Sometimes, you just need to be alone with nature.
One of the best ways to embrace all that nature has to offer in the Buckeye State is by taking a long walk (or a weekend-long camping trip) into one of our breathtaking state forests. Fall time is the best time to do so, as our forests feature stunning autumn foilage. Here are 11 of our favorite state forests in Ohio—and we think you should explore the one nearest you before winter comes.
1. Shawnee State Forest (Scioto and Adams counties)
Analogue Kid/Wikimedia Commons
Ohio's largest state forest is known as "The Little Smokies of Ohio," and covers 63,747 acres. It features 60 miles of bridle and hiking trails, 60 miles of backpacking trails, 58 horse camp sites and an 8,000-acre wilderness.
2. Maumee State Forest (Fulton, Henry and Lucas counties)
Within this forest's 3,194 acres are several hiking trails, bridle trails, APV trails, a windbreak arboretum, a tree improvement area, a wet-sedge meadow and the Oak Openings Metropark. Oak Openings is considered Ohio's rarest ecosystem, where rare plants and animals, oak forests, sand dunes, savannas, tall-grass prairies and swamp forests all thrive in harmony.
3. Harrison State Forest (Harrison County)
With 20 miles of bridle and hiking trails and a 100-yard shooting range, this little-known, 1,344-acre state forest is a great place to camp.
4. Mohican-Memorial State Forest (Ashland County)
This beautiful 4,525-acre forest features several hiking trails that lead to attractions such as Pine Run Creek, the Fire Tower and Clearfork Gorge. (Pictured: Big Lyons Falls, a 300-foot deep sandstone gorge with two beautiful waterfalls.)
5. Hocking State Forest (Hocking County)
Approximately 99 acres of this 9,696-acre forest is set aside for rock climbing and rappelling. The forest features 59 miles of hiking along three trails. Old Man's Cave is the most popular hiking area within the forest.
6. Beaver Creek State Forest (Columbiana County)
Ohio’s 20th state forest covers 1,122 acres. Fishing is a popular activity here, and the forest features several impressive natural waterways.
7. Zaleski State Forest (Vinton and Athens counties)
Ohio's second largest state forest covers 26,827 acres. For the advanced hiker who can backpack through the woods overnight, Zaleski State Forest trails are a must-do. Along the way, the trails feature vacant farms, abandoned mines, beautiful views, Indian ceremonial grounds and an old mining town. (The North Loop is approximately 18.4 miles, and the South Loop is approximately 11.7 miles.)
8. Scioto Trail State Forest (Ross and Pike counties)
This 9,600-acre state forest features 25 miles of hiking trails (including the Buckeye Trail) and 26 miles of bridle trails. The Scioto Trail State Forest Loop within this forest traces an old Shawnee trail along an 11.2 mile loop of wooded hollows, quiet foothills and peaceful streams.
9. Sunfish Creek State Forest (Monroe County)
For a truly quiet nature getaway, check out this 637-acre forest, which is easily reached from State Route 7 on the east.
10. Brush Creek State Forest (Adams, Pike and Scioto counties)
Mushroom hunting is a popular activity at this 13,502-acre state forest, which features three miles of hiking trails and 15 miles of bridle trails.
11. Blue Rock State Forest (Muskingum County)
Blue Rock State Forest covers 4,578 acres. A popular destination within this serene state forest is Cutler Lake beach at Blue Rock State Park (pictured).
Have you explored any of these state forests before? What (and where) is your favorite state forest in Ohio? Share your thoughts, photos and experiences with us!