5 Ohio State Parks You Need to Explore

Updated on June 22, 2017
Alyssa Nichol profile image

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

An incredible view of Turkey Creek Lake at Shawnee State Park.
An incredible view of Turkey Creek Lake at Shawnee State Park.

5 Must-See Ohio State Parks

1. Shawnee State Park

2. Hueston Woods State Park

3. Alum Creek State Park

4. Indian Lake State Park

5. East Harbor State Park

Ohio is full of beautiful places to discover and explore. There are hidden waterfalls, underground caves, and nature preserves. In Ohio, there are over 70 state parks, three state forests, and a national forest. 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.

Me, standing in front of Roosevelt Lake at Shawnee State Park.
Me, standing in front of Roosevelt Lake at Shawnee 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 http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/shawnee

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 with 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:

  • 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 http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/huestonwoods

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

If you enjoy being active outside, stop and visit Alum Creek State Park. There is something for everyone! This is the home of Alum Creek Reservoir and the dam is run by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. 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 http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/alumcreek

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 bike way.
  • 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 http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/indianlake

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 in close proximity 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 http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/eastharbor

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.

Ohio State Parks Map

Shawnee State Park:
4404 OH-125, West Portsmouth, OH 45663, USA

get directions

Hueston Woods State Park:
5201 Lodge Rd, College Corner, OH 45003, USA

get directions

Alum Creek State Park:
3305 S Old State Rd, Delaware, OH 43015, USA

get directions

Indian Lake State Park:
12774 OH-235, Lakeview, OH 43331, USA

get directions

East Harbor State Park:
1169 N Buck Rd, Lakeside Marblehead, OH 43440, USA

get directions

© 2016 Alyssa


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    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you! Yes, Hueston Woods is a great park! There is much to do and the park hosts many events throughout the year. It's one of my favorites! :)

    • promisem profile image

      Scott S Bateman 

      3 years ago

      Very informative, Alyssa. We loved going to Hueston Woods when we lived in Centerville. It's a great park.


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