Travel: Take a Day Trip to Ohio's State Parks
Summer vacation looks much different this year as many families plan to stay closer to home. Some of the best options for getaways with the kids include day trips to Ohio’s state parks. While the parks have reopened, there are new protocols in place that parents will want to review before deciding which ones to visit.
While most park trails are open, many of them have modifications, such as one-way travel on trails within Hocking Hills State Park to protect visitors and the natural environment. Parents should note that pools, nature centers, camp stores and shelter houses remained closed at all 75 state parks as of late June. Many restroom facilities are limited or closed, but parents can call ahead for specifics at each venue. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources asks visitors to practice social distancing in areas like fishing piers, trails and beaches.
“Every park has something special to offer—scenic picnic areas, trails for all abilities, or open waters and sandy beaches for a great day at the lake,” says Heidi Hetzel-Evans, communications manager for Ohio State Parks.
A new family-friendly addition to several parks is Storybook Trails, which features enlarged pages from nature-inspired children’s books that kids can read as they walk. The pages have easy activities for children to do at each stop. “A great family challenge would be to try to visit the new Storybook Trails before school starts. It’s also a pretty creative way to promote reading—the kids will have so much fun, they won’t realize they’re also helping their reading skills,” says Hetzel-Evans.
Get top reads, feature stories, guides, parenting trends and more ideas for family fun. Subscribe to Columbus Parent’s weekly e-newsletter, The Bulletin.
Ohio’s state parks don’t charge admission, and most are within a two-hour drive of Columbus. By planning ahead, you can get away from home, get outside and still salvage a little bit of summer vacation.
Here are several parks around the Buckeye State that feature the new Storybook Trails, along with other family-friendly activities that make for ideal day trips.
Alum Creek State Park
3400 Lewis Center Road, Lewis Center; 740-548-4631
Alum Creek State Park is a short drive away in southern Delaware County and boasts the largest inland beach in Ohio. There are many hiking trails throughout the park, including the half-mile Storybook Trail featuring a tale about bees and pollinators. The trail is easy for children and can be accessed from the beach parking lot, so you can add swimming and a picnic to the day trip. Alum Creek has family-friendly biking trails, including mountain biking areas and a beginners loop that is appropriate for children ages 3-15.
Dillon State Park
5265 Dillon Hills Drive, Zanesville; 740-453-4377
Dillon State Park is 45 minutes east of Columbus near Zanesville, in one of the most picturesque regions in the state. The Storybook Trail here features “Miss Maple’s Seeds” by Eliza Wheeler, which teaches children about the joys of planting and cultivating seeds. The paved loop trail is easy for young children. The park also features great fishing for bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish on the Licking River. Anyone over the age of 16 needs a valid Ohio fishing license, which can be obtained online or at any retail outlet that sells sporting goods.
Maumee Bay State Park
1400 State Park Road, Oregon; 419-836-7758
Maumee Bay State Park is less than two hours from Columbus, near Toledo along the shores of Lake Erie. The park has spectacular opportunities to observe wildlife, especially birds. Hiking trails have diverse landscapes as they wind through wetlands, woods and meadows. The Storybook Trail at Maumee Bay talks about how caterpillars become butterflies. Families can use the park’s swimming area, fish at the inland lake and visit the butterfly gazebo. For parents looking for an overnight trip, the Maumee Bay lodge is open.
John Bryan State Park
3790 Bryan Park Road, Yellow Springs; 937-322-5284
John Bryan State Park has 10 forested trails that follow Clifton Gorge near Yellow Springs. The trails are surrounded by limestone cliffs, and the scenic gorge that cuts through the park is exciting to observe from the overlooks. The John Bryan Storybook Trail features a tale about American history from the perspective of an oak tree. The park is a nice choice for families looking for a day trip that includes both a picnic and outdoor exercise. The venue has four large picnic areas to enjoy.
Wingfoot Lake State Park
993 Goodyear Park Blvd., Mogadore; 330-628-4720
Wingfoot Lake State Park is less than a two-hour drive from Columbus near Akron. Kayaking and fishing are ideal activities on Wingfoot Lake. A nine- to 18-hole disc golf course is suitable for any skill level. The Storybook Trail features a nature story about the cycle of leaves and is on a paved path that is easy for young children to navigate.
This story is from the Summer 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.
For more information on Ohio State Parks, go to ohiodnr.gov. Note, however, that ODNR’s website is under construction, so park-specific information might not be available.