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The Buckeye State’s deep forests, wide rivers, shimmering lakes, and open plains present the adventurer with tons of opportunities for outdoor fun. No matter your passion or the season, the outdoors beckon in Ohio.
The state’s premier outdoor adventure venue is likely Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This natural area between Akron and Cleveland teems with native wildlife, gorgeous forests, and scenic trails. Start your day at the Boston Store Visitor Center or the Canal Exploration Center to get the low-down on current conditions, then head out for a day of fun.
The park has more than 125 miles of trails, ranging from wheelchair-friendly to challenging. Suit the family up and stride down the easy Haskell Run Trail or venture out on the Tree Farm Trail, which should take about 90 minutes. For a truly beautiful short hike, take the half-mile Blue Hen Falls Trail. For something more challenging, lace up your boots for the 1.5-mile Brandywine Gorge Trail or hop on the Buckeye Trail to visit Bridal Veil Falls. Is biking more your thing? The park has five major bike trails, including the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, the Summit Metro Bike and Hike Trail, the 10-mile Bedford mountain bike trail, and the new East Rim Trail. Ready to get on the water? The park is working hard to make canoeing and kayaking the Cuyahoga River accessible to everyone.
Ohio has one of the nation’s best state park and land preservation systems. In all you will find 83 state parks, 20 state forests, 22 state memorials, two state scenic rivers, and 28 state wildlife areas.
Where to start? Hikers will find plenty of ground to cover. Maumee Bay State Park has a great two-mile interpretive boardwalk where you can observe wildlife like the owls who make their homes here. Nearby Magee Marsh Wildlife Area has several trails into the reeds and a boardwalk trail that kids love. The state’s largest state park, Salt Fork, has the popular Valley Brook Loop Trail and the one-mile Archery Trail. For something totally different, grab the park’s Bigfoot Sighting map and try your hand at hunting for a sasquatch.
At Deer Creek State Park, the trails jog through meadows, marshes, rolling hills, and along scenic ridges. You’ll see some beautiful wildflowers and will have a chance to spot native wildlife. Mohican State Park is one of Ohio’s most popular parks, and there are tons of trails here to choose from. The most difficult is the Hog Hollow Trail, which leads to a lookout tower offering a bird’s-eye view of the park. For something milder, there are pleasant walking paths around the Mohican Lodge.
If you are keen to spot some wildlife, Ohio has a park for you. The Buckeye State is a birder’s dream. More than 300 species of birds have been spotted in Magee Marsh, and the main road takes you past perfect spots for seeing ducks and geese. Killdeer Plains and Big Island wildlife areas together total 14,000 acres and are good for spotting shorebirds like the American golden-plover, Lapland longspurs, godwits, and the regal American avocet. Shawnee State Forest covers more than 63,000 acres and is home to hooded warblers, scarlet tanagers, and ruffed grouse. The rugged region of Hocking Hills holds hooded warblers, tanagers, Carolina wrens, and the blue-headed vireo.
The state’s gorgeous countryside turns white in the winter, and you’ll discover hundreds of miles of cross-country ski trails waiting for you. While trails are not always groomed, the paths are rarely hard to follow, and ski rentals are easy to come by. Top spots include the 8.5 miles of trails in Alum Creek State Park and the 9 miles of trails in Barkcamp State Park. Other popular spots include Paint Creek State Park, which has 25 miles of trails, and Mohican-Memorial State Forest, which has more than 30 miles of trails.
If you like a bit more thrill on snow, check out the state’s downhill ski areas. Boston Mills and Brandywine are close to each other south of Cleveland and enjoy heavy lake effect snow dumps. Mad River Mountain is the Buckeye State’s biggest ski area, and it’s not far from Columbus or Dayton. Snow Trails is the state’s oldest ski area, and what it lacks in vertical it makes up for in size – the area here totals 80 acres, and there are 17 trails to choose from. Alpine Valley is in the heart of the state’s snowbelt, and it boasts one of Ohio’s biggest half pipes and terrain parks.
For something even faster, hop on one of the state’s zip lines. Choose from thrilling destinations like Ozone Zipline Adventures in Oregonia, WildZipline Safari in Cumberland, and Markin Farms Zipline Adventures in West Liberty.
If you want to get on the water, you’ll find many lakes and rivers in the state perfect for paddling. The Little Miami River is 111 miles long and not far from Cincinnati. Launch from Fort Ancient and cruise past tree-lined shores, keeping a lookout for bird life. The Hocking River in Southeastern Ohio is another top-rated spot to paddle and has some of the best scenery in Ohio. In Central Ohio, near Columbus, Big Darby Creek is a national scenic river and noted for its adventure and beauty. Finally, don’t forget one of the nation’s biggest lakes – Lake Erie. You’ll find dozens of spots to launch for a paddle along the shore – try the Marblehead area, which is pretty and has many public boat ramps.
Ohio has a surprising amount of rock, and you’ll find dozens of sports, trad, boulder, and toprope rock climbing options here. Bouldering is most popular, and routes can be found in Hocking Hill State Park, Chippewa Creek, Whipps Ledges, and in the Mad River Gorge. Even if you are not a rock climber, the Mad River Gorge is worth a visit – it has trails and scenery galore as well as wildlife viewing opportunities.