Best Hikes in the Parks - Official Ohio State Park Lodges and Conference Centers

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Take a Hike! Best Trails Near Ohio State Park Lodges

From novice trails to challenging treks, hiking offers a wonderful way to explore Ohio’s natural beauty

Hikers, rejoice! With 83 state parks, 20 state forests, and an abundance of nature preserves and protected wildlife areas, the state of Ohio offers a bounty to those interested in exploring on foot. These natural resources are perhaps the greatest treasures surrounding the Ohio State Park Lodges.

Located in five distinct geographical regions of the state, these lodges are tucked away in scenic parks and offer outstanding hiking opportunities. They include Maumee Bay State Park in northwest Ohio, Deer Creek State Park in central Ohio; Salt Fork State Park in eastern Ohio; Mohican State Park in north central Ohio, and Punderson Manor State Park in northeast Ohio.

Regardless of your skill level, exploring the state parks on the hiking trails just steps from your lodge room or cabin as a home base is an ideal way to experience Ohio’s great outdoors.

Maumee Bay

Birds, birds, birds. Maumee Bay State Park’s location on the shores of Lake Erie makes it a major migration route for our feathered friends. You will see diverse species during your hikes in the park that take you through meadows, wetlands, and forests. There are several miles of trails including two multi-use trails.

One of the most memorable hikes is along the two-mile interpretive boardwalk adjacent to Maumee Bay Lodge. Observe wildlife awakening in the early morning as the fog lifts from the marsh. Keep an eye out for the owls that often peek their heads out from the little owl house boxes that have been placed into the trees for the owls to nest in.

Nearby Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is worth a short drive, with several trails in the marsh area and a popular boardwalk. As you hike, especially during the spring and fall bird migrations, you will see why this area draws birders from around the world. See how many of the 300 species of birds you can find in one hike, including warblers, eagles, ducks, flocks of blackbirds, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, ospreys, broad-winged hawks, Lapland longspurs, and shore birds like sanderlings, red knots, and ruddy turnstones.

Salt Fork

Salt Fork Lodge sits comfortably within Ohio’s largest state park. Salt Fork has 14 hiking trails that range from 0.1 miles to two miles in length for various skill levels. As you stroll through one of the most impressive efforts to preserve woodlands in the state, keep your eyes open for white-tailed deer, red fox, and barred owls that are easily spotted from the trails.

Popular trails in the 17,000-acre state park include the Valley Brook Loop Trail and the one-mile Archery Trail. Some of the most scenic trails that require moderate level hiking take you to the 1.8-mile Stone House Loop Trail, one-mile Beach Point Trail, and the 0.5-mile Hosak’s Cave Trail.

For a fun twist, get a Bigfoot Sighting map from the lodge and follow the alleged sightings trails or inquire about occasional guided Bigfoot Night Hikes.

Deer Creek

The hiking trails at Deer Creek State Park are laid out to take you through meadows, marshes, rolling hills, and along scenic ridges. You are certain to see active Ohio wildlife and spot wildflowers like the trillium as you trek through 3,100-acre park. Marked trails are easy to navigate whether you are looking for a light ¼-mile hike or a more strenuous 2.5-mile trek.

Several trails in the park are loops, which are convenient, especially if it is your first time to the area. The one-mile Hawkview Meadow Trail loops through mostly wooded terrain. The ¾-mile Adena Ridge Trail has rolling terrain that follows the Deer Creek Lake shoreline in a loop. Both the one-mile Woodchuck Trail and 1/4–mile Waterloo Trail loops are ideal for a light walk. You are likely to hear the distinct sounds of the chorus frog and the American toad that are popular wildlife residents of Deer Creek.

The more challenging trails lead to some scenic spots around Deer Creek State Park. The 1.5-mile Ridge Trail takes you through rolling hills and along the shoreline. This trail has an established observation blind where you can quietly watch wildlife, especially in the morning hours.

The Rolling Hills Trail is the most advanced hiking trail in the park. At 2.5 miles, it traverses the state park through wooded rolling hills and ravines and along the lake shoreline, immersing you in the natural beauty of the park. This is a one-way hike, so prepare for five miles round trip.

Mohican

Multiple hiking trails await you right outside your door: 13 miles of trails ranging in intensity in Mohican State Park and 32 miles in the adjacent Mohican Memorial State Forest, which covers more than 1,000 acres. Mohican hikes take you through historic land that was once used for hunting by the Delaware Indians in the area. Most trails are one and two miles in length, so it is easy to hit several in a day.

For light hiking, take the 1.5-mile Pleasant Hill Trail along the river or the two-mile educational Discovery Forest Trail, which displays various forest management techniques. Both are ideal for all age and skill levels.

Moderate hiking trails include the two-mile Lyons Falls Trail, the park’s most popular, or the three-mile (one way) Hemlock Gorge Trail; both take you to one of Ohio’s most picturesque covered bridges.

The most difficult hike in Mohican State Park is the Hog Hollow Trail. It leads to the lookout fire tower, which offers the best scenic view of the area. See if you can spot the sycamore trees, white oaks, and red maples, which are native to this area, as you look out over the forest.

If you prefer a mild walk instead of a hike, Mohican Lodge’s lighted and paved walking trails are available on the grounds of the lodge.

Punderson Manor

Punderson Manor State Park has seven hiking trails and a 2.2-mile multi-use trail. Located on Ohio’s glacial plateau, the park provides some of the most striking views of 150-acre Punderson Lake and the woodlands, especially when the leaves change color in the fall.

Casual hikers can opt for the ½-mile Whitetail Trail and ½-mile Beach Trail that are ideal for beginners. The more moderate trails include the scenic 2.2-mile Erie Trail, the 1.2-mile Mushers Trail and the 1.3-mile Huron Trail.

All of the trails throughout the state park show off the range of vegetation including wildflowers like the blue-eyed grass, buttercup, and wild geranium. Fauna include great horned owls, white-tailed deer, raccoons, and opossum, as well as a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl along the lake, including great blue herons, Canada geese, and wood ducks.

The Punderson Boardwalk just below the hill from the Manor House is a quiet way to spend a morning or an after-dinner stroll along Punderson Lake.

How To Explore

For long hikes, always bring water and a high-energy snack, dress in layers, and wear sturdy footwear. You might also want pack field guides and binoculars. For your own safety, always stay on the trail.

Open year-round, the five lakeside lodges of the Ohio State Parks offer a variety of accommodation types, ranging from standard and bunk/loft rooms to two- and four-bedroom cabins. Besides hiking, they offer indoor/outdoor pools, golf, boating, full-service dining and more. For more information and reservations, visit OhioStateParkLodges.com or call 800-282-7275.

For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.

Written by: Anietra Hamper

Ohio resident Anietra Hamper is an award-winning travel writer who specializes in covering outdoor activities.