A weekend camping trip takes a bit of planning, a little gear and the courage to put life's hustle and bustle on the back burner. But the rewards are endless, the memories unforgettable.
A weekend camping trip takes a bit of planning, a little gear and the courage to put life's hustle and bustle on the back burner. But the rewards are endless, the memories unforgettable. Ohio is dotted with hundreds of places to spend the night outside, and each offers something unique. Here are five of the best spots in the Buckeye State, along with some tips for a safe and enjoyable trip. A.W. Marion State Park 7317 Warner Huffer Rd., Circleville 740-869-3124; ohiostateparks.org Miles from Columbus: 30 Ruggedness rating: *.5 Campground amenities: Latrines, drinking water, playground, amphitheater Number of sites: 29 electric, 29 non-electric Reason to go: Easy summer fun Small and often overlooked, A.W. Marion State Park is a lovely natural gem sitting less than an hour from Columbus - a perfect spot for campers pressed for time. The campground sits near the northeast corner of the quiet, 145-acre Hargus Lake. Once you're set up, take time to explore the 0.7-mile Squawroot Self-Guided Trail. If you've got fresh legs, the five-mile Hargus Lake Trail grants a stunning overview of the entire park. Swimming is prohibited from shore but allowed from boats in a designated area. Canoes, kayaks and pontoon boats can be rented from the concession stand at the lake's northwestern edge. John Bryan State Park 3790 State Route 370, Yellow Springs 937-767-1274; ohiostateparks.org Miles from Columbus: 58 Ruggedness rating: ** Campground amenities: Latrines, drinking water, playground, shelter house Number of sites: 10 electric, 50 non-electric Reason to go: River-carved beauty Those who don't view western Ohio as prime adventure territory haven't been to John Bryan State Park. Rocky outcroppings, the picturesque Little Miami River, great trails and spring wildflowers draw birders, hikers, climbers, photographers and mountain bikers. Camping here is a quiet retreat into nature with few distractions and a lot to explore. If you have time, wander into Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, which is attached to John Bryan's eastern end. Enjoy the views but be careful, as the main trail there is rocky and passes by several cliffs. Leith Run Campground State Route 7, between Marietta and Matamoras 877-444-6777; recreation.gov Miles from Columbus: 135 Ruggedness rating: **.5 Campground amenities: Flush toilets, drinking water, showers, playground Number of sites: 18 electric, three non-electric Reason to go: Wide river views The Ohio River is a mystery to most in Columbus, but the mighty, historic waterway is a wonderful destination for anyone looking to visit a truly unique attraction. Public and private campgrounds dot sections of the state's southern coast, but Leigh Run is perhaps the best. Located in Wayne National Forest, it's situated directly on the water and surrounded by scenic woodlands. Once you've pitched your tent, fish from the banks or explore a moderately difficult trail that starts near the campground and climbs the surrounding hillside. Beaver Creek State Park 12021 Echo Dell Rd., East Liverpool 330-385-3091; ohiostateparks.org Miles from Columbus: 177 Ruggedness rating: *** Campground amenities: Latrines, drinking water Number of sites: Six electric, 44 non-electric, 59 non-electric equestrian Reason to go: Pretty history You won't enjoy showers or flush toilets when camping at Beaver Creek State Park, but you will discover a rugged area with really cool remnants of state history. Situated near the convergence of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the park showcases Little Beaver Creek, a wild and scenic river that's absolutely gorgeous in summer and fall. Along the water lies Gaston's Mill, a pioneer village, and abandoned canals. If you're really piqued by Ohio history, take the Vondergreen Trail to see Gretchen's Lock fight off creeping vines and the slow decay of time. Kelleys Island State Park 920 Division St., Kelleys Island 419-746-2546; ohiostateparks.org Miles from Columbus: 125 (by land) and four (by sea) Ruggedness rating: **** Campground amenities: Flush toilets, drinking water, sand beach, showers, playground Number of sites: 82 electric, 45 non-electric Reason to go: Island adventure An island's not always the most accessible place to camp, but this one is definitely worth a visit. Pack light, drive to Marblehead, ditch your car and take the Kelleys Island Ferry into the breezy joy of Ohio's outlying landmasses. You'll have a decent walk from the dock to Kelleys Island State Park, but the campground's location along the northern shore means quiet, lakefront views at many sites. If you rent bikes to explore the island, be sure to check out the Glacial Grooves geological formations and the wooded North Shore Loop Trail. A general store near the campground sells most items campers forget on the mainland. Reserve campsites early, because they rent quickly.