RVing in Ohio Mohican State Park
Ohio has coined itself the Heart of It All, and at its center is beautiful Mohican State Park. This area is the canoe and camping capital of Ohio, and paddling on the Mohican River is the most popular activity in the summertime. You can splash down the river on weekends with the crowds or go during the week and enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
Hiking, fishing, boating, horseback riding, zip lining, mountain biking and cycling on rail trails are among the many other outdoor activities in Mohican Country. The area is known for its Amish population and year-round lineup of festivals, such as Oktoberfest at the Wolf Creek Grist Mill, January’s Mohican Winterfest and April’s Mohican Wildlife Weekend. It is also home to the annual Mohican Bluegrass Festival, the Great Mohican Pow-Wow, and Landoll’s Mohican Castle with haunted history tours nightly in September and October.
Once the hunting grounds of the Delaware Indians, Mohican State Park covers 1,110 acres and is developed with trails, campgrounds, cabins and a lodge. The lodge stages various events that are open to the public, including an 18th-century colonial trade fair, Christmas festivities and an up-close birds-of-prey presentation on Saturday evenings. Adjacent Mohican-Memorial State Forest offers another 4,525 acres with more trails, waterways and natural beauty open to equestrians, hunters and fisherfolk.
Malabar Farm State Park and the Shawshank Trail
A short drive away is Malabar Farm State Park, home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, who was born in Mansfield, just a short distance away. Bromfield left for a vacation in France in 1925 and stayed for 13 years until war threatened Europe again. In 1939 he returned to the Mansfield area and bought 1,000 acres, which he called Malabar Farm.
Many celebrities visited him at Malabar Farm, and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there in 1945. Tours are available of the Big House where the wedding was celebrated. Wagon tours are offered in the summer where you can see farm animals and vegetable gardens. One of the hiking paths, Butternut Trail, goes through a cave and loops around the top of a wooded ridge. Visitors can fish for bluegill and catfish in the ponds.
A short drive up nearby Mount Jeez to the overlook gives a great view of the area where portions of the 1994 movie The Shawshank Redemption were filmed. The Shawshank Trail is a driving route that features many of the 25-year-old film’s iconic locations, including the Shawshank Oak Tree, which figured prominently in the movie but is no longer standing. The tree was about 180 years old when it was struck by lightning in 2011. In 2016 it was blown down in a storm and has since been removed.
Other sites on the Shawshank Trail include the Ohio State Reformatory, also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, where Tim Robbins’ character Andy Dufresne was incarcerated. The historic prison is about 13 miles from Malabar Farm. During the busy season, daily tours are available.
Trails, Rivers, and Scenic Drives in Mohican State Park
Mohican State Park has more than 9 miles of hiking trails and 8 miles of mountain-biking trails that connect to a network of 24 miles of mountain biking in the surrounding state forest. A number of paved rail trails are a short drive from the park, including the Kokosing Gap Trail, Holmes County Trail (reportedly the first trail in the country to accommodate Amish buggies), Heart of Ohio Trail (HOOT) and the Richland B&O Trail.
Hiking is a wonderful activity to enjoy in the park, particularly in autumn with the changing leaves. The Hemlock Gorge Trail is a beautiful 2-mile walk along the Clear Fork of the Mohican River between the park’s two campgrounds. The Hog Hollow Trail is a scenic hike from the covered bridge to the fire tower.
A favorite of many park visitors is the Lyons Falls Trail. It starts near the covered bridge and passes two waterfalls, although they may be just a trickle in the fall. The trail continues to the dam that forms Pleasant Hill Lake. Across from the dam, you can pick up the Pleasant Hill Trail and hike along the Clear Fork of the Mohican River back to the covered bridge. The 8 miles of mountain-bike trails are also open to hiking and can be used to make some loop hikes. Hikers should watch out for bikes, especially on weekends.
For horseback riders, Mohican State Park and Mohican-Memorial State Forest offer 22 miles of bridle trails that link to more than 60 miles of trails in Malabar Farm State Park and Pleasant Hill Lake Park.
Pleasant Hill Lake is part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and has boating, fishing, hunting, a beach and trails. Bald eagles nest near the lake. The marina rents fishing boats, pontoons, personal watercraft, standup paddleboards and kayaks. Camping ranges from primitive campsites to full-hookup and equestrian sites.
Bikers will enjoy the Holmes County Trail, unique in that it has one lane paved with asphalt for cyclists, joggers and inline skaters, and one lane paved with chip seal for horses and buggies used by the area’s large Amish population. The trail goes for 15 miles from Fredericksburg to Killbuck and wanders through wetlands, farms and villages.
The Richland B&O Trail is paved and runs for 18½ miles from Butler to Mansfield. The Kokosing Gap Trail runs 14 miles from Danville to Mount Vernon, where you can take a connector trail to the HOOT for another 15 miles of mostly paved bike riding.
Thirty-two miles of the Mohican State Scenic River wind through the area for canoeing and kayaking. Paddlers can propel through history as they cross the Treaty of Greenville line of 1795; south of the line was open to settlers, while Native Americans had the land north of the line. Paddling is a very popular activity during the warm months, so be sure to make plans well in advance of your visit.
South of Loudonville, Wally Road Scenic Byway ribbons past a number of recreational opportunities. Tree Frog Canopy Tours offers zip lining, Big Pappy’s River Stop has float tubes, and several RV parks are along the way. A former rail corridor, the paved byway follows the Mohican River and meanders through rolling hills and forests.
Mohican State Park in the Fall
Fall is a great time to visit because Mohican State Park campground celebrates Halloween weekends with RVers and campers decorating their sites. Arts and crafts and other activities are planned for the kids, and there are parades and costume contests. Park roads close to traffic for an hour just before dark, and the kids go trick-or-treating among the campsites. Trees turn a kaleidoscope of brilliant reds, oranges and golds, and fall leaves cover the campground.
Friends and family, including our son, his wife and our grandson, joined us during an October rainstorm a couple of years ago. Fortunately, it stopped raining, and our Halloween campout turned out to be spectacular with the fall colors at their peak in the beautiful valley. Our grandson enjoyed crafts with other children, and we all had fun watching the costume contest and taking in the various campsite decorations.
The drive to Mohican State Park is especially scenic when the sun is out. This is farmland, and there are some beautiful country roads with picturesque farms set among gorgeous maples that change color in October. Roadside vendors sell pumpkins, cider and apples, along with mums and gourds.
This is Amish country, and there are plenty of shops to wander through where local craftspeople make and sell furniture, clocks, quilts and pottery. Cheese and candy factories, bakeries and pumpkin patches can be found throughout the region.
Once you’ve spent some time enjoying Ohio’s Mohican Country and all there is to experience, you’ll want to come back for more.