Wintry conditions may stall many activities, but it doesn’t have to stall everything. Camping is definitely one of those activities that can still happen in states like Ohio. After all, winter means fewer crowds and added beauty to the landscape.
The only reason winter will stop you from camping is if you approach it blindly or aren’t prepared for the cold. By reviewing the state’s wintry weather conditions, parks, forests, and other camping spots, you can still have a memorable camping trip.
Keep reading to decipher some secrets to successful winter camping in Ohio!
Ohio’s Wintry Weather
1. January and February are Ohio’s Coldest Winter Camping Months
In Ohio, it’s no secret that you need to bundle up when it’s winter, especially if you’re going camping. January and February are Ohio’s coldest months in winter, with January also being the snowiest.
If you’re a beginner winter camper, we recommend starting off in mild winter temperatures before embarking on such a trip. Having practice runs with camping during an Ohio winter will prepare you for what to expect weather-wise.
Among the many winter camping tips, one of the most important ones in this case involves layering up. This is crucial if you’re partaking in winter hiking or other activities when it’s cold and possibly snowing outside.
2. Weather Conditions Will Influence Ohio Winter Camping Schedules
Even though some parks and campsites have schedules up for winter, Ohio’s weather conditions may alter them. For example, a snowstorm could make certain areas become hard to access, and offices and rangers may close them off completely.
In addition to checking the weather before you set off for your campsite, look online for the campground’s scheduling updates. You’ll also need to call ahead to the park offices to confirm any date changes before making the trip.
Rate and Reservation Adjustments
It’s not just non-peak seasons that have you pay different nightly rates. In winter, certain costs are reduced, too. Ohio has a wide range of weather during winter, so costs may vary.
In a way, this helps you save money on your Ohio winter camping trip. Of course, selecting a free campsite saves you more from deciding on the best rate to pay.
For some parks and campgrounds that require you to reserve sites, winter may make change them to first-come, first-served. Lake Loramie State Park is an example of that, so plan accordingly depending on where to camp in Ohio during winter.
Winter Camping in Ohio
3. Vehicle or Cabin Camping is the Best Ohio Winter Camping Option
Because Ohio’s winter temperatures fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night, it’s best to camp in a shelter that’s stable. It should also add more warmth in a way that you’re not working too hard to stay warm while winter camping.
Are you going to Ohio in an RV? Certain parks such as Alton RV, Hueston Woods, and Alum Creek provide year-round RV camping.
Take note that Alton recommends that you come in an RV that’s prepped for winter and cold temperatures.
Besides RVs, cars and trucks are good for setting up camp when it’s cold outside. You’ll need to set them up to keep you warm. A few ways of doing so involve packing warm linens, covering the windows, and investing in a reliable truck camper.
When choosing a car or truck campsite, go for forested areas (places with thick vegetation) where the wind isn’t so strong. Examples include Fernwood and Harrison State Forests and Wayne National Forest.
If you’re new to winter camping in Ohio or anyplace else, choose a cabin to camp in. Some state parks won’t allow you to reserve cabins during winter. You’d have to wait until their peak seasons to reserve them.
Here are some cabins worth camping in when Ohio’s temperatures drop:
- Boulder’s Edge Cabin and Tipi Retreat: Hocking Hills State Park’s three cabins offer heat, hot tubs, and other luxuries suitable for winter. The tipis even have wood stoves to keep you warm if the cabins are fully booked.
- Mohicans Treehouse Resort: Cabins or treehouses, take your pick at the Mohicans. They sleep two to eight people and contain luxurious amenities such as heat, fireplaces, and bedding.
- Burr Oak Lodge and Conference Center: The luxurious part of Burr Oak State Park gives you a choice between standard or deluxe cabins and cottages. They not only offer you some necessary amenities but also allow you to bring your pets inside.
Tent camping isn’t recommended for winter camping in Ohio due to strong winds and snow potentially collapsing the tent. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t tent camp in winter at all. The year-round tent sites at Shawnee State Forest are good spots to make this happen.
As long as you pitch a winter tent, insulate it, and secure it properly and tightly, you can make do. You could also pitch a double-wall or dome-shaped tent, which will stand strong against snow and wind.
4. Amenities Are Limited in Winter to Keep Parks Open
Keeping places open during times when most places close usually comes with a cost. Though certain parks are open in winter, some sites, amenities, and facilities won’t be available.
For example, while RV camping is a way to camp in Ohio during winter, water and electricity are limited. You may end up dry camping in spots that don’t have year-round water, so pack plenty of water bottles.
If you absolutely need electricity to hook up to, pack a power generator before your Ohio winter camping trip.
Limited amenities are actually a good opportunity to engage in boondocking. After all, winter camping in Ohio shouldn’t be limited to only state parks.
Completely unplug in forests or year-round dispersed areas such as Harrison State and Wayne National Forests and the Woodbury Wildlife Area.
Other Ohio boondocking options for winter include the Big Bend Trailhead and the Hidden Hollow and Bicentennial campgrounds.
Note that some of these areas are owned by American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio. In order to boondock or generally winter camp for free at these locations, you’ll need a permit.
Ohio Winter Camping Recreation
5. Some Year-Round Parks or Campsites Are Ideal for Wintry Trips
You may have a certain winter activity or two that you want to do on your trip. For a truly enjoyable winter camping experience in Ohio, seek a campground that’s perfect for that activity:
Ice Fishing and Skating
When lakes such as Lake Logan, Geneva Marina, and Indian and Rose Lakes freeze over, they’re great for ice fishing. You’ll find these lakes at Lake Logan, Geneva, Indian Lake, and Hocking Hills State Parks.
Before venturing out on the ice, check its thickness; it ought to be by about five or more inches. To avoid falling through the ice, inspect the frozen lake. If you can’t see the ice, it’s safe to walk on.
Above all, if ice fishing is on your to-do list for winter camping in Ohio, bring your fishing license!
Besides ice fishing at Indian Lake, ice skating is another winter activity you can engage in under clear, proper winter conditions. The same goes for Maumee Bay and Delaware State Parks. Bring your own ice skates if there are no rental options.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
The Chapin Forest Reservation and forested Findley State Park have many scenic hiking trails ideal for cross-country skiing. There are also six miles of cross-country skiing trails at Geneva State Park. For both beginner and advanced cross-country skiers, Indian Lake State Park accommodates both levels.
Please note that if you’re not cross-country skiing on the trails marked for them, don’t hike in the ski tracks.
For spontaneous off-the-path trails, snowshoe around Beaver Creek State Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can do the same at Chapin Forest Reservation if the marked trails limit your hiking.
Hocking Hills State Park is Ohio’s favorite spot for hiking due to its variety of trails. With the exception of the waterfall trails, snowshoeing around the park is an adventure waiting to happen.
Snowmobiling and Ice Boating
If hiking in snowshoes or cross-country skiing is too slow for you, speed it up with a snowmobile! Buck Creek and West Branch State Parks have bridle trails you can ride through. And Geneva State Park also has a 4.5-mile snowmobiling trail.
Understand that some park trails aren’t open during winter, but that’s where the park’s lakes come in! When they’re thick enough (about eight inches), snowmobile on the ice from the lakes’ boat ramps. But don’t drive too fast lest you really wear down the ice, and never ride on frozen lakes at night.
West Branch’s reservoir and Indian Lake are also perfect for ice boating. Frozen lakes that are large enough to race along the ice on a boat are recipes for exciting Ohio winter camping trips. But as you would ice fishing and skating, inspect the ice’s thickness first.
The snowy Ohio hills at state parks such as Dillon, Lake Loramie, and Mary Jane Thurston are alive with sledders! It’s not guaranteed that the parks will provide sleds, so pack them when you camp in Ohio during winter.
6. Year-Round Hiking Trails Can Lead You to Frozen Waterfalls
Winter camping in Ohio would never be complete without hiking and snowshoeing. To really make the most out of these recreational activities, embark on trails that will lead you to frozen waterfalls.
When Ohio’s waterfalls freeze, their ice formations become the most breathtaking sights as though the water was still falling! Here are a few to name and the trails you can take to get to them:
- Brandywine Falls: At Cuyahoga Valley National Park, don some reliable hiking boots for the 1.4-mile Brandywine Gorge Trail. It’s usually busy in the summer, but in winter, you’re free to sightsee the falls’ ice formations without the crowds.
- Cedar Falls: Hike the Old Man’s Cave trail to see the lower and upper falls at Hocking Hills State Park. This trail is best for year-round hiking, but winter is when it’s the most beautiful, thanks to the frozen falls.
- Clifton Gorge Waterfall: Yellow Springs’ Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve has a waterfall that freezes quickly in winter due to its small size. The preserve is adjacent to John Bryan State Park; if you camp there, hike its trails to get to the waterfall.
Unravel Ohio’s Winter Camping Secrets!
Winter in the Buckeye State shouldn’t leave you burdened and cold-hearted if you’re going camping. By learning secrets about winter camping in Ohio, you’ll find it just as adventuresome as you would in warm weather. Gear up and go camping no matter what Ohio’s season is!
Check out our winter camping archives to learn more tips for a great camping trip no matter how cold it gets!
- About the Author
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Sarah Keck is a long-time resident of the Midwest and loves its warm and cool atmosphere. She takes any walking or hiking opportunity with open arms and likes to learn and write about the best trails.
Sarah’s first camping experience was her church’s teens’ and twenties’ summer conference years ago. Her favorite activities were exploring the campground and sitting by the fire, listening to the wildlife.
As time went on, Sarah looked forward to camping and other vacation opportunities. Writing for Beyond the Tent has opened her eyes and mind to the country’s many beautiful destinations.