Exploring Ohio: The Best of Ohio Road Trips
By Kimberly Graf. Published on September 19, 2018
Ohio is an often-overlooked state on the southern shore of Lake Erie. A large portion of the state is defined by fertile soil and rolling hills, but the southeastern part of the state features rugged forests. These plateaus create a wonderful balance and make Ohio a wonderful place to take a few road trips and take in the sights. Here are some ideas for the most beautiful road trips through the Buckeye state.
Because of its large concentration of hills, Ohio is home to a lot of marvelous caves and cavern systems. If you plan on going on any of these cave tours, make sure to bring a sweater, as many of the deep cave attractions can get quite cold year-round. In a drive time of about four hours, you can see a diverse selection of breathtaking cave systems.
The first stop in this trip is Seneca Caverns – a giant cave system that is open to the public for tours. Tours last for about an hour and take place 165 feet below ground on concrete walkways with handrails. The next destination, Ohio Caverns, is two hours the south along Highways 224 and 68. Ohio Caverns is 35-acre park with access to another awe-inspiring cave with a variety of stalactites and stalagmites in various colors. There are many activities at the park, including gemstone mining and a variety of tours with different themes.
A two-hour drive down through Columbus puts you at a pseudo-cave called the Rockhouse in Logan, OH. This isn't really a cave, per-se, but a 200-foot long natural rock arch. Located in the Hocking Hills State Park, this structure is only about a quarter of a mile from the nearest parking lot. A small hike and some stairs are well worth it to see this natural wonder. Located within the same park is a cave known as Old Man's Cave, named for the hermit that lived and died there. This is a system of caves, alcoves, and gullies that you can explore, and the hike to get there is only about 1.4 miles from a parking lot.
While some of these caves and caverns take a bit more work to get to, it's certainly worth it to undertake the journey. The entire drive-time of this road trip is only four hours and 205 miles – and while it is certainly possible to undertake this journey within a day, you're going to want to spend a little more time for tours and exploration.
If you'd like to enjoy some wonderful scenery above ground, Northern Ohio has some wonderful locations within a short drive. Northwest of Akron, on the way to Cleveland, is Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This Park is home to several natural wonders – you can drive the length of the park and stop where you want. Most locations are reachable by car or a short hike.
Beaver Marsh is a wetland area, once built by beavers and then destroyed by humans. The junkyard that used to occupy this space was cleaned up by the community, and now a boardwalk runs the length of the area. This swampy environment is not common in America, so it's certainly worth a look. Brandywine Falls is accessible by a short trail along the Brandywine gorge. The focal point of several waterfalls in the area, this particular water feature is 65-feet tall.
Ritchie Ledges, also in Cuyahoga Valley Park, are large sandstone cliffs turned green from moss. It's a living sightseeing experience. Lastly, the Park boasts the last covered bridge in the county. Bridges like Everett Covered Bridge used to be all over the state of Ohio, but they are slowly being shut down and rebuilt due to the lack of proper maintenance.
It is three and a half hours from the Park to the end point of this road trip. The 112-mile drive between the points is well worth a spot on this trip all the same. Most of the journey is a coastal highway along the southern edge of Lake Erie. Wonderfully diverse, this road also cuts through Sandusky on its way to Edison Bridge, a long suspension bridge that will take you onto a colorful and cultural peninsula jutting out into the lake.
A ferry from the Lakeside Marblehead will take you to Kellys Island, where you can observe the Glacial Grooves Nature Park. This location is covered in 400-foot-long grooves in the earth. These grooves were created by movement of the glacier that made the Great Lakes. The grooves were excavated from the debris the glacier brought with it, and today they are geological wonders that are perhaps the largest glacial grooves in the world.
This trip consists of only 114 miles by car, or three and half hours of drive time.
If you'd like an edgier road trip, Ohio has some excellent abandoned locations to sink your teeth into. This is a shorter trip, but worth the excitement for someone who enjoys the creepier side of things. Please keep in mind that these locations are not open to the public and trespassing here may be punishable by law. In some cases, places that have been abandoned are dangerous to walk on or through due to the lack of maintenance. Observe from a safe distance.
Geauga Lake is the starting point of this trip, at Geauga Lake Amusement Park. This park was opened in 1887 and later added roller coasters and swimming attractions. The park changed names several times, but was ultimately closed in 2008. The grass has grown over the lower levels of the roller coasters and the stationary cars are rusting on the tracks. It is eerie to see a place that is meant to be so full of life abandoned.
An hour to the southwest will put you at another abandoned amusement park, Chippewa Lake Amusement Park. The property has been abandoned since 1978, and despite numerous attempts to sell the site and demolish the existing buildings, a large portion of the park still stands. Wooden roller coasters and a moldering Ferris wheel dominate the Park's landscape. These structures are slowly being reclaimed by nature, making this site both eerie and fascinating to observe.
The last stop on this trip needs to be visited quickly, as it's about to be torn down. Molly Stark Hospital lies an hour to the southeast of Chippewa Lake. This hospital was used as a tuberculosis ward in the 1930s, after which it became a mental hospital. In 1995 the doors were shut for good, and is set to be demolished soon. While it is not safe to go into the hospital itself, it is creepy just to look at it from the outside – the building has fallen into such disrepair that it's actually interesting to watch it. Its function also adds to the creepy factor, and would be a good destination for anyone who enjoys ghost stories.
This entire road trip only takes about two hours to complete, so it is a perfect day trip for people who enjoy things that are out of the ordinary.
Ohio is a land of natural wonders and covered bridges, dominated by Lake Erie to the north. There is something for everyone here, from history to water recreation, gorgeous views and foliage in the fall. The culture of the area near the Lake is wonderful and refreshing from the rest of the country. Ohio is worth a visit whether you attempt one of these road trips or not.