There’s nothing like spending time out in the great outdoors.
Ohio has a reputation as being mostly cornfields, but we all know that’s not exactly accurate. We’ve got a lot to offer here in the Buckeye state, from stunning waterfalls to elaborate cave systems.
Whether you’ve been hoping to get a little off the beaten path or you’re just looking to take in a little bit of our state’s natural splendor, Ohio will not disappoint you. We’ve gathered a list of some of our favorite hidden gems and natural wonders and organized them by region. If there’s a beautiful spot that you think deserves a little more appreciation, let us know.
Glacial Grooves State Memorial | Kelleys Island
The Glacial Grooves on the north side of Kelleys Island are a National Natural Landmark. The grooves are 400 feet long, 35 feet wide and up to 10 feet deep and are easily accessible. The grooves contain marine fossils that are 350 to 400 million years old and they are truly a sight to behold.
Castalia State Fish Hatchery | Castalia
If you’ve ever wondered what a Blue Hole looks like, you don’t have to go too far to find out. Located in Castalia, this stunning blue hole is part of the Castalia State Fish Hatchery. The cool water from the blue hole stays extremely cool year round (around 48 degrees), making it a tremendous help to the process of hatching fish. Many years ago, a much larger blue hole that is part of the same system gained popularity as a local attraction, but that blue hole has since been closed to the public. The hatchery offers self-guided tours year round and the occasional fishing lottery. Even though this particular blue hole is smaller than the OG, it’s still pretty darn impressive!
Fossil Park | Sylvania
Northwest Ohio used to be a massive sea full to the brim with prehistoric life. Fossil Park is a 5-acre, handicap accessible quarry where you can break open fossils for yourself and see the evidence of this ancient world. Fossil hunting is a completely free and fun activity for the whole family.
Ohio Caverns | West Liberty
These colorful caverns have over 2 miles of surveyed passageways, ranging in depth from 30 feet to 103 feet. The highlight of any visit to Ohio Caverns will be a stop at the largest stalactite in Ohio, The Crystal King. There are a variety of tours offered at Ohio Caverns and you can check out tour prices and more right here.
Seneca Caverns | Bellevue
Seneca Caverns may have been discovered in 1872, but they’re much, much older. This geological wonder has remained largely untouched, offering a unique look back in time.
Nelson Kennedy Ridges State Park | Garrettsville
Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park may not be the largest park in Ohio, but it’s absolutely stunning. The rugged cliffs are breathtaking and totally worth a visit. The rock formations resemble those seen frequently throughout Hocking Hills, but they are very rare for the northeast region of Ohio.
Mill Creek Falls | Cleveland
Mill Creek Falls stands proud at 48 feet, making it the largest waterfall in Cuyahoga County. There’s a beautiful overlook at The Yard at Mill Creek Falls that is super easy to get to. The falls are beautiful any time of year, but especially in the autumn.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park | Brecksville
Cuyahoga Valley National Park has so many incredible spots that it would be impossible to list them all. Honestly, the best advice I can give you is to give yourself a whole weekend to explore the park. You can see incredible waterfalls, hike stunning forest trails, and stop off at a few stunning overlooks.
Thompson Ledge Township Park | Thompson
If you’re looking for a reason to visit the Thompson Ledges, how does natural beauty, caverns, fissures, springs, and a downright stunning view sound? The ledges are the perfect place to enjoy a summer hike and followed by a delicious picnic. Remember to take any items you bring with you back out when you leave the ledges!
Honey Run Waterfall | Howard
This 25-foot waterfall is located in Knox County and is well worth a day trip from Columbus. Hike from the waterfall alongside the Kokosing River and when you’re done, take a break on the bench overlooking the falls. Honey Run has some truly incredible geological features that aren’t often found in Ohio, and you can read more about them right here.
Columbia Park | Bay Village
This 1.5 acre park is home to one of the best kept secrets on Lake Erie’s shores. A beautiful waterfall tumbles down onto a sandy beach at Columbia Park. With a paved trail and stairs to Lake Erie, it’s a must-visit spot if you find yourself in The Land!
Hayden Falls | Dublin
The best time to visit Hayden Falls is after a nice rain storm. The walk down to the viewing area is pretty simple but it can get crowded, so if you’re looking to keep your distance, try to visit early in the morning.
Olentangy Caverns | Delaware
Formed millions of years ago by an underground river cutting through limestone rock, the Olentangy Indian Caverns are truly a wonder. This year, the caverns will only offer self-guided tours and you’ll need to wear a mask, but that won’t stop you from enjoy the majesty of this place.
Shrum Mound | Columbus
Shrum Mound is one of the last remaining ancient burial grounds in Columbus. The mound was constructed roughly 2,000 years ago by the people of the ancient Adena culture and is 20-feet high with a 100-foot-diameter.
Rock Mill | Lancaster
The mill may be man made, but the stunning waterfall where the Hocking River billows over the rocks is the definition of a natural wonder. This is a quick afternoon visit from downtown Columbus and a great place to cool off during the hot summer months. You can read more about the history of Rock Mill here.
Blackhand Gorge | Newark
Blackhand Gorge is one of the most surreal sites in central Ohio. The most impressive feature of the 775-acre preserve is a narrow gorge cut by the Licking River through the famous Black Hand sandstone formation. The name “Blackhand” originated from a dark, hand-shaped petroglyph that was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river.
Indian Run Falls | Dublin
Indian Run Falls is one of my absolute favorite destinations in central Ohio when I’m craving green spaces and nature. The falls are best viewed after a solid rainstorm and there are great trails to explore, picnic areas to chill, and wildlife to snag blurry photos of. Maybe that last one only happens to me, but regardless, you should add the falls to your list of places to visit this summer.
Overbrook Ravine Park | Clintonville
I feel a little bit guilty about sharing Overbrook Ravine because it truly is such a hidden gem, but it’s not fair to keep such a tranquil place to myself. Located right off of North High Street in Clintonville, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported a million miles away from Downtown Columbus when you step foot in the ravine.
Shale Hollow Park | Delaware
Shale Hollow Park is a destination that’s perfect for families. The hiking is super easy and there’s plenty of great spots for the kids to splash around and do a little creeking.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve | Yellow Springs
Clifton Gorge is absolutely breathtaking. The rushing water, the winding paths… it’s heaven on earth, my friends. Unfortunately, Clifton Gorge is closed until the fall for trail improvements but I’m telling you, it’s worth planning your adventure now.
John Bryan State Park | Yellow Springs
While you’re visiting Clifton Gorge, it would be a crime not to stop in at John Bryan State Park. There are cliffs, caves, and seasonal waterfalls. You can also camp at the park if you’d like to make a whole weekend out of visiting Yellow Springs.
Fort Ancient State Memorial | Oregonia
Ohio’s ancient earthworks should be required visiting for all of us. The history of this region and the ancient peoples who built these incredible works deserve to be admired. If you’d like to learn more about the ancient earthworks here in Ohio, you can click here.
Serpent Mound | Peebles
We can’t talk about ancient earthworks and not mention Serpent Mound. Serpent Mound is the largest surviving example of a prehistoric effigy mound in the world, stretching on for 1,348 feet. The mound has been nominated as a World Heritage Site and attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve | Rockbridge
Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve is full of trails and views that will take your breath away. The hike to the rim of the gorge is one that should be taken with extreme caution, but once you get to the top, you’ll see why so many people enjoy the adventure.
Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve | Jackson
At Lake Katharine State Nature Preserve, you’ll have the chance to view some unique southern species of plants that grow there, including two different kinds of magnolias. The lake is manmade, but the valley it sits in features beautiful bluffs formed from weathering-resistant sandstone, including blackhand sandstone.
Old Man’s Cave | Logan
Of course, Old Man’s Cave isn’t a hidden gem. It’s arguably the most famous natural wonder in Ohio. But it absolutely has to be mentioned on this list. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Old Man’s Cave, change that in 2020. Photos just can’t do Old Man’s Cave or the waterfalls there justice. It needs to be experienced in person.
Rock House | Laurelville
Rock House is one of my favorite places to visit while trekking around Hocking Hills. When you see such a colorful and detailed rock formation, it makes it a lot easier to imagine the insane force of water needed to create the beautiful outcroppings and sediment colors.
Featured image via Wikimedia