Lake Hope State Park
A natural paradise, 2,983-acre Lake Hope State Park lies entirely within the 26,824-acre Zaleski State Forest in the valley of Big Sandy Run. It is a rugged, heavily forested region traversed by steep gorges and narrow ridges.
Though the roar of the iron furnaces no longer echoes through the hills of Vinton County, there are many reminders of days gone by at Lake Hope State Park. Situated at the heart of Ohio's Hanging Rock iron region, Lake Hope State Park reflects the rich history of much of southeastern Ohio.
The Hope Furnace was built here over 100 years ago to process the iron ore extracted from the region's sandstone bedrock. The iron resulting from the ore smelting process was used to produce many different items, including ammunition and cannon for the Union Army during the Civil War. Hundreds of men labored cutting timber, working the furnace and driving teams of oxen hauling iron ore to the furnace. Charcoal fires were tended 24 hours a day; so much wood was required for this process that the surrounding hillsides were almost completely stripped of their timber. At the height of the Hope Furnace's production, Ohio was one of the nation's leading producers of iron. As time passed, iron ore was discovered farther west and Ohio's reputation as a major iron producer waned.
By 1900, nearly all of the major furnaces in southern Ohio were shut down. Today, the Hope Furnace chimney and some of the foundation are all that remain of the structure. In the vicinity of the chimney, one may find pieces of slag, the cast-off residue from the smelting process. These pock-marked, glass-like pieces have now become a part of the forest floor. The forest we now see is one that has grown back where hundreds of years ago a primeval forest once stood.
For a time, coal was an important Vinton County export. A number of mines tunneled into the hills and large quantities of coal were transported out in ox-drawn coal cars. Most of the mines were abandoned early in the 20th century.
Lake Hope Forest Park was created in 1937 by the Division of Forestry. The Division of Parks and Recreation and Lake Hope State Park came into existence in 1949.
Besides Mohican State Park this is Ohio's best MTB trail system, as far as I'm concerned.
We stayed at one of the primitive camp sites with no electric, a fire pit and a picnic table. The campground has a good mix of camp sites that are close together and secluded sites. I liked being able to choose our own campsite. Firewood is $5 and by Saturday evening they had nearly run out of firewood, so get there early. We didn't make a reservation and we had no problems. I'd go back to this campground and recommend it.
My favorite area to visit. 30+years and counting.
This park is a gem. We stayed here in December of 2014 and we are going back in a couple days (August 2016) to experience it in a different season. We live in Akron and did not know what to expect, but it did not disappoint! First of all, it's really in the middle of nowhere which makes for a serene and beautiful trip. No gas station for 13 miles (in downtown McArthur). Also little to no cell phone service. The hiking trails are winding and take you near the lake and to an awesome old furnace called Hope Furnace. The trails we hiked were pretty strenuous. I am not sure if there are more handicapped friendly ones. Everything about the park is hilly and thick with trees. The lodge is beautiful and has excellent pizza. We had the white lizard. Haven't tried anything else but people rave about it. The cabin was small and old-school. No issues and its very cozy. You can burn wood in the furnace, we didn't do that but it sounds nice. Look at the different types of cabins, they vary in size and price. All of them come with all the stuff you need for cooking and eating. One thing I would recommend is bring soap to wash your hands. They don't supply that. Our two nights there were fantastic and we look forward to using the beach this time in the warm weather!
Best cabins in the Ohio park system because fireplaces! The cabins are very well appointed. The park itself isn't the best park in Ohio, but if you don't mind a bit of a drive Hocking Hills isn't too far. The brunch at the lodge is amazing so be sure to book your stay to coincide with a Sunday morning.