Ohio is a state that’s packed full of natural features. There are countless places to go camping in Ohio, from the southern shoreline of Lake Erie in the north to the fertile plains in the west and the snow-capped Appalachian Mountains in the east. Whether you’re a local in the Buckeye state or you’re planning your next camping vacation, you’ll find plenty to keep your adventurous spirit occupied.

To help you make the most of your time in Ohio, we’ve compiled a selection of the best ten camping spots in Ohio and essential information for planning your trip.

10 Best Places for Camping in Ohio

#1 – Hocking Hills State Park

Hocking Hills State Park

Traveling south from Columbus, you’ll soon arrive in the beautiful Hocking Hills Region. The state park covers a pristine forest area knitted with seven one-way hiking trails that are dotted with freshwater pools, gorges, and small falls. Hiking to Cedar Falls, Old Man’s Cave, and Ash Cave are the most popular activities, but you can also go canoeing on the lake or zip-line through the treetops. 

There are several private campgrounds in the area, but Hocking Hills Campground is located inside the park, just a short walk from Rose Lake. The shaded campground has 156 electric campsites along with a swimming pool, heated showers and swimming pool. For anyone who prefers to get back to basics, Hocking Hills also has 13 primitive campsites.

Campground Info

  • Region: Allegheny Plateau
  • Nearest major city: Columbus, 58 miles north
  • Open: All year
  • Reservations: Required (no walk-in’s allowed)
  • Total campsites: 169

#2 – Geneva State Park

Geneva State Park
Photo credit: Chris Light

Although Ohio doesn’t have a seaside, Lake Erie’s shores are as good as the real thing. Camping at Geneva State Park, you have direct access to a 300-foot swimming beach and boat ramps, as well as three miles of multi-use trails. For swimming and boating, you’ll have to visit in the summer months, but Geneva State Park is also stunning in the wintertime when you can explore on skis or camp in the snow.

Geneva State Park has a well-equipped campground with electric hookups, pet-friendly campsites, showers, and flush toilets. There are also ball courts and a playground, making it a great place to take kids camping in Ohio.

Campground Info

  • Region: Huron-Erie Lake Plains
  • Nearest major city: Cleveland, 52 miles west
  • Open: all year
  • Reservations: Required
  • Total campsites: 93

#3 – Barkcamp State Park

Set among sandstone hills in the Appalachian highlands, Barkcamp is another prime location for camping in Ohio. The park draws many visitors for swimming, canoeing, and kayaking on the lake throughout the warmer months but the park’s 24 miles of bridal way also attract horseback riders. Plus, in winter it’s a great spot for cross-country skiing and ice skating on the frozen lake.

If you’re interested in sleeping in a lakeside forest, think about spending a night or more at Barkcamp Campground. It’s larger than many other state park campgrounds in the region with 134 campsites, 120 of which have electricity. 

Campground Info

  • Region: Allegheny Plateau
  • Nearest major city: Pittsburgh, 81 miles northeast (via the River Scenic Byway)
  • Open: All year
  • Reservations: Available up to six months in advance
  • Total campsites: 134

#4 – Indian Lake State Park

Indian Lake State Park

Indian Lake State Park is another excellent place to go camping in Ohio if you’re interested in water-based activities. Here, campers can go swimming around the Walnut Islands, launch a kayak, or water ski. This central Ohio state park is also a popular starting point for a multiday hike as the 82-mile Pew Island Trail passes by the lake.

To enjoy all the park has to offer, we recommend camping at Indiana Lake Campground. This large developed campground is located right next to the freshwater lake. It has electric campsites and some RV campsites with full hookups, so you don’t need to give up all creature comforts on a camping trip to Indian Lake.

Campground Info

  • Region: Till Plains
  • Nearest major city: Columbus, 73 miles southeast
  • Region: Till Plains
  • Open: All year
  • Reservations: Available up to six months in advance

#5 – Mohican State Park

Mohican State Park
Photo credit: Aaron Zhu

If you like the sound of sleeping on the doorstep of thousands of acres of pristine forest, then book yourself a campsite at Mohican State Park Campground. Located in the Glaciated Appalachian Plateau’s rugged landscape, Mohican State Park is a gateway to some of the states’ most impressive natural features; Clear Fork Gorge, the Mohican River, and Lyon’s Falls.

There’s a good selection of campsites at Mohican Campground. You can choose from sites with full hookups or electric only. Alternatively, there are ten non-electric sites on the banks of the Mohican River. Aside from hiking, biking, and water activities, this is an ideal camping spot for nature lovers. Mohican-Memorial State Forest, just next door, is filled with tree species and land mammals.

Campground Info

  • Region: Glaciated Allegheny Plateau
  • Nearest major city: Columbus, 70 miles southwest
  • Open: All year
  • Reservations: Available up to six months in advance
  • Total campsites: 96

#6 – Wayne National Forest

Wayne National Forest
Photo credit: Wayne Nation Forest

Unlike many places for camping in Ohio, Wayne National Forest gives you a wide range of camping options. From parking an RV or pitching a tent in a developed campground with comfortable amenities to setting up camp in the wilderness. Wild camping is permitted within the national forest, providing that you don’t block forest trails.

Besides free campsites, Wayne National Forest offers over 400 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and off-road driving. Alternatively, you can camp close to one of the many lakes and spend a day swimming, canoeing, or birdwatching.

Campground Info

  • Region: Allegheny Plateau
  • Nearest major city: Columbus, 80 miles northwest
  • Open: Developed campgrounds in Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area are open all year. Other campgrounds may close in the winter months.
  • Reservations: Required at some developed campgrounds.
  • Total developed campgrounds: 9

#7 – Alum Creek State Park

Alum Creek State Park

Another of our favorite places to go camping in Ohio is next to Alum Creek State Park. The campground is located just 20 miles north of downtown Columbus, making it perfect for overnight camping trips. Despite being so close to the capital, Alum Creek is a natural habitat for many wildlife species. It’s also a hotspot for boating, cycling, and horseback riding. In addition, visitors can swim from the lakeside beach or spend an afternoon by the BBQ.

When you need a break from the city, Alum Creek Campground is a rustic retreat with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. Facilities at the campground include electric hookups, sports courts, and playgrounds. It’s one of the most family-friendly camping spots in Ohio.

Campground Info

  • Region: Till Plains
  • Nearest major city: Columbus, 20 miles south
  • Open: All year
  • Reservations: Reservations are required and bookings are available up to six months in advance. 

#8 – Lake Loramie State Park

Lake Loramie State Park
Photo credit: Dph414

Although it’s a man-made lake, Lake Loramie is a green haven in western Ohio. The treelined lake is a scenic spot to launch a kayak or canoe, go for an easy lakeside hike, or swim. One of the parks’ highlights is a huge sandy beach, but there are also opportunities for ice skating on the lake in winter.

This state park boasts several facilities that make it just as comfortable as a private campground. In Lake Loramie Campground you’ll have restrooms, showers, limited WIFI access, and the choice of full hookups, electric-only, or basic campgrounds.

Campground Info

  • Region: Till Plains
  • Nearest major city: Dayton, 55 miles south
  • Open: All year
  • Reservations: Available up to six months in advance
  • Total campsites: 177

#9 – Kelleys Island State Park

Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places to go camping in Ohio is on Kelley Island. The 677-acre natural area doesn’t just boast a tonne of recreational activities. It’s also famous for its glacier-formed valleys, limestone cliffs, and red cedar trees. Furthermore, during the migration season, the park is a top location for watching migrating birds and waterfowl.

Staying overnight in the park, campers can choose from lakeside campsites with or without electric hookups. There are also showers, restrooms, volleyball courts, and pet-friendly campsites.

Campground Info

  • Region: Huron-Erie Lake Plains
  • Nearest major city: Cleveland, 115 miles east
  • Open: All year
  • Reservations: Available
  • Total campsites: 124

Fernwood State Forest

If you’re someone who prefers to camp in the wilderness instead of designated camping areas, then think about adding Fernwood State Forest to your travel plan. The 3,000-acre nature preserve hosts a vast and colorful forest in the Appalachian Highlands.

The best-designated campground within Fernwood forest is Hidden Hollow campground which offers 22 campsites with fire pits, picnic tables, and vault toilets. From here, there is direct access to hiking trails that take you to impressive forestry viewpoints. A large portion of the forest is comprised of reclaimed woodlands which are rich in wildlife and a hotspot for nature photography.

Campground Info

  • Region: Allegheny Plateau
  • Nearest major city: Pittsburgh, 50 miles east
  • Open: All year
  • Total campsites: 22 campsites at Hidden Hollow Campground

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is wild camping legal in Ohio?

Wild camping (backcountry camping) is permitted in many of Ohio’s state or national forests providing that you don’t block roads or hiking trails and that you follow the leave no trace principles. However, it’s best to check the rules with the park before you pitch your tent.

What is the best season for camping in Ohio?

Several of Ohio’s best campgrounds are open in all seasons, so it’s possible to camp all year round. That said, the winter season is cold and often snowy so you’ll need a four-season tent for camping in the wintertime. Summer, late May to early September, is the most comfortable season for camping but it will also be the most crowded, and you may need to book a campsite in advance.

How much does it cost to go camping in Ohio?

Most state park or national forest campgrounds charge between $10 and $35 in the peak season, but campgrounds with more facilities may cost more. Equally, backcountry camping and primitive campsites are free in some of Ohio’s state parks or forests.

What are the regions of Ohio?

  • Allegheny Plateau – also known as the Unglaciated Appalachian Plateau, this region occupies most of southeast Ohio. This area is famous for its sandstone gorges, dramatic cliffs, and valleys. It certainly hosts some of the most impressive state parks in Ohio.
  • Glaciated Allegheny Plateau – also known as the Glaciated Appalachian Plateau, was formed by glaciers in northeast Ohio. Compared to the Allegheny Plateau it’s more hilly than mountainous but still covered with dense forests.
  • Huron-Erie Lake Plains – located in Northern Ohio, this region hosts sandy beaches, lakes, and a freshwater shoreline.
  • Till Plains – the Till Plains occupy most of central-west Ohio and, as this is the most fertile region, a large portion is used for agriculture.
  • Interior Low Plateau – also known as the Bluegrass Section, this sliver of southern Ohio has gently rolling terrain with flat-topped hills and chalk cliffs.

Ready for an adventure?

Ohio state parks have so much to offer; hiking, water sports, untouched forests, and scenic views. Camping in Ohio is the best way to explore the natural beauty of the state.

For more inspiration for camping in the USA, check out our guide to the best Yosemite National Park Campgrounds.