If you’ve never visited Deer Creek State Park, you’ll want to plan a trip as soon as possible.
This state park is one of the best, offering a huge variety of activities and accommodations for visitors. The park has a resort, a marina, a large campground, and so much more. It really is an outdoor lover’s paradise, perfect for families and solo travelers alike.
Deer Creek State Park also happens to have a very interesting and presidential history. The park is home to the historical Harding Cabin. In the early 20th century, a cabin that stood overlooking the valley was owned by the Attorney general under President Harding, Harry M. Daugherty. It was built in 1918 and served as a sort of hunting retreat for Daugherty and his friends, which allegedly included President Harding.
But long before the cabin was built, indigenous people called the ridge above Deer Creek and its valley home. In 2000 BC, the people living in the area belonged to nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes. They would come to the camp throughout the year and due to the burial sites around the camp, we know that the area was inhabited over a long period of time.
The creek became a lake in 1968 when the dam was completed. Six years later, the state park officially opened, and it’s been one of the most visited state parks ever since.
The list of things to do at the park is absolutely massive, but we’ve chosen the most popular activities to highlight here. Get out there and explore, Columbus! It’s a beautiful state we live in.
Deer Creek reservoir is 1,277 acres and offers unlimited horsepower boating. There are two boat launch ramps and a fully-equipped marina that offers fuel, boat renal, and seasonal dock rentals. While you can’t just hop off your boat for a swim anywhere in the lake, there is a special boat-swim area located in the cove by the lodge!
With everything from volleyball and pickleball to archery and skiing, there are a variety of ways to enjoy sports at Deer Creek State Park. One of the most popular activities takes advantage of the water. Stand-up paddle boards and kayaks are available to rent at the lodge for all visitors.
The park is a fantastic place to do a little wildlife watching. You can see all kinds of species at the park, including local amphibians like the adorable spring peeper, reptiles like painted turtles and rat snakes, and tons of impressively cute mammals. We’re talking red foxes, raccoons, woodchucks, whitetail deer, and more. OF course, the most common type of wildlife watching is birdwatching. You can see all kinds of songbirds at the park, as well as ring-necked pheasants.
Disc golf has become one of the most popular activities at a variety of state parks around Ohio, and for good reason. It’s fun, it’s affordable, and you can basically play it any time of the year. Plus, even if you’re not super great at aiming (I’m speaking from experience) you can still have fun walking the course with your friends.
If disc golf isn’t your vibe and you’re looking for a more traditional golfing experience, you can hit up the 18-hole golf course. If you’re staying at the lodge or campground, you don’t even have to bring your own clubs, as rentals are available to guests there.
For those visiting the park with little ones, you’ve got to make some time to check out the Storybook Trail. The storybook presented along the trail changes throughout the year. Visitors can visit the Free Little Library at the beginning of the trail where you can take a book home or leave one for your fellow parkers. The trail is an easy walk, about half a mile, perfect for the kiddos.
Whether you’re hoping to spend a day at the 1,700-foot swimming beach or you’re looking to relax by the pool at the lodge, there are plenty of spots to enjoy a swim at Deer Creek State Park. Pets aren’t allowed on the swimming beaches, so be sure to leave the pups at home for this adventure.
There are six hiking trails at the park. They are all easy-to-moderate hikes, taking you through rolling hills, meadows, ridge lines, and more. You can see the hiking-only trails below.
Adena Ridge Trail – 0.8 mile – easy
Hawkview Meadow Trail – 0.6 mile – easy
Marsh Walk Trail – 0.7 mile – moderate
Ridge Trail – 0.9 mile – moderate
Rolling Hills Trail – 1.5 miles – moderate
Storybook Trail – 0.5 mile – easy
Van Horn Trail – 0.8 mile – easy-moderate
If the temps are cold enough or there’s enough snow, there are tons of winter activities you can participate in at the park. Sledding, ice fishing, and ice skating are all allowed, although you’ll need to bring all your own supplies! If you’re looking for a great place to ride your snowmobile, you can use the 17-mile bridle trail when conditions allow.
There are over 200 sites available to rent for campers at Deer Creek State Park. The campsites are pet friendly and all of the sites offer electricity. If you’re looking for a more rustic experience, there are two primitive Group Camp sites available.
Stay overnight at the Lodge
One of Ohio’s largest state park resorts, Deer Creek Lodge & Conference Center has beautiful guest rooms with sweeping views of the lake. If you’re hoping for more privacy, you can also book one of the two-bedroom, fully-furnished family cabins. You can also rent the historic Harding Cabin we mentioned earlier, which sleeps 7-9 guests.
Deer Creek State Park is located at 20635 State Park Road 20, Mt Sterling, OH 43143. The park is open year-round. You can start planning your visit at ohiodnr.gov.