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Ohio is the 17th state of the United States. Originally named from the Ohio River which came from the Seneca word ohiːyo for “good river”, “great river”, or “large creek”.
It’s hard to run out of outdoor adventure ideas in the Buckeye State (due to numerous buckeye trees) with its 50 rivers, 74 state parks, and 130 state nature preserves as well as its seasonally changing landscape.
From hiking and horseback riding in the spring and summer to ziplining in the fall and skiing in the winter, there’s always an adventure to be had.
Outdoor Adventures in Ohio
If you’re planning a trip to Ohio but aren’t sure where to go for some outdoor fun, keep reading.
With so many choice adventure destinations in The Heart of It All, we tried my best to narrow this list down to just our top 10.
1. Hocking Hills: Hiking, Rock Challenges, and a Lot More
The Hocking region is known for its huge sandstone outcroppings, deep cool gorges, hemlock trees that can grow over a hundred feet, and glistening waterfalls. You won’t find any other area in the Buckeye State as wild and romantic as Hocking Hills State Park. There’s so much you can do in Hocking Hills that we could write an entire article on it alone.
There are 7 major hiking trails in Hocking Hills State Park alone. These trails are all one-way loop trails and include the following:
- Ash Cave
- Cedar Falls
- Old Man’s Cave
- Conkle’s Hollow
- Cantwell Cliffs
- Rock House
- Whispering Cave.
With so many trails to choose from, it’s easy to tailor your hike according to your level of skill.
Hiking not exciting enough for you? Try Hocking Hills’s rock challenges.
Prepare to encounter rock halls, squeezes, bouldering challenges, crawls, ascents and descents, without harnessed climbing or rappelling. This can be a welcome change of pace for you and your family.
If you’re looking to mix nature viewing with some adrenaline, Hocking Hills offers tours for rock and cliff rappelling. These rappelling tours begin at 35 feet and can take you as high as 100 feet. You’ll mainly experience the three following rappelling types:
- Flat wall
- Large overhang
Of course, if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can also go rock climbing in Hocking Hills. Climbs begin at 35 feet and can reach heights of up to 70 feet – depending on the group’s level of skill.
2. Wayne National Forest: Backpacking and ATV off-roading
Wayne National Forest is located in the south-eastern part of Ohio, in the Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau, and is the only national forest in the state. The land was cleared for agricultural and lumbering use in the 18th to 19th century but years of poor practices resulted in severe soil erosion and poor soil composition. This lead to the reforestation program that would create the Wayne National Forest.
What activities are allowed in Wayne National Forest?
For starters, with approximately 300 miles of trails, it’s a great place to enjoy nature whether you’re hiking or backpacking.
Some trails are also open to ATV off-roading, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
You can also hop into a canoe and go down one of the forest’s three canoeable rivers. These include the Little Muskingum River on the Marietta unit, the Hocking River on the Athens unit, and Symmes Creek on the Ironton District.
At the end of the day, you can then enjoy camping with your friends or family either in one of the forest’s remote backpacking sites or in one of their fully-serviced campgrounds in each Ranger District.
3. The Wilds: Hiking, Birding, Fishing, and Ziplining
The Wilds is a private, non-profit safari park and conservation center that puts together the latest conservation science and education programs with hands-on experience and adventure. There are opportunities for such activities as ziplining, horseback riding, fishing, and much more.
The property was built on 9,154 acres (3,704 hectares) of reclaimed coal mine land dug by the dragline Big Muskie.
The Wilds is an Audubon Important Bird Area which is why it includes a birding station with a covered lookout. It also has a butterfly habitat with hiking trails, over 15 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, and approximately 150 lakes. It’s the largest wildlife conservation center in North America and can be visited between May and October.
4. Loudonville: Canoeing and Camping
Loudonville is a village in Ashland and Holmes counties in Ohio and is nicknamed the state’s “Capital of Canoeing” because of the numerous canoe liveries along the Mohican River. The Village is also home to Mohican State Park and Mohican-Memorial State Forest and Landoll’s Mohican Castle.
Canoeing trips in Loudonville can go from a 2-mile tube to a several-mile trip. At the end of your day on the water, you can then enjoy camping at one of the many campsites located by the Mohican River.
5. John Bryan State Park: Rock climbing
John Bryan State Park is located in Greene County, Ohio. It spans 752-acres (304 ha) and surrounds Clifton Gorge, a deep cut of the Little Miami River between Yellow Springs and Clifton. The park includes a campground, hiking/biking trails, as well as six designated rock climbing sites, and one rappelling site.
The climbing sites consist of 30 to 60-foot limestone cliffs along the Little Miami River Gorge. Only top roping is allowed and each site is limited to only 10 people at a time.
6. Lake Erie: Birding, Charter Boat Fishing, and Ice Fishing
Lake Erie is the fourth-largest lake (by surface area) of the five Great Lakes in North America.
The lake is an Audubon Important Bird Area that provides a habitat to most of the waterfowl in the state of Ohio. It’s a great place to observe species such as American Black Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Canvasback, Redhead, Ruddy Duck, Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, Bald Eagles, and much more.
Apart from birding, Lake Erie is also known for its great fishing, especially for perch and walleye. You can charter a boat in the summer for prime walleye season. Alternatively, you can also visit during the winter months for some ice fishing and catch some walleye, yellow perch, and crappie.
7. Big Darby Creek: Kayaking and Canoeing
Big Darby Creek is a scenic river found in northwestern central Ohio. It’s an important tributary to the Lower Scioto River and its major tributary is Little Darby Creek.
Running approximately 84 miles (135 km) from its source near the Champaign-Union county line, Big Darby Creek is another great choice for kayaking or canoeing in Ohio. Companies offer trips that range from short floats to trips that are several miles long.
8. Mad River Mountain: Tubing, Skiing and Snowboarding
If you’re looking to visit Ohio for some skiing, there’s no going wrong with Mad River Mountain.
Mad River Mountain is a ski and snowboard resort in Valley Hi, Ohio with an elevation of 1,460 feet and a vertical drop of 300 ft. The resort has 12 lifts, 20 trails, and a ski season that starts mid-December and ends in mid-March.
9. Ohio Caverns: Caving
Adventures in the Heart of It All isn’t limited to what you can do on the ground, there’s wonder and beauty beneath the surface as well.
Ohio is home to more than 400 caverns and Ohio Caverns is one of the few open to the public. Known as Ohio’s largest and most beautiful cavern and “America’s Most Colorful Caverns”, the Ohio Caverns in West Liberty Ohio, are open all year and offer daily tours. Tours last about an hour and temperatures remain a constant 54 degrees year-round.
10. Royalview Singletrack: Mountain Biking
Ohio is home to over 111 mountain bike trails so it was hard to pick just one. That said, we went with Royalview Singletrack for its mostly fast, flowy, and flat singletrack that you can slow ride with your significant other or crank up the speed for a more thrilling experience.
The trail has two main trails, the Yellow Trail and the Red Trail. Both are relatively flat and fast singletrack and are one way.
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To your next adventure!