Skip to main content

5 Ohio State Parks You Need to Explore

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Alyssa loves exploring new places with her family and taking a lot of pictures! She is a wife, a mom, and a coffee enthusiast.

Ohio State Parks

Ohio is full of beautiful places to discover and explore. There are hidden waterfalls, underground caves, and nature preserves. There are over 70 state parks, three state forests, and a national forest in Ohio. Ohio's parks offer many adventures to thrill-seekers, nature enthusiasts, and families alike! There is a park for everyone! The best part? Admission to Ohio's state parks is always free!

Some state parks are more popular than others. Two favorite destinations for campers and hikers are Mohican State Park and Hocking Hills State Park. Both are visually stunning and offer a variety of activities for tourists. South Bass Island and Kelly's Island, located in Lake Erie, are popular summer destinations, attracting people from all around the world.

However, if you are looking for something a little different, a little quieter, or just a change in scenery, then you need to check out the following five state parks.

5 Must-See Ohio State Parks

  • Shawnee State Park
  • Hueston Woods State Park
  • Alum Creek State Park
  • Indian Lake State Park
  • East Harbor State Park

1. Shawnee State Park

If you love beautiful, serene scenery, Shawnee State Park is the place for you! This is my favorite Ohio State Park! My family visited in May of last year, and I couldn't get over how gorgeous it was. The hills, dubbed "Ohio's Little Smokies," seem to roll on forever. We saw tadpoles in Turkey Creek Lake, hiked on one of the many trails, and enjoyed the rich landscape!

Shawnee has much to offer:

  • They host the Shawnee State Park Triathlon every July.
  • If you love fishing, Shawnee holds an annual trout derby at Turkey Creek Lake.
  • There are six hiking trails to choose from, including one that is wheelchair accessible and two bridle trails.
  • Across the street from the Shawnee State park lies the Shawnee State Forest, which is the largest state forest in Ohio. You can hike and ride horses. Hunting is permitted in designated areas during certain times of the year.

Fun Fact: Shawnee State Park was first operated as the Theodore Roosevelt State Game Preserve. President Roosevelt often camped and hunted there.

For more information about Shawnee State Park, please visit

Tadpoles in Turkey Creek Lake.

Tadpoles in Turkey Creek Lake.

2. Hueston Woods State Park

If you love history, this is a great park to visit! Over 200 acres of the native Beech-Maple forest that used to stretch across the entire state of Ohio is protected near the Indiana border. This forest is called Big Woods. There is an abundance of marine fossils embedded in the rocks left behind by the tropical sea that once covered the area millions of years ago.

Hueston Woods State Park is very spacious, and many people love to spend time there! We recently traveled to the park to see the free fireworks display. While exploring the park before the fireworks began, we met several Ohio park and watercraft officers, who were very friendly and helpful. I was pleasantly surprised by their fireworks display. It lasted for about 30 minutes and had a variety of colorful fireworks! It was really nice!

Some things Hueston Woods offers:

Scroll to Continue

Read More from WanderWisdom

  • 12 hiking trails, including a trail through Big Woods, a bridle trail, and a mountain bike trail.
  • Fossil hunting
  • The Annual Maple Syrup Festival
  • The Raptor Rehabilitation Project—where you can visit and learn about many birds of prey.
  • The Halloween Campout—where kids can safely go trick-or-treating.

Fun Fact: Hueston Woods State Park was included in the National Geographic Guide to State Parks of the United States - Fourth Edition.

For information about Hueston Woods State Park, please visit

My son and I enjoying a walk on the beach at Alum Creek State Park.

My son and I enjoying a walk on the beach at Alum Creek State Park.

3. Alum Creek State Park

Stop and visit Alum Creek State Park if you enjoy being active outside. There is something for everyone! This is the home of Alum Creek Reservoir, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers runs the dam. My husband, son, and I visit this park often. We enjoy walking along the 3,000-foot beach, which is the largest inland beach in all of Ohio's state parks. Many people also visit to exercise at the Below Dam, where you can run up and down the steps and walk or jog the length of the dam.

Some things Alum Creek offers:

  • Two hiking trails, a multipurpose trail, three mountain bike trails, and bridle trails.
  • Camping
  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Fishing

Alum Creek State Park is near Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Zoo, Olentangy Caverns, and Ohio State University are only a few minutes away from the park.

Fun Fact: The Alum Creek Dam is used as part of the flood control plan for the Ohio River Basin.

For information about Alum Creek State Park, please visit

This is the Below Dam, run by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

This is the Below Dam, run by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

4. Indian Lake State Park

If you enjoy peace and tranquility, this is the perfect park for you! I love this park because it stays pretty quiet and you can really relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. This park is perfect for fishing, hiking, or having a picnic.

Some things Indian Lake Offers:

  • Two beaches for swimming
  • Two hiking trails and a bikeway
  • An annual boat show held the first weekend in March
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Hunting in designated areas at certain times throughout the year
  • Eight picnic shelters, five of which can be reserved

Fun Fact: Indian Lake was once home to Sandy Lake Amusement Park and Minnewawa Dance Hall. Both were incredibly popular attractions, and the area was nicknamed the Mid-West's Million Dollar Playground.

For more information about Indian Lake State Park, please visit

A stunning view of Lake Erie at East Harbor State Park, Northwest Ohio.

A stunning view of Lake Erie at East Harbor State Park, Northwest Ohio.

5. East Harbor State Park

If you are looking for a quiet park, a family getaway, or are interested in wildlife watching, this is a great park for you! It's located on Lake Erie and is close to Kelly's Island, Put-in-Bay, The Marblehead Lighthouse, and Cedar Point. East Harbor is a really clean park, and we love going there to swim!

East Harbor has a lot to offer:

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Bird watching
  • Eleven hiking trails to choose from

Fun Fact: East Harbor has the largest campground in all of Ohio's State Parks.

For more information about East Harbor State Park, please visit

Ohio State Parks Map

© 2016 Alyssa

Related Articles