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The 12 Best State and National Parks in Ohio

Here's what you need to know...
  • Ohio’s two national, 83 state, and 13 metropark districts offer something for everyone
  • Most parks offer hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and other activitiets
  • Make sure you have the right auto insurance for your next visit to an Ohio park

Ohio has a wealth of natural resources and acres and acres of beautiful parks. The Buckeye State boasts 83 state parks, two national parks, and 13 districts of metroparks.

There are lots of reasons to visit a park in Ohio. State and national parks are affordable, with no entry fees. They are convenient – there’s probably one very close to where you live.

Parks offer something for everyone in the family, from hiking, fishing, camping, and boating, to nature programs, mushroom hunting, or just relaxing on the beach or in the grass.

Taking a day or weekend trip to a state or national park is an excellent way to get the whole family outside and having fun.

If you are looking to explore parks in the Ohio area, make sure you are covered before hitting the road. Enter your ZIP code above and compare at least three to four policies to get the best auto insurance rates for you!

The 12 Best Parks in Ohio

Considering there are almost 100 parks to choose from, it is obvious that Ohio has plenty to offer when it comes to beautiful, natural settings that people have gone out of their way to preserve and enjoy.

Unfortunately, we are not able to discuss all of those parks in great detail, but we did narrow it down to what we consider the 12 best parks you must see while in Ohio.

#1 – Hocking Hills State Park

Area: 2,356 acres
Established: 1924
Highlight: Ash Cave and Rock House

Hocking Hills State Park offers numerous hiking trails throughout several caves that were carved of sandstone deposited when water covered the state 350 million years ago.

Park visitors can also hunt and fish in designated areas and with appropriate licenses. Other activities include archery and picnicking in the summer and ice fishing in the winter.

There are campsites available from $30, cabins for $150 and camper cabins from $40 per night. Hocking Hills State Park closes at dusk for day visitors.

#2 – Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Area: 32,950 acres
Established: 1974
Highlight: Brandywine Falls and Towpath Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers hiking and biking trails, the most popular of which is the Towpath Trail. This multipurpose trail traces the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal and leads visitors to other natural and historic sites in the park.

There is no camping in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but there are accommodations at the nine-room Stanford House and the six-room Inn at Brandywine Falls, both located in the park and open year round.

There is also no entry fee for the park, and it is open every day. Some areas close at dusk, while other areas are open 24 hours a day.

#3 – Highbanks Metro Park

Area: 1,159 acres
Established: 1945
Highlight: 100-foot shale bluff

Activities at Highbanks Metro Park include:

  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing
  • Nature centers
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Cross-country skiing and sledding in winter

Highbanks Metro Park is open from 6:30 am to 10 pm from April to September, and 6:30 am to 8 pm from October to March. There is no entry fee.

There is a day camp for youth groups and two shelters that can be reserved, as well as first come, first served picnic areas.

#4 – Schiller Park

Area: 23.45 acres
Established: 1867
Highlight: Actor’s Summer Theater

Schiller Park is a Columbus City Park that includes:

  • Basketball court
  • Gazebo
  • Playground
  • Pond
  • Tennis court
  • Walking trails
  • Athletic fields

There are also dozens of recreational programs and classes offered by the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. There is no entry fee to use the park.

#5 – Ault Park

Area: 224 acres
Established: 1911
Highlight: July 4th Fireworks

Ault Park in Cincinnati features beautiful hiking trails among its gorgeous gardens. There are also picnic facilities and play areas for children.

The park offers many special events throughout the year, including car shows, bicycle races, wine and beer tastings, and music festivals.

The park’s grounds are so lovely that it is often the site of weddings in the spring, summer, and fall.

#6 – Eden Park

Area: 1,459 acres
Established: 1859
Highlight: Cincinnati Art Museum

A Cincinnati city park, Eden Park features the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Krohn Conservatory as well as the Cincinnati Art Museum.

The Hinkle Magnolia Garden features a lovely gazebo, groves of trees, Mirror Lake, and the Bettman Fountain.

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The Twin Lakes, complete with footbridge and walking paths, offer a beautiful view of the Ohio River into Kentucky. It’s a favorite spot for launching model boats on a clear day.

As a city park, there is no entrance fee, and the grounds are open from dawn until dusk, with hours extended for special events.

#7 – Blendon Woods Metro Park

Area: 653 acres
Established: N/A
Highlight: Ravines cut from sandstone and bird-watching

Blendon Woods Metro Park features incredible ravines that have been cut from sandstone by streams, as well as hickory and beech-maple forests that surround open fields. Thoreau Lake is home to waterfowl, songbirds, and a flock of wild turkeys.

There is no entry fee for this metro park, and it is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April to September, and from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from October to March.

#8 – John Bryan State Park

Area: 752 acres
Established: 1925
Highlight: Little Miami River Gorge

Visitors to John Bryan State Park can enjoy hiking trails, fishing and boating on the Little Miami River, disc golf, and summer nature programs.

The park is home to over 100 species of trees and 340 species of wildflowers.

John Bryan State Park includes 60 campsites, from $20 per day, as well as a day-use shelter and day camp. There are no entry fees to the park, and it is open from dawn until dusk for day visitors.

#9 – Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park

Area: 167 acres
Established: 1949
Highlight: Ledges rock formations

The Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park is a must-see for its natural rock formations that are some of the only outcroppings that can still be viewed in the state.

These cliffs were formed from erosion and the freezing and thawing of water as it wore away the soft outer layers, causing the resistant layers to form ledges.

Popular among families with young children, the park offers hiking trails for every level as well as picnicking facilities. There is no camping at the park. There is no entry fee for this day-use park.

#10 – Indian Lake State Park

Area: 800 acres
Established: 1949
Highlight: Indian Lake

Located on the shore of human-made Indian Lake, this park offers boating, fishing, and swimming, as well as picnicking and hiking. Hunting is permitted in approved areas with a license.

There are over 500 campsites, from $20, as well as camper cabins from $50 per night. Picnic shelters can also be reserved.

#11 – Mohican State Park

Area: 1,110 acres
Established: 1949
Highlight: Clear Fork Gorge

Visitors to Mohican State Park enjoy fishing and paddling on the Mohican River and swimming in the campground pool.

There are six hiking trails, picnicking facilities, and hunting is permitted in the adjacent state forest with an Ohio hunting license. There are over 150 campsites from $26 per night, three camper cabins from $55 per night, and 25 preferred cabins from $150 per night.

#12 – Maumee Bay State Park

Area: 1,336 acres
Established: 1975
Highlight: Lake Erie

Maumee Bay State Park allows visitors to enjoy the breathtaking beauty and natural diversity of Lake Erie, one of the largest bodies of fresh water anywhere in the world. The park includes marsh and swamp wetlands as well as prairies and meadows.

The lake provides boating, fishing, and swimming, and visitors can also visit the Trautman Nature Center, enjoy a picnic, or hike through the wetlands.

There are campsites from $28, deluxe cottages from $270 per night, and Quilter Lodge with 120 guest rooms from $110 per night. Rent-A-Camp units offer a unique getaway, and there is even a Yurt with refrigerator and microwave for $50 per night.

Driving Safely in Parks

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Driving in a park is different from driving on the open road, and it’s important to know what to look out for. Be aware of:

  • Runners
  • Hikers
  • Bicyclists
  • Horseback riders

You may come across wild animals who are used to having the road to themselves. Also beware of fallen debris and poor road conditions, as some park roads are unpaved.

When visiting a state park in Ohio, know the local laws and requirements, particularly gun laws.

If you want to hunt or fish, you need a valid Ohio license. You can get one from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. You can also find hunting and fishing regulations on the website. Note that hunting in state parks, when available, is limited to authorized areas only.

If you are visiting in the winter and want to go ice fishing, it’s important to be prepared. Be sure the ice is of adequate thickness, and call a local ice guide or bait shop to ask if it is safe to fish.

Never fish alone, and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Dress properly for the weather and wear an approved life vest.

And no matter what, keep an emergency kit with you in the car.

Whether you’re driving to a park for a day trip or a week-long camping trip, you should have an emergency kit. Make sure your kit includes:

  • Non-perishable food
  • Water
  • Blankets
  • First aid kit
  • Toolkit

Ensure That You Have the Right Insurance

Make sure your car insurance is up to date and complete when you are driving through a city, state, or national park in Ohio. You should have all of the following features:

  • Collision — Covers physical injuries and damaged caused by an accident
  • Comprehensive — Covers you if your car is damaged while it’s parked, if it gets flooded, or if a tree falls on it, for example. It’s important to have comprehensive coverage if you’re visiting a park
  • Rental Reimbursement — If your car is damaged, you don’t want it to ruin your vacation. This coverage will pay for a rental car while yours is out of commission
  • Roadside Assistance — This coverage can be very helpful if you get stranded due to a flat tire, an engine malfunction, or for some other reason
  • RV Insurance — This is the coverage you need if you’re taking your camper on the road

Make sure you have the right coverage before you leave on your trip.

Compare three or four policies to make sure you’re getting the right coverage. Companies change their prices frequently, so you should compare every six months or so to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

A little preparation and planning can make your family vacation to a city, state, or national park in Ohio a memorable trip with memories that will last a lifetime.

Looking for better auto insurance in Ohio? Start comparison shopping today by entering your ZIP code below!

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