Discover the 10 Best National Parks to Visit in Ohio

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 17, 2022
Image Credit BullpenAl/Shutterstock.com
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Famed for intact ecosystems and highly concentrated biodiversity, Ohio is also the 7th most densely populated state in America. Approximately 11.8 million people live in Ohio. The great plains are mostly made up of dolomite barrens, limestone, and prairies, while the shorelines mainly consist of clay and sandy beaches.

There are plenty of things to explore in Ohio, especially if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. With habitats ranging from forested foothills to icy glaciers and volcanic rocks, national parks are the primary source of amusement. They are full of wonders, from majestic scenery to incredible animals.

Here are the ten best national parks to visit in Ohio that offer excellent outdoor activities for any adventurer who’d like to jump-start their exploration at any time of the year.

1. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a perfect place for flora and fauna lovers dreaming of an up-close with Ohio’s famous wildlife.

Shriram Patki/Shutterstock.com

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Size32,572 Acres
Animal to SeeRaccoon
Attraction to SeeBrandywine Falls

Perhaps the most iconic national park in the United States, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a perfect place for flora and fauna lovers dreaming of an up-close with Ohio’s famous wildlife, open farmlands, and lush forests.

It’s possible to see everything in Cuyahoga in a single day, but I’m sure you’d prefer to spend more time enjoying the park’s recreation and solitude. Hike or take scenic drives to some of the best viewpoints in the park. Chances are, you’ll see beavers, raccoons, deer, and coyotes while traversing the surroundings.

2. Wayne National Forest

Wayne National Forest
Wayne National Forest is home to a wide range of animals, including bobcats, wild turkeys, and coyotes.

SevenMaps/Shutterstock.com

Wayne National Forest
Size240,100 Acres
Animal to SeeWild Turkey
Attraction to SeeBurr Oak Lake

Enjoy walking tours through the dense forests of Wayne National Forest. The plains are home to a wide range of animals, including bobcats, wild turkeys, and coyotes. They can be found in the boreal coniferous forest, dense riparian areas, and in the woods and shrubbery. 

Wayne is an excellent spot for hiking, horse riding, biking, ATV riding, and fishing. It also provides perfect camping opportunities in the vast wilderness. Gather some warm marshmallows by a bonfire for an amazing experience at the camping sites.

3. Hocking Hills State Park

Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park offers excellent hiking opportunities that lead to accessible natural features.

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Hocking Hills State Park
Size2,356 Acres
Animal to SeeWhite-tailed Deer
Attraction to SeeCedar falls

Set aside as a natural wonder in southeastern Ohio, Hocking Hills State Park is a hiker’s paradise. The park offers excellent hiking opportunities that lead to accessible natural features like waterfalls, cliffs, rock formations, and recess caves.

There are many hiking trails to explore in Hocking Hills to suit your preferences. You will most likely see bobcats, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, and barred owls along the trails and river banks.

4. Maumee Bay State Park

Maumee Bay State Park
Maumee Bay State Park reflects the diverse heritage of Ohio.

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Maumee Bay State Park
Size1,336 Acres
Animal to SeeWhite-tailed Deer
Attraction to SeeLake Erie

Situated on the shoreline of Lake Erie, Maumee Bay State Park reflects the diverse heritage of Ohio. The park allows camping activities and offers on-site amenities like guest rooms and outdoor showers. You can swim along the park’s inland lake or on Lake Erie.

Take a stroll within the park to see different species of wildlife, birds, and marine mammals found in the marsh areas. You may also engage in boating activities to get the park’s best views.

Maumee Bay also has a stunning golf course for golf lovers. It’s a walking distance from the park’s lodges.

5. John Bryan State Park

John Bryan State Park
John Bryan State Park offers several outdoor activities such as canoeing, hiking, biking, fishing, and rappelling.

Doug Lemke/Shutterstock.com

John Bryan State Park
Size752 Acres
Animal to SeeMarine mammals like smallmouth bass and rock bass.
Attraction to SeeClifton Gorge

With a spectacular limestone gorge through which the Miami River flows and breathtaking landscapes, John Bryan State Park is another amazing place to visit in Ohio. It offers several outdoor activities such as canoeing, hiking, biking, fishing, and rappelling. The park also has beautiful campgrounds where you can spend the night.

John Bryan is open year-round. Enjoy cross-country skiing in winter and the stunning leaf colorations in fall. Summer offers clear visuals of the park’s surroundings, though it’s a bit crowded during this period.

6. Malabar Farm State Park

Malabar Farm State Park
Malabar Farm State Park is one of the best places to visit if you want to learn more about farming and local wildlife.

iStock.com/LarryKnupp

Malabar Farm State Park
Size580 Acres
Animal to SeeDomesticated animals like cattle, chickens, sheep, horses, and goats.
Attraction to See32-room Big House

Explore the 32-room, extra-large house at Malabar Farm and discover the story of Louis Bromfield, the owner of the farm. It’s one of the best places to visit if you want to learn more about farming and local wildlife.

You might recognize the farm at a glance if you follow the Shawshank Trail. Malabar Farm was the location for the opening scene of the movie.

Walk around the farm to see various farm animals, including the Hereford-cross cow. Take some easy hikes that lead to small caves within the park. Get inside the caves to feel the incredible cool temperature in summer.

7. Geneva State Park

Geneva State Park
Geneva State Park gives you expansive views of the mature woodlots and steamy beaches.

Milena Ramirez/Shutterstock.com

Geneva State Park
Size698 Acres
Animal to SeePainted Turtle
Attraction to SeeLake Erie

For expansive views of the mature woodlots and steamy beaches, add Geneva State Park to your bucket list. Full of freshwater marsh, rare species of plants, and several camping opportunities to spend the night in a serene park, Geneva is ripe for long afternoon walks and evenings spent watching the magnificent views.

Take a stroll along the central and western beach areas to see some species of mammals like river otters and painted turtles. You may also engage in boating activities to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Geneva.

8. Kelleys Island State Park

Kelleys Island State Park
Kelleys Island State Park is home to many species of birds, such as waterfowl, raptors, and migratory songbirds.

Adelya Isyanamanova/Shutterstock.com

Kelleys Island State Park
Size700 Acres
Animal to SeeDeer
Attraction to SeeGlacial Grooves State Memorial

Kelleys Island State Park commands all attention when it comes to glacial grooves, cliff formations, coastal trails, and sandy beaches. The park features magnificent scenery, ranging from the great Lake Erie views to the gouged boulders and coarse gravel in the northern part of Kelleys Island.

Kelleys Island is home to many species of birds, such as waterfowl, raptors, and migratory songbirds. Some of the rare bird species, like Chuck-will’s Widow and Kirtland’s Warbler, may also be spotted within the park. Water snakes also visit the island’s shoreline occasionally.

9. Deer Creek State Park

Deer Creek State Park
Deer Creek State Park provides a habitat for diverse wildlife species, including raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, and red foxes.

BullpenAl/Shutterstock.com

Deer Creek State Park
Size3,260 Acres
Animal to SeeWhite-tailed Deer
Attraction to SeeTed Lewis Museum

Located in the middle of a rich farming state, marina, and resort, Deer Creek State Park is home to stunning natural landscapes. Explore the park’s meadows and woodlands via the waterways and get a chance to see what lies beyond the shoreline.

The park provides a habitat for diverse wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, rabbits, skunks, woodchucks, raccoons, and red foxes. Barn swallows and song sparrows also call Deer Creek home.

10. Salt Fork State Park

Salt Fork State Park
Salt Fork State Park is home to wild turkeys, barred owls, white-tailed deer, and grey squirrels.

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Salt Fork State Park
Size17,229 Acres
Animal to SeeRed Fox
Attraction to SeeKennedy Stone House

Being the biggest state park in Ohio, Salt Fork State Park is the true definition of wild and scenic adventure. Home to wild turkeys, barred owls, white-tailed deer, red foxes, and grey squirrels, the park is every bit as wild as its inhabitants.

Visitors can explore all the activities they came for, whether it’s canoeing past the Stonehouse for a unique scenery or an all-day hike at the Beach Point Loop Trail and Shadbush.

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