While the winter holiday may be considered “the most wonderful time of the year,” many people would readily claim that fall is a close second! With the cooler temperatures, the return of annual autumnal festivities, and the gorgeous backdrop of changing leaves, it’s easy to see why this lovely season is an enduring favorite.
From visiting stunning parks to partaking in festive activities, there are so many ways to enjoy the colorful beauty of autumn in America’s heartland. Read on to learn about some of our favorite ways to take in the delights of Ohio fall foliage.
Picturesque Parks for Fall Foliage Viewing in Ohio
When it comes to viewing the fall foliage in Ohio in all of its glory, sometimes a simple stroll in the woods just can’t be beat. Whether you choose to visit a large state park or a smaller local forest, you’re sure to enjoy the sights of the season.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Did you know that Ohio is home to one of our country’s newest national parks? Just outside of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a sight to behold, especially in the fall. While it may not be as well-known as some other destinations, this place is definitely a hidden gem – and it’s perfect for exploring fall foliage.
The park features many hiking trails that wind through the beautiful forested area. One of the most popular trails is the 1.5-mile-long Brandywine Gorge Loop hike, which features an elevated waterfall viewing platform ensconced in the trees – making it a prime spot for leaf-peeping. Another favorite is the 3-mile-long Buckeye Trail, which leads visitors through the hilly landscape to another serene vista at the Blue Hen Falls.
For visitors looking to extend their stay in Cuyahoga, there are some unique lodging options within the park, such as a renovated historic house and quaint bed & breakfast. However you choose to spend your time here, you’re sure to leave with some wonderful fall memories.
Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park is well-known as perhaps the most popular fall foliage destination in Ohio, and it’s no wonder why. Located in the southeastern part of the state, this park boasts a gorgeous mountainous landscape that becomes positively idyllic in the fall.
With plenty of hiking trail options ranging in difficulty from leisurely to rigorous, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy. Depending on which routes you choose to explore, you might come across some of the spectacular caves and waterfalls that the park is known for as well.
Hocking Hills is also perfect for camping, with a variety of campgrounds and cabins available for rental as well as a large guest lodge managed by the state park. Whether you’re planning a family adventure or a weekend getaway with friends, we have no doubt that you can find what you’re looking for here.
Shawnee State Park
For a prime place to enjoy Ohio fall foliage in the southernmost region of the state, look no further than Shawnee State Park in Portsmouth. Due to its location, the leaves change colors slightly later here than in the northern part of the state – making it the perfect destination if you’re looking to go leaf-peeping later in October or November.
The park features some great opportunities for robust hiking experiences, such as the 7.2-mile-long Shawnee Forest Day Hike Trail. Other routes, such as the 1.5-mile long Lookout Trail, are shorter but more rigorous – but adventurous visitors who embark on this hike will be rewarded with spectacular fall views.
John Bryan State Park
John Bryan State Park is a fantastic natural area not too far outside of Dayton, and it’s perfect for an Ohio autumn adventure. Along with the gorgeous fall foliage, the biggest scenic attraction here is the large limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami River. Visitors can enjoy the park’s fall colors while hiking on ten different trails, paddling on the river, or rock climbing.
For guests planning to visit for a few days, there’s the option of camping at the sizable campground managed by the park. You might also consider staying at a cute bed & breakfast in nearby Yellow Springs, a little town known for its eccentric charm and thriving arts scene.
Mill Creek Park
Farther north in the state, Mill Creek Park is a wonderful autumn destination located just outside of Youngstown. Dotted with historic structures, this large forested area surrounding the namesake creek provides a charmingly rustic setting for a perfect Ohio fall outing!
Visitors here can bring a picnic, enjoy a round of golf, or go for a stroll on the park’s 45 miles of trails. As you explore and admire the colorful foliage, you’ll want to check out Lanterman’s Mill, a restored building from the 1840s that still produces freshly ground grains. Children might also enjoy visiting the Ford Nature Center, which features interactive exhibits about the area’s history and wildlife.
Now, it’s important to remember that Ohio’s beautiful fall colors aren’t limited to rural areas – they can be enjoyed in the city, too! The Berea Falls area, located inside the larger Rocky River Reservation Metropark in Cleveland, is a prime example, boasting some truly spectacular autumn views in Ohio’s second-biggest city.
The Berea Falls Scenic Overlook–known as “The Rocks” because of its iconic boulders and sandstone formations–is particularly popular with visitors, especially as the leaves begin to change. The beautiful fall foliage, combined with the rushing waterfall and the historic railroad bridges rising in the background, make this area perfect for a fall photoshoot with family or friends.
Things to Do While Enjoying Fall Foliage in Ohio
In addition to its wonderful parks, Ohio is also home to plenty of fun destinations and seasonal activities that will be made all the more perfect by a backdrop of colorful leaves. Let’s take a look at some of the state’s best fall outings.
Visit Amish Country in Millersburg
For anyone looking to spend a slow, sweet day savoring the delights of autumn, Ohio’s Amish Country is the perfect escape. The town of Millersburg, located between Columbus and Cleveland in the heart of the local Amish community, is a great place to experience this laid-back atmosphere.
Millersberg has a charming downtown area which is perfect for a casual stroll. As you wander, you’ll see horse-drawn carriages and quaint buildings and barns amid the radiant fall foliage. For the ideal weekend getaway, make a plan to stay at a lovely local inn, then spend your time exploring the Holmes County Trail, sampling homemade fall foods, shopping for antiques, and visiting the local museums.
Attend the Ohio Renaissance Festival
Just south of Dayton, Waynesville is home to the state’s annual Renaissance Festival, which runs on weekends through September and October. While this type of event may evoke images of cheap costumes and giant turkey legs at first, stay with us here – there’s a reason why this festival is one of Ohio’s most popular outdoor fall activities!
With plenty of chances to enjoy lively entertainment, shop the wares of talented artisans, and eat great food, all amid a beautiful forested setting, the festival is ideal for outings with family and friends alike. You just might find that rambling through the vast wooden grounds, sipping mead, and listening to live music makes for the perfect autumn afternoon.
Admire Art at the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
If you’re looking to get a dose of culture and creativity alongside your Ohio fall foliage outing, check out Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum – a beautiful park that doubles as an outdoor art gallery! Located in the town of Hamilton just a half hour north of Cincinnati, this sculpture park makes for an amazing autumn destination.
Featuring the Ancient Sculpture Museum and over 70 outdoor art pieces, the rolling landscape looks all the more gorgeous with the fall colors. As you traverse the park’s pathways either on foot or in a golf cart, you can admire the foliage alongside the fascinating sculpture installations.
Discover the Covered Bridges of Ashtabula County
Picture this: a quaint covered bridge surrounded by brilliantly colored foliage in a densely wooded area – can you imagine a more picturesque fall photo op? For all of your autumnal Instagram needs, Ashtabula County has you covered. This area on the coast of Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio boasts 19 different covered bridges, one more beautiful than the next.
For a fun Ohio fall outing, you can easily make a day of driving the route of the Ashtabula Covered Bridge Trail and finding each one amidst the natural beauty of the season. If you used to love scavenger hunts as a kid, you’re in luck; the county has even developed a mobile passport you can use to keep track of each bridge you visit.
During the second weekend in October, there’s also a family-friendly Covered Bridge Festival hosted at the local fairground that celebrates the area’s rich cultural heritage. Aside from delicious food and plenty of interactive games for the little ones, the festival also gives visitors the chance to learn more about the bridges’ history and architecture.
Plan Your Next Ohio Fall Foliage Outing
The Buckeye State is full of opportunities to soak in the delights of autumn. From exploring the natural wilderness in the beautiful state parks to partaking in annual celebrations and festivals, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Your next adventure awaits – start planning your Ohio fall foliage outing today!
For more autumnal adventures in different states, check out some of our other fall foliage guides.
- About the Author
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Based in Cincinnati, Lauren loves spending time outdoors and witnessing the beauty of Ohio’s changing seasons. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, watercolor painting, and botanical drawing. Lauren believes that everyone has the ability to create a beautiful outdoor space and is passionate about helping readers cultivate their own little slice of paradise.
With a bachelor’s in Classics and a master’s in Library & Information Science, she finds her work deeply fulfilling and enjoys having the opportunity to learn something new every day.