly beautiful in the fall when the dense forest of redbud and dogwoods begin changing color.
Marblehead Lighthouse is one of the most popular landmarks on Lake Erie. It is located on Marblehead Peninsula, which sits just north of Sandusky. Because Lake Erie varies in depth from 30 feet in the west to 120 feet in the east, sudden and often violent storms are common. This means the Marblehead Lighthouse was an important safety beacon since it was established in 1822. It is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes and is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day for tours. It is a great place to take a selfie and provides a lot of wonderful views.
Hocking Hills State Park is located in southeastern Ohio just outside of Columbus. It has a rich history and was once the home to several Native American tribes in the mid-1700s. There are five hiking areas for various skill levels, including Old Man's Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Conkle's Hollow, and Cedar Falls. Ziplining, canoeing, rock climbing, and horseback riding are offered by independent businesses in the area. Camping facilities are also available, and the John Glenn Astronomy Park offers the perfect place for stargazing.
Scioto Trail State Park is located south of Columbus in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains by the Scioto River. It is densely forested with oak, hickory, redbud, and dogwood trees as well as a host of wildflowers, lichen, and delicious morel mushrooms. One of the best things about this park is its remoteness which attracts diverse animal life, including wild turkey, white-tailed deer, bobcat, and black bear. The ridgetops provide amazing views. Visitors can also enjoy hiking, fishing, and boating as well as a small wading beach near the campground.
Deer Creek State Park is a 2,300-acre park located just southwest of Columbus. The main attraction is the Deer Creek reservoir, a great spot for swimming, fishing, boating, or enjoying a day on the beach. The meadows and woodlands that make up this park feature seven hiking trails as well as a 17-mile trail for horseback riding. Other activities include the nine-hole disc golf course and a public golf course featuring ten different ponds. Visitors have access to great amenities like picnic tables, grills, campsites, cottages, and a lodge.