Disclosure: I participated in a recent press trip of several Ohio State Parks and Lodges. I was provided with free accommodations, meals and other perks during our trip. All opinions expressed are my own.
Salt Fork State Park is the largest of 74 state parks in Ohio, offering a wide variety of recreational activities for families to enjoy. On our recent trip, I discovered that Ohio is one of only seven states in the USA to offer free admission to all of its state parks – a fact that is sure to appeal to budget conscious travellers.
Located in rural Guernsey County in north central Ohio, Salt Fork State Park is made up of over 20,000 acres of forest, meadows and lakes, making it an ideal destination for families that enjoy active vacations and spending time outdoors.
Activities in the park include:
- 14 hiking trails
- fishing (largemouth bass, crappies, bluegills, walleyes and muskellunge)
- boating (rentals of pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks, fishing boats and jetskis are available)
- waterskiing and tubing
- swimming at 2 beaches (the 2500 foot beach is the largest inland beach in Ohio)
- horseback riding
- 18 hole golf course
- children’s playgrounds
- interactive nature centre (open from Memorial Day through to Labor Day)
- miniature golf
- gemstone mining
In the winter, visitors can also enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating and ice fishing.
With so many options, there’s sure to be something for everyone in the family!
And if all of that isn’t enough, you can always go searching for Bigfoot. Legend has it that Bigfoot lives somewhere in Salt Fork State Park, as there have been numerous reported sightings over the years. There’s even an annual Bigfoot Conference at the park every May!
Accommodations at Salt Fork State Park
If you want to stay at Salt Fork State Park, there are several accommodation options to choose from, including tent or trailer camping, lakeside, hillside and chalet cabins, and the Salt Fork Park Lodge, with 148 guest rooms.
We recently had the opportunity to stay at the lodge, and were very impressed at the number of on-site activities available to lodge guests, in addition to the other activities offered throughout the park.
Guests at the lodge have access to a huge outdoor pool, as well as an indoor pool, a games room, beach volleyball court, tennis courts, shuffleboard, ping pong, basketball, horseshoes, fitness room, board games, a fire pit and a children’s playground. There is also a full service restaurant, a lounge and gift shop on site.
During the summer months, and on Saturdays throughout the year, the lodge also organizes a variety of children’s and family activities that are either free or available for a nominal charge. Activities range from evening bonfires and pontoon boat tours, to nature hikes, crafts and family tournaments.
The lodge itself is everything you would expect a resort in the middle of the woods to be (and maybe a bit more), with soaring stone walls, huge fireplaces, large wood beams and lots of cozy chairs and couches in the common areas to enjoy the views or catch up on some reading. There’s also complimentary wi-fi (which comes in very handy when you’re a blogger!)
The operator of Salt Fork Lodge, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, has a commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment and this is apparent in various ways throughout the resort. Examples of this are their efforts to serve locally grown food as often as possible, the lack of plastic straws used as their resorts and the refillable soap and shampoo dispensers used in the guest rooms.
The room we stayed in had recently been updated, with furniture purchased from local Amish craftspeople. I found the room to be very cosy and comfortable, although the air conditioning unit was definitely on the loud side.
Although there is certainly lots to do right around the lodge, it should be noted that you will need a car (or bicycles if you really want to be active) to get to some of the other activities in the park, such as many of the hiking trails, the marina, nature centre and the beach. To get an idea of where everything is located, you can check out this map of Salt Fork State Park.
For families looking to explore the surrounding area, local attractions include The Wilds, Dickens Victorian Village, the Hopalong Cassidy Museum and the National Museum of Cambridge Glass – although there’s certainly enough to do in the park to keep you busy all week!
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About Kathy Sima
Kathy is a blogger and freelance writer and mom of two teens who gave up her career as a financial advisor when her son was diagnosed with autism at age 3. When it comes to parenting, Kathy truly believes there is strength in numbers and knows that sharing stories and strategies with other parents has helped keep her sane (so far!)