Leaf-Peeping in the Ohio State Parks
Reds and yellows and golds, oh my! How to enjoy the vibrant fall colors
Fall is one of the best times to visit Ohio as leaves on the trees change into an array of vibrant colors. Ohio State Park Lodges are located in different geographical regions, so you can plan for the best seat in the house to catch the fall foliage.
Fall color changes start in northern Ohio the second week in October, then central Ohio the third week, and round out peak color in southern Ohio the last week of the month.
The lodges at Maumee Bay, Punderson Manor, Mohican, Deer Creek, and Salt Fork allow you to enjoy the color spectacle by hiking, biking, or sitting quietly on your cabin porch.
However you choose to enjoy it, timing is everything for Nature’s autumn show.
Northwest Ohio is a prime birding destination throughout the year, which means there are dozens of paths throughout Maumee Bay State Park from which to enjoy the fall colors.
The sycamore trees in the region are some of the first to turn gold and yellow starting the second week in October. They complement the dark reds and russet colors of the pin oak and burr oak trees. Keep an eye out for the sweet gum tree as the leaves progressively change from yellow to dark purple.
Wake up to fall’s colorful splendor from the porch of your private cabin or hit the links with a panoramic view of the first color changes in the state. Stroll the 2-mile boardwalk at the lodge as you spot birds and wildlife or sit on the shores of Lake Erie watching the sunset complement the changing leaves on a perfect Ohio fall evening.
One of the most spectacular ways to enjoy fall is the early October reflection of color on the lake at Punderson Manor in northeast Ohio. The best view is from the water in your boat or kayak, but landlubbers can enjoy a similar view from the lake boardwalk.
The black cherry trees that turn yellow complement the abundance of maple trees in the area that transform into impressive reds, yellows, and oranges. Private cabins surrounded by forest make a colorful backdrop as you wind down the day at the fire pit with your family.
Enjoy the brisk fall air at the nine-hole disc golf course or miles of hiking trails. For a more leisurely pace, fishing at the lake, bird watching, or finding a comfortable spot on the manicured grounds are peaceful ways to enjoy the Ohio fall transition.
The central Ohio location of Mohican State Park Lodge is where fall foliage enthusiasts flock around the third week in October. Shades of reds, oranges, and yellows of the maple trees contrast with the dark green of the eastern hemlocks.
The Mohican area has some of the best vantage points for leaf viewing in the entire state. The fire tower at Mohican State Park, the gorge overlook, Pleasant Hill Dam, and Mount Jeez at Malabar Farm provide elevated locations for optimal viewing and photography.
For a more intimate view of Mother Nature, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and canoeing are popular ways to enjoy the fall spectacle.
The scenic region near Deer Creek State Park Lodge, southwest of Columbus, features the locust tree in the wildlife area that surrounds the state park. This species begins to turn color in early September while other trees in this part of the state do not change until late October.
Whether you choose to view the fall foliage on horseback, on a trail, or by bike, keep an eye out for the sycamore, cottonwood, and hickory trees that favor yellow. Maple trees throughout the park boast many colors that contrast with lighter hues.
The 1,300-acre Deer Creek Lake offers the best view of the fall colors. Rent a pontoon or kayak to float along the tree line or enjoy the majestic reflections from the shore.
The grand finale of the Ohio fall foliage season happens the last week in October in southern Ohio near Salt Fork State Park Lodge.
The diversity of trees that exist in Ohio’s largest state park makes for a long fall color season in this part of the state. Maple trees change early into a variety of colors followed by an array of yellows that emerge on the tulip poplar trees. Those colors are layered with the vibrant red, purple, and deep magenta of hickory trees, finishing off with the stunning bright reds of oak.
The ways to enjoy the symphony of color in southern Ohio are many. You can opt for a simple picnic on the banks of Salt Fork Lake or a private cabin tucked into the forest. For more activity, try a round of golf at sunrise or walk one of 14 scenic hiking trails.
For a comfortable vantage point, view the fall colors from your rocking chair in front of the glass wall windows of the lodge or take a scenic drive through the sprawling 17-thousand-acre state park.
For weekly Ohio fall color updates beginning at the end of September, visit fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov
For more information on Ohio State Park Lodges, visit ohiostateparklodges.com or call 800-282-7275.
For more travel experiences 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.