Rustic Camping in Ohio
Ohio has an abundance of rustic campsites.
Ohio allows backcountry camping in most of its state forests and along a long hiking trail that winds through the state. Almost all of Ohio’s state parks have campgrounds with varying degrees of development. Many have wooded sites without hookups, allowing for a more primitive experience. Primitive commercial campgrounds are rare.
National Parks and Forests
Wayne National Forest (fs.usda.gov), southeast of Columbus, covers more than a quarter-million acres in the Appalachian foothills. Almost all of the park’s 300 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails remain open year-round. Ten large areas of the park are open to dispersed camping, among them the length of the North Country and Wildcat Hollow hiking trails and at Timbre Ridge Lake. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (nps.gov) borders the Cuyahoga River in northeastern Ohio. The National Park Service has five designated primitive sites for hikers on the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath and backcountry trails.
More than 50 of Ohio’s state parks (dnr.state.oh.us) have campgrounds. Most stay open year-round, and sites without hookups offer a tent pad, picnic table and fire ring. John Bryan State Park in western Ohio features a scenic limestone gorge, rock climbing and canoeing on the Little Miami River. Most of the sites at the campground are shaded and only a few have electricity. A quiet lake is the centerpiece of Guilford Lake State Park in eastern Ohio. The park has a swimming beach and fishing dock, and the campground offers 41 sites, all with electric service.
The Buckeye Trail
The 1,444-mile Buckeye Trail (buckeyetrail.org) winds through state forests, along canal towpaths and around cities. More than 15 sections have primitive campsites, and several have improved sites. The Caesar Creek section of the trail around Waynesville follows country roads into the Caesar Creek State Park and then along a rails to trails right of way. The southernmost section of the Buckeye Trail comes within a couple of miles of the Ohio River. Hikers follow small streams and pass two covered bridges.
Shawnee State Park in Scioto County has a 60-mile backpack trail operated by the Division of Forestry, and Zaleski State Forest in Vinton County has 23 miles of trails designed for hiking and primitive camping. Designated sites along the trails have fire rings and little else. Campers should plan to carry water because potable water supplies are limited. East Fork State Park near Cincinnati has a 32-mile-long perimeter trail with four primitive campsites and a large campground with sites with electric service. Tar Hollow, south of Columbus, has a primitive camping area near a fire tower.
Hamilton County (hamiltoncountyparks.org), home to Cincinnati, maintains three campgrounds in county parks. Miami Woods offers large, wooded campsites with electric service. Campsites on the Ohio River in Steamboat Bend park have electric and water and are limited to self-contained RVs. Winton Woods offers a variety of camping options, from tent sites in the woods with electric service to rustic cabins. Greene County (co.greene.oh.us), near Xenia has a limited number of primitive sites in five parks.