If you’re a local to Southwestern Ohio or have a family that likes to find a nice getaway for Labor Day, you’ll know Hueston Woods. Even those as far as Cincinnati, Richmond, Springfield, or Daton will probably have heard of this Campground. Let’s find out why it’s worth visiting this hidden treasure!
What is Hueston Woods Camping known for?
According to local legend, the Four Mile Creek was dammed-up in 1956 to create Action Lake. It was previously used as prison land but later was repurposed as a National State Park in 1967. Ever since then it’s been a great place to bring the family for Memorial Day and Halloween themed celebrations. More recently it’s been undergoing upgrades to the Lake and campground areas.
It’s always been a big hit with amateur fossil hunters who like searching for the fossilized trinket remains. These include trilobites, horn corals, mollusks and other extinct sea creatures from an ancient sea that covered Ohio long ago. Now the Hueston Woods camping experience is the star attraction. It’s been going through lots of changes over the years and has increasingly been getting lower reviews.
It covers over 2,936 acres with Action Lake covering 625 acres within the State Park itself. More recently in 2018, and this year in March; has experienced heavy rainfall and flooding throughout the park. Since then, there are new repairs planned to improve damaged campground areas. So as far as we know it will come back even stronger for the 2021 season. However, we’ve researched all the services that they offer towards camping.
What is the best time of year to go?
Aside from the rainy season, Hueston Woods has a year-round appeal. May, in particular, is always popular because of Memorial Day and October is always packed. The best time to avoid crowds is off-season times. It’s best to avoid National or public holidays since the park doesn’t have enough cabins and tent sights.
Late spring after May through late September is going to be a good time to visit. Summer will be popular however if you book a reservation in advance you can beat the crowds. This is mainly because of the horseback riding, walking in the woods, hiking, fishing, swimming, and putt-putt boats. (This is a candle driven steam-powered toy boat, and is absolutely worth going to see!)
What campsites are there?
All around the park itself you will find designated sites meant for camping. Depending on what improvements are made within the park, these campsites will have expanded or decreased. Here’s all the current information to get you started. You can use their main website to get more info to book your camping needs.
These are locations that are non-electric for the most part. What they do offer are picnic tables and fire rings. Toilets are also primitive being vault-style holes in the ground. 236 non-electric sites can be booked 14 days in advance. Each site allows you to stay for 14 days within 30 days. Each of these sites is meant for pitching a tent within the 236 sites that are offered.
Electric site camping
Electric camping sites are a little bit more comfortable with the addition of outlets. These are provided on the west side of the lake only and better suited for RVs or trailers. You also have available hot showers, flush toilets, and laundry facilities. RVs can flush-out their tanks with a waste station as well. There are also the standard picnic tables and fire rings provided to have BBQs.
There are just three camper cabins that are official to the State Park. They can be reserved mainly for couples and are very rustic. It does have a toilet, hot shower, and a primitive kitchen. For the most part, you need to bring the necessary items to make this nearly the same as tent camping. The fact that it’s a bit harder to book these due to the low number of cabins is tricky. You’ll need to check for available dates with the park itself.
There are also reserved areas that can accommodate large groups of all kinds. These can be intended for companies, school events, and large family gatherings for spending the night or two. Much like the primitive camping, these sites will allow for BBQs and have picnic tables. Toilets are latrine style, so don’t expect much comfort; it is outdoor camping. All garbage that is thrown out needs to go into the park bins every day.
There is an equestrian camp that is meant for horseback riding. They have set-up their camping area far enough from the stables. It’s also a tent camp set-up and for a weekend retreat is another variation of park camping you might enjoy. The day rates for taking the horses out for a day ride are not part of the camping cost. Be sure to check their pricing on tent camping and horse riding rates before you go.
Things to know before going?
Weather will be the most important part to mention before experiencing Hueston Woods camping. Ohio is not a terrible place for freakish weather but nice weather can change quickly on occasions. Always bring raincoats and umbrellas just in case. This will be more random in the springtime and even more so in the fall. There can even be times when warmer weather can turn into thunderstorms and hail in just an hour.
You are allowed to bring alcohol into the park provided all cans, bottles, and containers are removed when you leave. A downside to the holiday events means that there will usually be more drunk people than usual. Not everyone likes dealing with drunk people so off-season camping is highly advised.
As for fishing, you need to bring the right gear with you since there will not be a bait shop on the park grounds. An additional fishing fee will be applied for those intending to fish while camping there. You also need an official Ohio fishing license to fish there. There are largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, and bluegill.
Anything you find in the forest such as fossils is free to take since the sheer abundance of them. These various ancient shells aren’t considered a State treasure so claiming anything you find is legal to take with you.
Should you go camping there?
Until the recent flooding, reviews have taken the quality of the park backward in the past years. The campgrounds are showing wear and tear since they are used so often too. Until they upgrade the park the best thing is to wait and see what the 2021 season will bring. Great reasons why to go to Hueston Woods is exactly for the large wooded areas you can stroll through. There are no dangers from wilds animals either
The only kinds of animals that are found in the park are deer, waterfowl, raccoons, fish, water turtles, owls, American eagles, and coyotes. They also allow seasonal hunting of deer and raccoon by permit only. Eagles, owls, coyotes, and turtles cannot be harmed or hunted. Otherwise, the safety of camping in this park is pretty safe overall for a State Park.
Unlike the kinds of State Parks that are impressive and centered in natural landscapes, the Hueston Woods Park is home-grown. It’s more tradition than anything else and has grown in popularity since the early 1970s. For most people in Ohio who love their weekend camping trips, Hueston Woods has always been a popular destination. It’s not so much an exotic place to visit, yet always has a family-centered feeling. It’s always worth a weekend twice a year.
The final words
The nice thing about local state parks is how easy they can be found if you have local celebrations to kick-off a Friday afternoon. With all the stress of the big city, it’s great to have an all-in-one location that offers everything. Especially when you can involve family and friends, that don’t need to travel far to enjoy time together.
See you there!