Here's a top-10 list of Ohio state park adventures, ranked from the easiest to the toughest physical experience.
1. Pack a picnic lunch
Set out for a picnic shelter or scenic spot within any of the parks. Some particularly idyllic spots include anywhere along the Buckeye Loop Trail in Burr Oak State Park, the Covered Bridge spanning the Clearfork River in Mohican State Park, on a grassy knoll along Punderson Lake in Punderson State Park, or on the Lake Erie beach in Maumee Bay State Park.
2. Go “shrooming,” count butterflies, catch catfish, build a bat box
Ohio State Park naturalists offer a variety of programs to teach visitors about the natural world. Future fungus aficionados can learn about safe mushroom-hunting during the spring and early summer months.
Because of its “ick-factor” – and the built-in side benefit of getting really dirty – this particular adventure ranks high among young participants. For a list of naturalist events by park visit, http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/resources/events/tabid/487/Default.aspx.
3. Row a boat
Human-powered transportation is cool right now, and rowing canoes, kayaks and rowboats is becoming increasingly popular. Rowing is an activity that can be as intense or easy as its human engine desires. At Maumee Bay State Park guests can rent rowboats and canoes for an hourly rate. Other kinds of boats can be rented as well. At Burr Oak State Park, for example, families can rent a 10-passenger pontoon boat.
4. Discover your inner archer
Punderson, Salt Fork, Shawnee and Hueston Woods State parks all offer archery ranges, free for use by park visitors. Visitors should bring their own equipment.
5. Fling a disc
Disc golf is coming this summer to Hueston Woods and Punderson Manor State Parks, and game-loving employees are eagerly awaiting this opportunity to hone their disc-throwing skills.
The sport of disc golf evolved as an offshoot of the Frisbee craze. Similar to traditional golf, disc golf players use discs and aim for a disc polehHole, a pole extending up from the ground with chains and a basket where the disc lands. The sport is easy to learn and accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.
6. Hunt for treasure
Geocaching equipment is available at Punderson, Salt Fork, Maumee Bay and Hueston Woods State Park resorts. High-tech treasure hunting using hand-held Global Positioning Systems (GPS) has become a popular activity for outdoor enthusiasts, especially families who enjoy kid-friendly outdoor pursuits. A typical cache is a small, waterproof container with a logbook and “treasure,” usually a small-value trinket.
7. Cast for walleye
Some of the very best walleye fishing in the world is in Lake Erie, and Maumee Bay State Park, on this Great Lake’s shore, is a perfect spot to rest a casting arm at the end of the day. Catfish, freshwater drum, small mouth bass and yellow perch are also abundant.
8. Ride a horse
Equestrians can choose from a variety of bridle trails. There are 52 miles of trails at Salt Fork, 18 miles at Hueston Woods and 35 miles at Mohican State Park. Some state park bridle trails have multiple uses so riders should watch for hikers and mountain bikers.
9. Freewheel it on a mountain bike
Mohican State Park offers a 24.5-mile trail that passes through the park as well as the adjacent Mohican State Forest. The terrain ranges from rugged to easy and flat. Mountain biking is a great outdoor exercise that will test your fitness.
10. Hike Ohio
Check the contents of your backpack and then set out on the Buckeye Trail, a 1,450-mile long-distance trail that loops around the interior of the entire state of Ohio. Entering the Shawnee State Forest, the area is often called the “Little Smokies” because of its spectacular views and lush forest land.
The Shawnee section of the trail follows backcountry roads for several miles. The spectacular trail is maintained and managed by the private, non-profit Buckeye Trail Association, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
For more information about Ohio state parks, visit http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks.