The Top 6 Largest State Parks in Ohio Are Sprawling Natural Wonders

Horseshoe Falls Ohio
© Greg Dungan/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Geer

Updated: November 20, 2023

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Ohio is full of beautiful places. With over 170,000 acres of land in the State Park System, including 74 state parks, 17 state forests, and 12 state wildlife areas, it’s easy to see why Ohio is a hidden gem in the Midwest. Read on for our list of the top six largest state parks in Ohio.

1: Salt Fork State Park — 20,181 Acres

Salt Fork State Park

The largest state park in Ohio is the beautiful and sprawling, Salt Fork State Park.

©astro.nature/Shutterstock.com

Situated in eastern Ohio, Salt Fork State Park’s 20,181 acres include 17,229 acres of land and 2,952 acres of water. Located in Guernsey County, six miles north of Lore City, the nearest larger cities are Pittsburg, PA, and Cleveland, OH. Both are under two hours away.

Salt Fork is in the unglaciated region of the state and is full of pristine woodlands and gently rolling meadows. There is a diverse population of wildlife here including wood frogs, red foxes, wild turkeys, barred owls, and the Kentucky warbler. The park is enormous and includes two marinas and a sandy swimming beach along the Salt Fork Lake, campgrounds, a lodge, cottages, and even an 18-hole golf course.

2: Grand Lake St. Marys State Park — 14,091 Acres

Grand Lake St. Mary's

The beautiful Grand Lake St. Marys is a sprawling 9 miles long by 3 miles wide. 

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The second largest state park, Grand Lake St. Marys State Park, is located in west central Ohio. Located just outside the town of St. Marys, the closest largest city is Dayton, OH, about an hour to the south.

Today, Grand Lake St. Marys is a popular spot for water recreation, including swimming, fishing, boating, and tubing. However, it was originally designed as a feeder reservoir in the 1800s for the Miami-Erie Canal. The park has facilities for camping in tents or RVs, or staying in rustic cedar cabins. Guests can also birdwatch, picnic, bring their dogs to the dog park, or hike in the forested trails. The park is still busy in the winter with snowmobiling, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing.

3: Alum Creek State Park — 8,017 Acres

Couple Kayaking on Lake With Rocky Cliffs in Background, Summer Day, Alum Creek, Columbus Ohio

Kayaking is a popular pastime along the Alum Creek near Columbus, OH.

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Nearby the capital city of Columbus lies the picturesque Alum Creek State Park. A nature lover’s paradise, the park boasts plenty of outdoor activities such as picnicking, bird watching, boating, kayaking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Perhaps the highlight of the park is the sandy swimming beach, which happens to be the largest inland beach in Ohio’s state park system.

The park is a great spot for watching for wildlife, especially along the wooded trails. Some of the birds you may see are osprey, bald eagles, common loons, and sandpipers. In the forest, you may run into rabbits, white-tail deer, woodchucks, and fox squirrels.

4: West Branch State Park — 8,002 Acres

Sunrise over the water at West Branch State Park

The scenic Michael J. Kirwan Reservoir is a highlight of the West Branch State Park in Ravenna, OH, near Cleveland.

©Mike Steele / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

The expansive West Branch State Park sits on the west branch of the Mahoning River in northern Ohio. Located in Ravenna, OH, the park is about an hour from Cleveland and is part of the Greater Akron Area. Within the park is the Michael J. Kirwan Reservoir, a 2,650-acre manmade reservoir built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1965.

The 8,000-acre park has 14 miles of hiking trails, a 700-foot sand beach, campgrounds, a dog park, horseback trails, and a marina. The region is on a glaciated plateau, which left behind boggy wetlands filled with diverse plantlife, including swamp white oaks and alder. Another unique feature is the beech-maple forest, where raccoons, red foxes, skunks, and a variety of songbirds make their homes.

5: Caesar Creek State Park — 7,941 Acres

Horseshoe Falls Ohio

©Greg Dungan/Shutterstock.com

The pretty little waterfall, Horseshoe Falls, is an easy, but beautiful hike through Ohio forestland.

In Waynesville, OH sits the expansive Caesar Creek State Park. A little over a 30-minute drive from Dayton, and less than an hour from Cincinnati, brings visitors to the wooded and spacious park.

One of the park’s top highlights is a short yet spectacular hike to the hidden gem of the Horseshoe Falls. A 2.4 mile out and back trail (including crossing a unique swinging bridge) will take hikers to the falls. Aside from the waterfall and suspension bridge, along your hike, you may spot frogs, amphibians, songbirds, and colorful wildflowers in the summer. Other amenities in the park include campgrounds, a marina, boat docks, and a lodge.

6: East Fork State Park — 7,480 Acres

The beauty of East Fork State Park and the William H Harsha Dam Lake in Ohio, USA

The scenic William H. Harsha Lake is located on the Little Miami River within the East Fork State Park in Clermont County.

©Anne Kitzman/Shutterstock.com

Last on our list, but still one of the largest state parks with a sprawling 7,480 acres, is the East Fork State Park, located in the southwest part of the state. Just 30 minutes from Cincinnati, the park is a short escape away from the urban landscape to a natural wonderland.

The park has 4,870 acres of land and 2,160 acres of water, offering endless outdoor experiences. The region was shaped by glaciers, which left behind rolling hills and prairie habitats. In the park, visitors can explore the woodlands and swamp forests, while the lake offers fishing, paddling, boating, and swimming. Other things to do in the park include camping, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and mountain bike riding. Some of the wildlife you could encounter in the area include white-tail deer, red foxes, raccoons, garter snakes, barn swallows, and fence lizards.

Summary of the Top 6 Largest State Parks in Ohio

RankState ParkSizeLocation
1Salt Fork State Park20,181 AcresGuernsey County
2Grand Lake St. Marys State Park14,091 AcresAuglaize County
3Alum Creek State Park8,017 AcresDelaware County
4West Branch State Park8,002 AcresPortage County
5Caesar Creek State Park7,941 AcresWarren, Clinton, and Greene Counties
6East Fork State Park7,480 AcresClermont County


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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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