I'm a state park naturalist and outdoors lover. Ask about our 75 free-to-visit state parks, fall color in Ohio, cabin and lodge overnight accommodations, fun fall/winter activities, being a naturalist, or anything else!

I'm driving to every state park in 10 days, more than 2200 miles, stopping at each state park to highlight views and activities for future visitors. I'm on day 7, with only 3 days and 23 parks left on my road trip.

I've stayed in a haunted lodge, cooked over a campfire, took a boat to islands in Lake Erie (in November!), played disc golf, talked about nature, and much more!

You can see where I've been and follow along on Facebook (facebook.com/ohiostateparks), Twitter (@OhioStateParks) and Instagram (@ohstateparks).

Proof: https://twitter.com/OhioStateParks/status/1184903625241513986

This was fun but I have to go! I'll be back on to answer anything I didn't get to tomorrow! Keep them coming if you want!

Comments: 630 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

Firecrotch2014399 karma

So I dont want to come off as rude but I gotta ask why do this? You're visiting 7.5 parks a day on average. Isnt the point of a park to visit them and enjoy it? Are you doing it just to say you did it? I mean more power to you for whatever your reasoning. I'm just trying to understand why youd do this in under such time constraint.

I'm originally from Georgia. We had some beautiful state parks back there. Mosquitos are a bitch though. Lol

ohiostateparks220 karma

I had been to 18 before this trip and it has always been on my bucket list to visit them all. Obviously I want to spend more time at each one, but now I know which ones I want to go back to soon. And that is why I am doing it, so Ohioans and visitors to our great state can plan which park they want to see, which activity they want to do, within the constraints of their own busy lives.

It is easy to say "Ohio State Parks are so great" but have you been to all of them near you? Have you been to both the natural and man made lakes? Have you played disc golf while red and yellow leaves fall down around you? I hope others are inspired by my trip, as that is my favorite thing to do, connect people with the outdoors.

DataCurious55 karma

sy to say "Ohio State Parks are so great" but have you been to all of them near you? Have you been to both the natural and man made lakes? Have you played disc golf while red and yellow leaves fall down around you? I hope others are inspired by my trip, as that is my favorite thing to do, connect people with the outdoors.

Where can I play disc gold near Cleveland? Sounds like fun!

ohiostateparks150 karma

Punderson is the #1 course in the state! There is even an island you have to throw to. If you throw your disc in the water there is a john boat with a paddle tied up nearby so you can try and retrieve it.

KJ6BWB6 karma

If you're visiting 7.5 parks per day, how can you really say that you're familiar enough with them to really know which ones are "worth" going back to?

ohiostateparks2 karma

I spoke with other naturalists, park managers, and staff before my trip, so I know what is at each state park. I see the campgrounds, major highlights, and amenities that each offer. For example, I love the geology at John Bryan and want to go back and rock climb, hike gorges, and visit the nearby Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve.

HopelessHamsta227 karma

What's a state park naturalist do?

ohiostateparks294 karma

We are wildlife educators, teachers of the great outdoors! I teach visitors everything about animals, plants and trees to watercraft safety and how to paddle board! We do a lot of education programs, including taking animals to schools to teach about what kids can hear in the woods at night, archery, fishing, etc.

Icommentoncrap82 karma

What is the coolest thing you know or are able to tell us about nature, outdoors, and wildlife?

ohiostateparks225 karma

Dang. The grey fox is a canine (dog family) but can climb a tree like a cat. Their claws let them do this.

DataCurious47 karma

How do Ohio State Parks compare to other states? And which of the 75 have you enjoyed the most so far and why?

ohiostateparks137 karma

So there are only 7 states that have free-to-visit state parks. Ohio is one!

Also we are very diverse, from the shores of Lake Erie, to wetlands, to prairies and forests, to the Appalachian mountains!

Where I am now is very special. Shawnee State Park has so much land to explore and you can really connect with nature on the river, one of two lakes, or in the surrounding state forest.

Realsan109 karma

As an Ohioan, I had no idea other states didn't have this.

ohiostateparks63 karma

Right!? We are very lucky.

Realsan22 karma

Any opinions on John Bryan / Clifton Gorge area?

I grew up around there and that was a local hangout.

ohiostateparks21 karma

I was there yesterday! It's great there are big parks near cities like Dayton. There is a great rock climbing area at John Bryan that is unique (I love the geology in that area) and fishing the Little Miami River can be so peaceful.

CompuChip2 karma

I remember being out of state for a vacation and deciding to visit one of their state parks and being shocked when I pulled up to a gate and was asked for money to get in!

ohiostateparks2 karma

That happened to me at a tiny beach in Traverse City, MI!

twice_fallen8 karma

I had a terrible experience in shawnee. Got lost hiking due to poor trail reroutes from the fires a while back. Got directed to take a road to pick up a trail further down and ended up on 125. Doubled back and never found where the trail picked back up. Had to hitch hike back to my car. Frustrating to say the least after camping. I wish our state park staff actually did more. As a nature lover, an enviromental science major and a current local park employee, I hope I can one day contribute to our state parks and help make them a better place to be.

ohiostateparks17 karma

Sorry to hear. I know our park staff work hard to improve the customer experience. There are great "friends of state parks" groups that also help with trail signage, or even creating new trails. Look up your local friends group!

hops4beer40 karma

What is your favorite Ohio animal, the Bengal tiger or the bulldog?

ohiostateparks88 karma

Bobcat. They are making their way back and are so stealthy, you usually have no idea they are there unless you catch one on a trail cam. They are my spirit animal. When I'm in the outdoors I want to see everything, but be quiet and not noticed.

ryanstrikesback28 karma

Where does Maumee Bay rank for you? Never feels very “park-y” to me.

ohiostateparks35 karma

As I always say, all of these parks are so unique. The lodge has a very different feel from Mohican or Hueston Woods lodges for example, but I think it is more lake-y. The manicured lawns around the lodge are nice, but when you get to the campgrounds or surrounding wildlife areas, it feels more like a "park" like you might think. There was a women's conference there when I visited, which I think is a great idea, to get out of the city and stay on the lake, coupled with everything the park has to offer. Some people don't know we have 75 state parks, but some people who live near Maumee Bay might not know there is an archery range, boat rentals, and great trails for winter hikes.

InstigatedAF25 karma


I am considering moving to Cleveland, and would like to know more in general about the state parks could you provide some useful sources I could look up? (I dont have any specific questions as I dont have enough information yet)


ohiostateparks28 karma

Cleveland has some great metroparks including the zoo! https://www.clevelandmetroparks.com/parks/visit

But state parks are special to me and are a short drive away and we have a map for that ;) http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/findapark

My favorite park, Beaver Creek, is under 2 hours from downtown, but there are 12 other state parks in closer to the city. These include Punderson, with one of the few natural lakes in Ohio (90 ft deep!) with a boardwalk, cabins, disc golf, and a haunted lodge ;) and Wingfoot, my home park where the Goodyear Blimp is parked in a huge hangar across the lake.

mbd52125 karma

Agreed!!! Cleveland metro parks are great! Also have the Cuyahoga Vally National Park which has some pretty good hiking and biking trails! But that’s a federal park not a state park! Northeast Ohio is very nice, especially if you like the fall and the beautiful colors that the leaves turn!

ohiostateparks11 karma

I just rode some electric bikes on the paved trails at Cuyahoga. That was fun! I also heard their railroad is cool, but haven't been yet.

HeyNow6467 karma

Were you ever able to visit Wingfoot when it was still owned by Goodyear?

ohiostateparks9 karma

No I wasn't, but I was at the dedication, never knowing I would eventually work at the park. The canteen changed to offices and we added an amazing nature center.

footylite22 karma

Why are Ohio's state parks free? Or are these specific state parks that are free and some more popular ones charge? Is this unique to Ohio?

ohiostateparks69 karma

There are 7 states where state parks are free. It is just how they were set up by the state legislature. We make money renting camp sites, cabins, boats, or selling ice cream in our camp stores, but new amenities such as nicer bathrooms and more full hook-up campsites come from state funding.

I'm sure there is a more technical answer for this, but opportunity for people to get outdoors, do activities, hike, swim, boat, etc etc is one of the great things about Ohio. We treasure our natural resources, from small local parks to massive state forests. Did you know back in the late 1800s there were barely any forests in Ohio? Most of them were cut for farmland. They have made a huge comeback, as have deer, bald eagles, and now bobcats!

Jamesonwordcraft13 karma

Are you guys hiring?

ohiostateparks33 karma

You can search on careers.ohio.gov by agency. I see 4 positions open now https://dasstateoh.taleo.net/careersection/oh_ext/jobsearch.ftl?lang=en#

Or call your local park and ask about intern opportunities or part-time work as well. I know many part-timers who are now full time.

teh_maxh12 karma

That's just three hours a park, even before travel and sleep (which I suppose you can do in at least some of the parks). Is that really enough time to get a feel for the parks?

ohiostateparks13 karma

No, as I've said in other posts, but that is not the point. I'm here to inspire others, let everyone know we not only have 75 free-to-visit parks, but that they are all unique and offer something for everyone. 22 disc golf courses, 55 campgrounds, parks on Lake Erie, inland lake beaches, duck hunting blinds, ADA kayak docks, etc etc

RaoulDuke20910 karma

How much evidence of ancient civilizations do you find yourself stumbling upon?

Ohio is up there as one of the top places i wanna explore

ohiostateparks27 karma

I know our state forests have lots of mounds that are not even mapped.

So far this trip, I went to a mound at East Fork State Park and at Malabar Farm there are native american burial sites behind the Pugh Cabin. I know there are more sites within our parks but this trip has been pretty quick.

Laurensios9 karma

How do you cover all your trips financially?

ohiostateparks34 karma

I'm driving a state vehicle that gets 45 mpg and our overnights are ridiculously priced. Camping is $30 a night for electric sites at many parks, cabins can be $65, and lodges are just north of $100. Great prices for the views. I'm eating dinner looking at the Ohio River Valley.

thatbarnesboy7 karma

Do you need company? Sounds like fun. I’ll help share the cost.

ohiostateparks22 karma

Ha, as an Ohio tax payer, you are sharing the cost ;) But I have had company every other day or so. Tomorrow one of our videographers is coming with me as we visit TEN parks. It is going to be a long one.

Hamilton950B7 karma

Do you interact much with the Feds? For example you've got the Perry Monument people on Put-In-Bay, or Ottawa Refuge right down the road from Maumee Bay. Do you coordinate on programs, exchange bird spotting info, etc?

ohiostateparks15 karma

Yes and no. Perry Monument focuses on history, while our parks on South Bass have campgrounds, a beach, and popular places to get married looking over the lake. We do work a lot with Ottawa Refuge through our Division of Wildlife. Where I am at Wingfoot the closest national park is Cuyahoga of course, and I have helped with the electric bike paths and some other projects.

thepolan5 karma

I live in the west and have experienced State and National Parks that are well known, such as Yosemite NP, Sequoia NP, Grand Canyon NP, Zion NP, Redwoods SP. What do the Ohio SPs have to offer in comparison to these western parks?

ohiostateparks38 karma

Hocking Hills is "Ohio's Yellowstone" (I may have made that up but I swore I've heard it before) with deep gorges, beautiful overhangs and caves, and a brand new visitor center. But our other parks, from the shores of Lake Erie, to where I am now on the Ohio River, all offer an escape to the outdoors, nature centers for education, trails or lakes to relax on, and are free-to-visit, so you don't feel bad hiking one 1/4 mile trail on a Sunday afternoon and then leaving.

thepolan13 karma

Hocking Hills looks beautiful! Also did not know the others are free to visit, definitely will keep this on my list when I visit the midwest

ohiostateparks11 karma

We will be lad to have you!

Brownielf8 karma

I was in Hocking Hills this weekend! As a NE Ohioan Hocking Hills is my go to weekend getaway.

ohiostateparks7 karma

I love it too. If you are short on travel time, try Beaver Creek. It is my favorite park. The Vanderngreen trail goes over 100+ year old locks for the old canal system.

NigellaL3 karma

I am an art teacher and college professor who considered a career change recently. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and nature however I don’t have a science degree as would be hesitant to take out loans to pursue one. (I would study for free in a heartbeat.) Do you have any recommendations on what I should do or where I should look for a position that might suit me? Thank you.

ohiostateparks6 karma

Wildlife illustration or photography? We have photographers and graphic artists at ODNR and our Division of Wildlife. We have history majors in our field, but I don't know any artists.

GroundedSoul833 karma

Have you come across any cryptids or anything spiritual during this journey?

Thank you in advance for getting to my question!

ohiostateparks2 karma


I've heard of Bessie! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bessie_(lake_monster))

Going out in nature is spiritual for me, you could say. Walking down a trail alone, trying to be quiet and taking in everything around you while being invisible to the wildlife (as much as possible) is an out of body experience almost. We are so used to trouncing around, making ourselves known, telling people how we feel or what we think, its nice to stop and listen. An entire world happens outside our office and homes that doesn't care about us, but as sentient beings, we can choose to care about it, and experience it.

ohiostateparks3 karma

I answered 15 questions on the other AMA page here: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/drjau0/iama_state_park_naturalist_driving_to_all_75/

I'll be here tonight but can still answer questions until I finish my journey on Friday!

HelloImJustLooking3 karma

Why be at each park for such a short time?

Why spend so much of this thing inside a car?

I believe that parks should be used in the exact opposite way than what you do.

Spend more time in parks, less time in cars.

ohiostateparks2 karma

Same here, but my journey is to promote all the parks that people may not know about and what there is to do at each one so your family can decide which to visit on your next day trip or week of camping. And for me, I am making a list of parks I will be returning to soon with my family, and some I’ll be coming back to when my daughter is older, etc

solairnlol2 karma

How do i get your job?

ohiostateparks3 karma

Study environmental sciences or biology, then apply online!

Dlegs3 karma

So like I have masters degree in biology and have been applying to various state (I live near Columbus) jobs for months. Any tips?

ohiostateparks2 karma

Volunteer at a park, look up friends of state park groups, get outdoors on river clean ups, do anything to meet people in the industry. Keep checking the state webpage as well. As in any application, sometimes resumes get caught in HR before they make it to a staff desk. Meeting people always helps.

mrtenal2 karma

Are Ohio drivers really that bad?

ohiostateparks15 karma

Aren't there bad drivers everywhere? You do have to look out for Amish buggies in Eastern Ohio.

NoobMaster_-69-_2 karma

What is the capital of Ecuador?

ohiostateparks3 karma

Quito is the only city I know if in Ecuador. Going with Quito.

oklastfuckingtime2 karma

How many MPGs does your vehicle get?

ohiostateparks1 karma


Buttwiskers262 karma

Do you do teachings at any of the metro parks? I would love to learn more!

ohiostateparks2 karma

I visit a lot of places but Metroparks usually have their own staff. Check out our state parks schedule or call your local park to learn about events. http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/calendar

GiveThatManAChurro2 karma

I recently moved to Ohio from California for graduate school. I was so accustomed to see mountains every day, and Yosemite was less than 2 hours away from me. It is a little unsettling to me that all I see is flat land now. Is there a park here in Ohio that you would recommend for me to get some of my mountain itch scratched?

ohiostateparks7 karma

NW Ohio is flat. Head east to Mohican to see some gorges, or further to Hocking Hills to see big cliffs, caves, etc. If Dayton is closer, John Bryan State Park and Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve both have great geology, and rock climbing.

PiGuy1802 karma

Have you been to the Shawnee forest down south? It’s beautiful!

ohiostateparks2 karma

Just stayed there last night! Amazing I agree! It was nice to wind down from my days traveling looking out over that landscape and valley.

FortntieFan2482 karma

Why did you decide to do this was was your motivation or drive to do it?

ohiostateparks2 karma

My regional manager said they were looking for someone to do this to promote our 75 free-to-visit state parks, winter activities, and overnight accommodations like cabins and lodges. I said "yes" right away. It has been a bucket list item of mine to see all the state parks.

Augusta132 karma

How do the Ohio parks rank next to Pawnee, Indiana’s parks, Leslie?

ohiostateparks2 karma

Ours are more focused on nature than waffles ;)

Bootooth1 karma

What are some of the nicest parks in Ohio? I have been to only few and mostly around Cleveland

ohiostateparks6 karma

Cleveland has some great Metroparks. It all depends on what you are looking for. I would go to Headlands and check out the boardwalk, then to Punderson to see the old lodge and natural lake, then over to Beaver Creek to get really wild. But you could go to any park and find something interesting, from different hiking trails, to beaches that rent kayaks, to rock climbing!

islander_021 karma

I am a current college student looking to get into this field. In your experience what majors do employers prefer when hiring naturalists?

ohiostateparks1 karma

Environmental science with minor in biology is what I did. We do have a naturalist who was a history major, but he has some outdoor work experience as well.

sdm42421 karma

Why are the Ohio state park golf courses closing?

ohiostateparks2 karma

I don't know. I DO know that they are a STEAL to play some fun and challenging courses and then stay in a lodge.

Daniel_1281 karma

How do you get into your profession?

ohiostateparks2 karma

I have always loved the outdoors. I studied environmental science with a minor in biology, then did an internship with a state park before I graduated. I then applied to be a naturalist.

ItsJustSalty-1 karma

That’s a lot of gas, no?

ohiostateparks4 karma

I'm driving a 45 mpg Ford Focus, but the amount of people that hopefully learn about our parks, how to enjoy them, how to appreciate them, and then how to protect them, is worth it I believe.

North_South_Side-5 karma

Ohio, though. Aren’t they all kind of the same?

ohiostateparks12 karma

That is one of the reasons I'm doing this. Ohio is not Iowa (no offense). Half the state is flat as it was covered by glaciers, but the other half is the Appalachian foothills, with mountains and gorges. There are natural and man-made lakes, amazing fishing and hunting public lands, massive state forests with backcountry hiking and rattlesnakes, I could go on and on. Check out my twitter posts from when I was in the middle of Lake Erie on a remote island that was/is used for growing wine grapes, to now overlooking the Ohio River in the middle of a state forest. Ohio is amazing.

Dark4pplesauce-11 karma

How do you feel about Michigan being significantly better than Ohio?

ohiostateparks3 karma

To each their own, but I like it better here. I can drive to Lake Erie or the Appalachian foothills in an hour.

Lizard_Blizzard_-12 karma

Your carbon footprint is huge. How many manatees have you murdered?

ohiostateparks9 karma

I'm driving a tiny Ford that gets 45 mpg. There only manatees in Ohio that I know of are at the Columbus Zoo!