Last Updated on May 4, 2022 by Res Marty
The onset of summer means it is time for you to grab your picnic tables, bust out those tents, and head onto a campsite for some s’mores around a campfire, and the Buckeye state does not have a shortage of beautiful campsites.
This often-overlooked Midwestern state boasts some of the most gorgeous water bodies, which are a hit amongst campers, besides the signature landscapes of the Midwest. From rolling hills and mountain views to ethereal waterfalls and thrilling hiking trails, the stunning countryside of Ohio is the perfect weekend getaway.
Camping in Ohio presents a diverse range of experiences. The 241,000-acre Wayne National Forest, the Appalachian Plateaus in the south East and the enchanting Lake Erie in the North are just a few of the options. In addition, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources itself oversees over 50 state parks and campgrounds, each one offering a multitude of recreational facilities and amenities.
The lush farmers’ markets, local cuisine, and unique attractions are bonuses that make camping in Ohio a coveted experience. Whether you’re into car camping or tent camping, Ohio has something to provide for everyone. If you like to plan your vacations well in advance, you may even book your desired campsite up to 6 months in advance.
You can also plan cross-country skiing in Ohio, as there are some great spots.
Plan to reconnect with nature in the buckeye state. This Ohio camping guide will give you a glimpse of the 15 best campgrounds in Ohio and essential factors to consider before finalizing a vacation.
Beginners and veterans in camping both can find a new and undiscovered camp spot from my list, but if you are a beginner, you might also be interested in my article on 15 Camping Essentials for Beginners 2022.
Important Things to Consider When Camping in Ohio
Best Time to Travel
Most Ohio state parks and campgrounds open from April to late September or early October, which is the best time for camping there. Since the winters there mean snowstorms and rainfalls, any outdoor activity from October to January is not ideal. The cold weather brings with it the opportunity for a family cross country skiing trip too.
However, the spring colors from March to May and the fall foliage from September to October are to die for. Visiting the Indian lake state park, the Portage lakes state park, or the Great Seal state park can be a good option during this time. The Little Miami River and the bridle trails are also suitable family locations.
The end of April may see temperatures as high as 78F with five days of mild rainfall, but, with warm and waterproof clothes, the cool breeze and the sight of fire rainbows are extremely pleasant. The fall season experiences warm temperatures between 46F and 86F, optimal for camping in Ohio.
If you do not have a problem with some hot days (around 92F) and possible heatwaves, Ohio summers are the busiest time for tourists. Although its main reason is children being off from school, the sunny days with comfortable temperatures around 71F (with fluctuations) make things easier. However, the increased demand during this time also means high prices.
Overall, late spring, the fall, and the summer are the best times for Ohio camping. However, we recommend checking the weather forecast before you book your campsites.
Ohio has no shortage of state parks, hidden locations, and fun campsites, but you must decide what kind of experience you want. If you are going with a huge family and kids, you might want to choose a public spot with practical campground amenities like clean flush toilets, running water for showers, fire rings or grills, and electrical outlets.
On the other hand, if you want a more authentic experience of outdoor life, rugged camping sites deep into the woods without any luxury facilities might be more up your alley. For a more community-based experience, state parks are great, but you would prefer something secluded for a romantic getaway. Similarly, if you are someone who gets altitude sickness, we suggest avoiding campsites at high altitudes.
Your ideal campsite also depends on the kind of outdoor recreational activities you see yourself doing. While stargazing, board games, and scavenger hunts can be done anywhere, fishing means you need a camp spot near a water body like Lake Erie. Where one Ohio camping ground may offer horseback riding and miniature golf, others may specialize in ice skating or mountain biking. It is about finding the right one for you.
What To Pack
Camping in Ohio, or anywhere else for that matter, is not something you can do on a whim. It requires extensive planning and equipment to ensure safety, fun, and a worthwhile experience. The right backpack depends on the length of the visit and your height, while what you put in it varies according to need.
Sleeping arrangements, food, and safety preparations are of high priority.
If visiting a dog park, it’s important that you pack accordingly.
Foods such as granola bars, peanut butter, canned beans and soup, and frozen foods are popular camping go-to’s. You may also carry utensils like pans, tongs, and spatulas if you are carrying meal prep or meat to roast over the fire. Among all this, do not forget a bunch of large water bottles.
As for sleeping gear, comfortable and durable sleeping bags and camping mattresses are safe choices. Sleeping pads, pillows, and blankets will ensure sound sleep. If you are into tent camping, the size of the tent you carry depends on the number of people who can squeeze into it.
Finally, we strongly recommend ensuring your safety with tried and tested equipment like flashlights, headlamps, fully stocked first aid kits, insect repellant, LED lamps, and batteries. These are especially important if you’re going cross-country skiing.
Additionally, toiletries such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, shampoo, sunscreen, and toilet paper are vital for your hygiene. These items will come in handy if visiting a place like the John Bryan state park.
The clothes you pack depend on the season and location you choose.
Prices and Budget
Most Ohio state parks charge somewhere around 30$, but these prices may go in either direction, the higher-end ones offering more outdoor recreational activities and facilities. For RV and tent camping, campsite access may be enough, but other costs may include cabin rentals, food, trash, and water fees. In addition, most state parks have restrictions on the number of family members allowed or the number of electrical outlets designated per spot, and the price rises with every extra thing you avail.
Camping in Ohio also offers you the luxury of free campsites, but these are usually void of any additional facilities. If you choose to camp at one of these, we advise you to be prepared for anything. Take your own water, food, power hook-ups with generators, trash cans, and compost bins, among other things, because it is likely you won’t be provided anything.
Each state park and campground has its policies, which is why it is advisable to find one that meets the expectations you have for this getaway. These restrictions may concern alcohol, event permits, firewood, pet policies, the requirement of hunting or fishing licenses, and the hours of the park.
While the park hours won’t affect you, it dictates when you can have visitors over. Most campsites end visitor hours around 10 pm, but if you are planning on a late-night gala with your relatives, you might want to find a spot with more lax policies. Similarly, most spots in Ohio have quiet hours between 11 pm and 7 am.
The campground you opt for also depends on when you decide to make your trip. Most state parks do not allow walk-ins but need advance registrations, which is why a last-minute plan significantly limits your options. Additionally, not all parks have a camp store for any last-minute purchases you may miss.
Camping in Ohio: 15 Unique Campgrounds in Ohio
Nestled between Columbus and Cleveland, Mohican State Park is a convenient stop for a traditional camping experience. With around 100 campsites, this 1100-acre park offers gorgeous hiking trails and other amenities like showers, playground, picnic tables, pool, volleyball and basketball courts, and flush toilets, among other things.
From loaning out board games and sporting equipment to a specialized mountain bike trail system, this pet-friendly park is a fantastic getaway. Additionally, the Clear Fork River runs through this park, making it suitable for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing for brown trout, while its proximity to the 4525-acre Mohican-Memorial State Forest offers rich wildlife.
Take the I71-South from Cleveland to Exit #173 (Lucas/Mansfield Exit) to St. Rt. 39. Head around 18 miles East to Loudonville, where taking St. Rt. 3 South for 1.5 miles should bring you to Mohican State Park.
Once an unexplored gem, Hocking Hills state park is now a national natural landmark in Western Ohio that houses rugged hills, magnificent cliffs and waterfalls, rivers and streams, and canyons, among other natural landscapes. It’s over 2000 acres of pristine wilderness and also hosts several miles of trails (of multiple skill levels) for both hiking and mountain biking.
This stunning campground with nearly 170 campsites also provides state-of-the-art facilities like heated showers, a dump station, swimming pool, horseshoe pit, and playground, among others to lend a resort-like feel.
From Cleveland, take I-71 South to Columbus and take 270 East toward Wheeling, WV to U.S. 33 East (Lancaster Exit). From there, you travel East to Logan and exit on 664 South to reach this state park.
If you want the thrilling adventure of rugged camping in Ohio, Beaver Creek State Park should be the go-to campground. Situated on the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains along the eastern border of Ohio, it offers an unfiltered experience of nature. With 45 campsites, of which only six are electric, and the absence of flush toilets, your hands-on experience will include hiking and exploring an abandoned pioneer village within the park’s grounds.
Beaver Creek State Park is a fantastic winter stop because its landscape is optimal for ice skating and other winter sports like sledding and snow-shoeing.
The Beaver Creek state park is found at 12021 Echo Dell Road in East Liverpool, Ohio. This popular road, right next to the Echo Dell Bridge, can be easily located via GPS.
A popular stop for RV camping or tent camping in Ohio, the best thing about Dillon State Park is the privacy each campsite gets, thanks to lush and beautiful trees in its dense forest. This, coupled with an endless list of amenities, makes this perfect for a romantic getaway. Its offerings include an amphitheater, archery range, dump station, handicap access, laundry facilities, nature center, and tennis courts.
Found on the rugged hills in the middle of Ohio, this campground boasts a gorgeous lake that adds to the glamor of this site and facilitates activities like kayaking, swimming, and boating from a boat launch ramp.
Nine miles to the Northwest of Zanesville, it is located near OH-146 on 5625 Dillon Hills Drive.
Found near some of Ohio’s top tourist attractions like Put-in-Bay, Kelleys Island, and Cedar Point, this private campground in the sleepy area of Sandusky, Ohio, is known for its community bonfires and its personal gem rock mine where children and adults both can mine colorful minerals.
Other park features include modern restrooms, a playground with a sandbox, a recreation center, a corn hole area, bridle trails for horses, and volleyball and tetherball courts. These fun-filled activities and top-class amenities are available at extremely affordable rates, making this a popular stop for tourists.
Situated only four miles west of Sandusky, you can easily find this campground just off State Route 6.
Nicknamed the Little Smokies of Ohio, thanks to the blue mist seen hovering over its rolling hills, this 1095-acre park offers visitors the opportunity to explore the backcountry of Southern Ohio’s Appalachian foothills near the Ohio River. This is a wonderful stop for all nature and outdoor lovers, and its uncountable recreational facilities make life significantly easier.
From a bike, boat, or canoe rental to a boat launch ramp for its two lakes, and other features like miniature golf, flush toilets, hiking trails, hunting grounds, and sports courts, this park is a splendid way to reconnect to nature. Do not leave your furry friends at home because this is a pet-friendly campground.
Found approximately 10 miles west of Bedford, along the Lincoln Highway (Route 30), you can use 132 State Park Road Schellsburg on your GPS.
This free-of-cost 4780-acre campground is just located half an hour from Cincinnati. Given its proximity to an urban area, one couldn’t have imagined how wild its landscape would be. A nearby stable and an extensive network of bridle trails make East Fork optimal for equestrian camping and horseback riding, but if that is not something you are interested in, other park features include boating, hunting, playground, putt-putt golf, shower, and restrooms, and a dump station among others. If you plan a last-minute trip, its in-park camp store is a blessing for quick supplies.
From Cleveland, follow I-71 South to I-275 East at Cincinnati. Take the I-275 East to Exit #63 (State Route 32) at Batavia or Exit #65, Beechmont Avenue East at Amelia. If you go 11 miles East, you should be able to follow the signs to this park.
Also, free of cost, pitching a tent in the rich wilderness of this quarter-million forest is the closest you can get to nature. With an abundance of natural sites and more than 300 miles of trail, this rugged landscape allows you to go all-out on adventures like hunting, fishing, swimming, and living on your own. If you don’t want to do this all on your own, campgrounds like Burr Oak Cove make use of the same space and add in amenities like flush toilets, a dump station, fire rings, and electrical outlets.
Located between The Plans and Nelsonville, Ohio, on US Route 33, the forest headquarters overlook the Hocking River.
Situated South of Columbus and East of Cincinnati, this state park offers a quintessential Southern Ohio camping adventure that is striking during late fall. With 200 campsites for both tent camping and RV camping, it is equipped with luxury features like flush toilets, shower houses, laundry facilities, and basketball courts to ensure an optimal guest experience.
In terms of recreational activities, hiking on its trails and swimming, boating, and fishing on the Pike Lake are popular options. However, exploring the Seven Caves area is a particular favorite of mine.
If you are coming from the north, on the east side of Greenfield, Thrifton Road (SR-1) is a trusted and quick route to pick. Use SR-41 and the Rapid Forge Road to access the Paint Creek State Park from SR 28.
Found in the middle of Lake Erie’s Emerald Isle, the seclusion and exclusivity of this park is the epitome of rest and relaxation. With plenty of shorelines, you can doze off on the beach or partake in activities like kayaking, hiking on its six miles of hiking trails, boating, and fishing for yellow perch, walleye, and smallmouth bass. Nighttime offers visits to the island’s winery and brewery, but other recreational facilities include mini-golf, a dump station, showers, a volleyball court, picnic tables, fire pits, and a fish cleaning station.
Take the 25-minute ferry ride from the Kelleys Island Ferry in Marblehead to reach this state. To reach there, exit Rt. 2 at 269 North and take that road to Route 163 before heading east onto 163. 163 E can then be taken into Marblehead.
With 308 campsites, of which 231 are electric, the Alum Creek State Park offers some of the best tent camping on its expansive protected woodland lush with mature trees. Within minutes of the state’s capital, Columbus, this park does not offer a resort-like luxury but rather emphasizes a balance between wilderness and convenience with flush toilets, showers, a nature center, a dump station, restaurants, and a four-acre dog park, and shelter houses.
With a wide array of nearby attractions, this park is open all year round but is the most scenic park during fall due to its foliage. The US Corp of Engineers Lake that passes through it is not only big enough for your boats but is the reason why fishermen particularly love this campground for camping in Ohio.
Assuming you are on the I-71 Heading North, take Exit 131 (US-36/SR-37) and turn left off that exit to head west 1.1 miles to Africa Road. Turn left again and travel 2.3 miles before turning right onto Cheshire Road until you reach a roundabout. Stay to the left so that you end up going south on South Old State Road, where you will find the Alum Creek State Park on your right.
If you love the water, look no further than the Tappan Lake Park Campground for your camping in Ohio. Its 2350-acre campground is divided into sections for tents, RVs, and cabin rentals, but its primary attraction is the lake anchoring the site which makes it the leading area for water activities.
Besides the regular boating, kayaking, and swimming, this lake can handle jet skis and wave runners while offering its visitors the exclusive chance to fish for white bass, largemouth bass, yellow perch, or catfish. Other facilities in this Eastern Ohio delight include a boat launch ramp, free wifi, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, and a nature center.
The simple route to this campground is going 7.5 miles west on US 250 from town, followed by 3 miles south on CR 55.
With 212 campsites in the Stunning Welsh Hills area, Lazy River at Granville offers you so many recreational facilities for a lazy Ohio camping experience. With a two-story adventure course, heated swimming pool, two playgrounds, a dog park, and a fully-stocked camp store, this campground boasts many fun activities like laser tag, mini-golf, and gem mining among others.
Not only is it open all year round, but its close vicinity to Columbus and its attractions like the Columbus Zoo, State Capitol Building, and COSI (Center of Science and Industry) also establishes it as a leading tourist spot.
On Ohio State Route 16, head 8 miles west and then 4.5 miles north on State Route 661. Another 1.25 mile east on Dry Creek Road NE (CR 10) should bring you to this campsite.
In the cozy town of Wilmington, Caesar Creek State Park provides some of the finest tent camping in Ohio, not just in the Southwest. With a serene lake, miles of hiking trails, amphitheater events, and a dynamic playground, you simply cannot get bored. From public reservation spaces to private campgrounds, Caesar Creek State Park is capable of diverse experiences.
While the anglers can enjoy the extensive fish options in the park’s fresh, waters, everyone else can explore the stunning landscapes, gorgeous terrain, and breathtaking views on the 4000 acres of wildland that come with this park. Amenities like picnic tables, flush toilets, laundry facilities, and showers are a given.
From Cleveland, take Ohio I-71 South to State Route 73. Turn right on that route for six miles and you will find the park entrance. The campground can be found on the left on either State Route 73, State Route 380, or Center Road.
Unlike the other options that are away from the bustling city, Lighthouse Point Campground is situated right in the middle of it. In the heart of a popular amusement park, Cedar Point, this campground is ideal for families. Not only is it close to the life-changing rides at Cedar Point, but it is also right next to Cedar Point’s Lake Erie beach for some beach fun.
Given the popularity of this multi-faceted experience that includes camping with around 120 RV sites, the beach, and an amusement park, you can almost always find joint deals on ticket packages. Noting its other amenities like outdoor pools, a camp store, hot tub, water play area, parasailing, and shuffleboard courts, Reader’s Digest named this one of the best RV parks in Ohio.
Found at 1 Cedar Point Dr, in Sandusky, Ohio 44870, the famous amusement park is very hard to miss. From Toledo express, head east on I-80/I-90 to Exit 110 (Sandusky) before turning left onto OH 4. Once there, follow the signs to this campground.
Camping in Ohio is something every Ohioan, if not every American, should consider once in a lifetime. The breathtaking landscape and view of the buckeye state are best enjoyed close to nature, which is why camping is a perfect summer getaway for families, couples, and solo campers alike.
From RV parks and public national parks to secluded spots, Ohio is full of magnificent campgrounds and we hope this guide has introduced you to one that best suits your needs. If you are starting out camping, a state park, dog park, or campground off this list should be perfect, as long as you have considered the ideal time to travel, what to pack, what activities you want to do, and your budget.