Start with classic car camping: Picture the campfire, hiking and wildlife. Now add in some experiences you may have never had: hand-feeding hummingbirds, say, or visiting a haunted tunnel. The enhanced result is what you’ll find at Ohio’s Lake Hope State Park and its immediate environs. Less than an hour and a half southeast of Columbus in the greater Hocking Hills region, Lake Hope is one of the best weekend camping destinations in the Buckeye State.
Camping and cabins
The Lake Hope State Park campground has nearly 150 non-electric sites and nearly 50 electric sites. Unlike so many state park campgrounds that are essentially a parking lot with a few trees, the steep ridges here allow for a densely spaced but more attractive camping experience. And since this park is remote, the campground is often unfilled, especially on weekdays. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring. A portion of the campground, with both electric and non-electric sites, remains open year-round. (Non-electric, $21 weekdays/$22 weekends; electric, $25 weekdays/$26 weekends; additional $1 holiday rate).
If you want some backcountry camping, head directly across the road to the Zaleski State Forest Backpacking Trail. The trail totals 29 miles and has several loops along with three official backcountry campsites featuring latrines and cistern water. You can start across from the historic Hope Furnace (a one-time, coal-powered blast furnace for smelting iron), which is just 2 miles to the first campsite. A loop option starting from here is 10 miles and includes a second backcountry campsite.
Lake Hope offers several types of cabins. The older Iron Furnace and Forest cabins have stone fireplaces offering a classic, rustic feel where you can still bask in the glow of fire. The newer cabins do not have fireplaces but have screened porches (essential in the mosquito-infested summer). Some cabins are pet-friendly; be sure to inquire when you make a reservation. All are fully equipped with furnishings, linens and a kitchen. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance and two-night minimums apply on weekends. Cabins run $90-120 per night.