Columbus Camping - Lake Hope State Park

Photo: Mary Reed

Come for scenic Appalachian camping, stay for the programming.

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.

Hope Furnace in Ohio

Things To Do

Hike: Lake Hope is home to more than 10 miles of dedicated hiking trails. Try the Peninsula Trail, which has consistent views of Lake Hope. Start at the Hope Furnace and access this 3.2-mile loop. Walk through an oak-hickory forest and enjoy the wildlife, which includes birds, deer, beavers (even the occasional black bear sighting).


In addition to the hiking trails, Lake Hope has 25 miles of mountain biking trails (open to hikers also). Start from your campsite and ride to Site 114, where you’ll pick up the 7.2-mile Copperhead Trail. Loop back on the 3.5-mile Wildcat Trail to the 2-mile Bobcat Trail. These beautiful, wooded trails are intermediate to difficult, so best suited to riders able to handle the hills and hollows of Appalachian Ohio. 

Drive just a few miles to the Moonville Tunnel parking in Zaleski State Forest and take your bike on the hard-packed Moonville Rail Trail. Ride through the brickwork of the supposedly haunted Moonville Tunnel (boasting a number of reported ghost sightings through the years) and on to the wooden King’s Hollow Tunnel for an easy 5.4-mile out-and-back. 


Bring your canoe, kayak, or standup paddleboard, or rent one near the beach at Lake Hope. Enjoy a flatwater outing on this 120-acre lake where you can explore numerous inlets loaded with water lilies, or search for beaver dens. Most boat rentals are $10-15 per hour.


The nature center at Lake Hope offers a variety of interesting educational programming (mostly free), including interpretive hikes, night hikes, archery, paddle outings and, perennial favorite, hand-feeding the lake’s ruby-throated hummingbirds. Twice a week in the summer, the naturalist takes down the center’s hummingbird feeders and gives each participant a plastic vial (full of sugar water and lined with a red pipe cleaner “flower”) for them to hold patiently until the hummers arrive to feed. 

More Info:

Getting There:

Take U.S. 33 about an hour southeast of Columbus to Exit 182. Follow the signs to SR 278 and shoot south to the park entrance. 

Where To Eat:

Despite its name, the Lake Hope Lodge does not offer lodging. However, the meat-heavy menu is quite good and the outdoor seating has a ridgetop view of Lake Hope. It’s rarely crowded here, so go for Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (closed Mondays, Tuesdays and some holidays). 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.