Boy setting up the tent at campsite

Car Camping With a Backcountry Feel

Find solitude in a pair of western Ohio’s pristine MetroParks: Germantown and Twin Creek.

The beauty of car camping at Germantown MetroPark’s frontcountry campsites is twofold. First, you’ll notice what is nearby: Twin Creek for fishing and paddling, more than 22 miles of hiking trails and a fossil collecting site. Second, you’ll notice what’s not nearby: neighbors. This rare combination of car camping and solitude makes Germantown a worthwhile road trip from Columbus, so drive an hour and a half west (just past Dayton) to your new favorite campsite.

Germantown and its neighbor, Twin Creek MetroPark, are anchored by 9 miles of Twin Creek, one of the state’s cleanest waterways and home to a wide variety of fish and macroinvertebrates. More than 40 miles of trails in these combined parks traverse forest (including a section of old growth), prairies, overlooks and Native American earthworks. Five car camping (frontcountry) sites plus nine hike-in (backcountry) sites make all of these features accessible without ever having to get back into your car until the trip is over. (Reservations and fees apply to all sites.)

Recommended car camping: Old Mill Campsite

With just one reservation ($20-$39 per night, depending on day and season), your group can stay at Germantown’s Old Mill Campsite, an accessible car-camping site that has space for three vehicles and even more tents—the site max is 25 people. Formerly a group campsite, it’s open by reservation to the general public. Located near the dead end of Old Mill Road, it has a remote feeling. A mowed grassy area is for tents, and the site is otherwise surrounded by forest. The campsite has picnic tables, a fire ring, provided firewood and an outhouse. Pack in your own water, though, as there’s no potable water at the site.

Just steps from Old Mill is the Brown Trail, which links the trail systems in Germantown and Twin Creek. For a day-hike, hop on the Brown Trail to connect to Germantown’s Pink Trail, a 2.6-mile loop that takes you past Sunfish Pond and parallels Twin Creek. For more mileage, try the 9.2-mile Orange Trail, another loop that circumnavigates most of the park.

Also just steps from the campsite is Twin Creek itself. Look for common birds like great blue herons and kingfishers. If you pack a rod, fish for smallmouth bass, crappie and bluegill. If you bring a boat, the Twin Creek access point is close but on the other side of the creek, just downstream of Germantown Dam. From this launch point, there are obvious takeouts 3, 5 or 7 miles downstream. Contact Twin Creek Kayak and Canoe Livery for a fully supported trip, or a shuttle for your own boat. Water levels make a float most doable spring to early summer.

Even if you don’t plan to float Twin Creek, head to the area below the dam for legal fossil collecting and get in touch with your inner archaeologist. Restrictions apply, but you can take a few fossils home with you.

Recommended backcountry camping: Oak Ridge Backcountry Campsite

Another way to tackle Germantown’s 9.2-mile Orange Trail (and all the features that Germantown offers) is to begin at the Sledding Hill/Twin Valley Trail backpacker parking. From here, hike 2.3 miles to the Oak Ridge Backcountry Campsites—three sites fit two tents per site. There is an outhouse but no potable water and fires are not permitted. $6-$10. After spending the night, return directly to your car or complete the Orange Trail loop.

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Where To Eat

The Florentine in Germantown traces its history back more than 200 years. The building is quaint and the owners friendly. The menu leans toward steak and meatloaf, with plenty of options for beer, wine or mixed drinks. 

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.