Camping at Ohio’s scenic, amenity-filled Hocking Hills, Mohican and Alum Creek state parks is popular. Perhaps too popular. Because campers can make site reservations up to six months in advance, these three parks fill up quite quickly on the weekends, and then weekdays, too, says Heidi Hetzel-Evans of the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources and Jayne Maxwell, ODNR’s natural resource administrator. Fortunately, there are several more state parks with campgrounds worth considering within a 90-minute drive of Columbus. Here are six solid state park alternatives to the “big three” of Hocking Hills, Mohican and Alum Creek.
And don’t forget: Even though these recommendations are a little more off the radar, Maxwell urges Ohio car campers to plan in advance, noting that the state parks system is still seeing record numbers of reservations across the board.
State parks offer a few different levels of campsites and cabins. “Our full-service campsites are our most popular,” says Maxwell, noting the amenities of electric hookups, water and sewer, which makes them ideal for longer RV stays. Electric sites are as advertised, with electric hookups. And then at the other end of the spectrum, primitive sites (where you can pitch a tent; available at a limited number of state parks) have only a fire ring and picnic table (as do the electric and full-service sites) catering to a more natural camping experience.
Cabins come in two varieties
The more basic camper cabins (also called Sherman cabins), which include cots or futons, a table and chairs, plus a microwave and small refrigerator (BYO linens and cookware); and deluxe cabins, which are open year-round with heat and AC, TVs and full furnishings (including linens and cookware).
Noted improvements over the last few years include additional shower and restroom facilities, more electrical hookups, renovated nature centers and larger individual campsites to accommodate RVs. “We’ve done a lot to make our campsites more amenable for modern camping,” says Hetzel-Evans.
Visit ohiodnr.gov for the state parks system’s full listing of campsite and cabin costs (which vary depending on the type of site/cabin and time of week/year), plus some added explanation of its online reservation system.
“This is a great park for boating, fishing, camping and special events,” Hetzel-Evans says, “since it’s one of our nine state lodge parks.” And the lodge at Deer Creek even has some presidential history. It was built in 1918 by Harry Daugherty, attorney general under President Warren G. Harding, an Ohio native. Harding is said to have visited the cabin, which is now named in his honor (and sleeps up to nine people).
This park, 30 miles southwest of Columbus, has more than 200 electric sites. Pets are permitted on all these sites, but not in the camper cabins. There are five primitive equestrian campsites and two primitive group campsites. The park has showers, flush toilets, laundry facilities, a dump station, and a seasonal store. More info: ohiodnr.gov