Secluded Ohio Campsites
Looking for a side of peace and quiet with your next adventure? Check out these three spots tucked deep in the Ohio wilderness.
Shawnee State Park
Nicknamed the Little Smokies of Ohio, due to the blue mist often seen hovering over the rolling hills as they fade off into the horizon, this southern portion of our state is home to both the 1,095-acre Shawnee State Park and more than 8,000 wild acres within the adjoining Shawnee State Forest.
The state park offers a 40-mile backpacking loop that leads hikers through the Appalachian foothills. Seven primitive campsites — free for public use — are located along the loop trail. Although each has its own charm, Shawnee State Park naturalist Jenny Richards has an affinity for one in particular.
“Camp 6 is surrounded with hemlock, and a beautiful, pristine stream runs right through it,” she says. “Imagine a camp on the edge of over 8,000 acres of wilderness. It’s magical.”
This former hunting ground of the Shawnee tribe is home to wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and numerous songbirds. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bobcat or a black bear. 4404 St. Rte. 125, Portsmouth 45663, 740/858-6652, parks.ohiodnr.gov/shawnee
Stonelick State Park: Located just 45 minutes by car from Cincinnati, this 1,058-acre state park serves as a just-outside-the-city destination for stargazers. “It’s secluded, there’s not much light pollution, yet it’s extremely accessible,” says Tiffany DeChant-Hunt, park manager at Stonelick State Park. On Saturday nights, around the time of a new moon, a group of Cincinnati Observatory astronomy-lovers known as the Stonelick Stargazers set up telescopes to help the public marvel at the night sky at no cost. There are also 115 campsites near Stonelick Lake. 2895 Lake Dr., Pleasant Plain 45162, 513/625-6593, parks.ohiodnr.gov/stonelick
Wayne National Forest: Southeastern Ohio’s quarter-million acres of national forest offer more than 300 miles of trail and plenty of places to set up your tent, no matter where you end for the day. “You can plop down just about anywhere in the Wayne,” says author Andy Niekamp, who hiked through Wayne National Forest while completing the first solo thru-hike of the Buckeye Trail. If dispersed camping is a little too primitive for you, Niekamp suggests Ring Mill Campground. Located about 32 miles north of Marietta, it offers three campsites, a picnic shelter and a canoe access point. For more information, visit
Zaleski State Forest:As Ohio’s second-largest state forest, this Vinton County destination offers a nearly 29-mile loop trail that winds its way through southeast Ohio wilderness. Camping is available by permit at three primitive backcountry sites and trailheads can be found at the historic Hope Iron Furnace (built in 1854 to smelt iron ore) and Hope Schoolhouse (a historic one-room structure just south of Lake Hope). Local lore says the historic Moonville Tunnel is haunted. Whether you believe or not, one thing is certain: Its eerie nature attracts visitors from all over. For more information, visit forestry.ohiodnr.gov/zaleski