Salt Fork State Park is Ohio’s largest state park, which makes it a great place for destination camping or for a base camp to tour east-central Ohio. Our visit brought back a flood of memories since Salt Fork is one of the primary places my family camped when I was a kid. Back in the mid-1980s this was a relatively new park, located outside of Cambridge, and at that time the park did not take reservations. So on Friday evenings my family would jump in the truck (with the slide-in truck camper) and tow the boat to Salt Fork where we would wait hours in a long line of other campers and boats hoping to get a campsite. Some weekends we would get a site, but other times the campground was maxed out and we would have to turn around and drive home late that night. Fortunately, the park now accepts reservations, but on busy weekends this 192-site campground still fills up.
Since Salt Fork is such a large campground, there are campsites to meet every camper’s needs. Thus it was difficult to identify sites that we would classify as “best” sites, but we can make a few recommendations:
- The A loop looked nice for tents with A12 near a bathroom and A7 in full sun but fairly private.
- Loop C has a few handicap-accessible sites but otherwise the sites tended to be small and cramped.
- Loop E is a nice loop and if you want a playground backing up to your site select the inside of this loop. Site E11 is full sun but had a nice view looking over a gully meadow.
- Most of the full hookup sites are located in the G loop. The sites are all about the same, with G22 or G23 being our first choices. Avoid G20 if you don’t want constant foot traffic since there is a water fill station in the middle of the campsite.
- If we return to Salt Fork and we want a full hookup site, we would select F22 or F23 as they were shaded sites and in a quieter loop of the campground.
The shower houses and bathrooms were dated but clean. Some improvements have been made to the women’s showers so that they have private changing areas, but the men’s shower house I visited did not have private changing areas. The shower houses were clean and well maintained. When selecting a site from the campground maps, make sure to note the difference between bathrooms and shower houses. Bathrooms had flush toilets and sinks while the shower houses had showers, toilets, sinks, and laundry facilities.
Other things to note about Salt Fork State Park campground:
- The campground road has only one lane in and one lane out. Although we did not witness this, our family members who stayed over Memorial Day weekend said there was a ½ mile backup at the end of the weekend due to campers waiting to use the dump station located along this road. The dump area has four lanes: two are on the right and easy to pull through, but the two on the left require a tight U-turn to get back to the exit road.
- The playgrounds in most of the campground are also very dated and have rubber chips under them that were rather coarse and rough. The park has added a newer playground, but it’s located near the check-in station, which is about a mile from most loops so it doesn’t appear to be heavily used due to its location.
Salt Fork is a huge park! It takes almost 10-15 minutes of driving to get from the entrance gate to the campground. There are lots of great roads to ride bikes; miles and miles of hiking trails; and a large, unlimited horsepower lake with ski areas, swim areas, and slow areas. The lake can be conveniently accessed from a campers’ only launch ramp and docks, making this a popular campground for those who have boats in addition to camping equipment. Near the campers’ launch there is also a beach for campground patrons only.
The park also includes a golf course, cabins, and lodge. During our stay at the campground, we had family staying on the ground floor of the lodge. Our impression of the facility is that it is in need of major renovations.
We did do some touring in this part of Ohio and recommend the following adventures:
- The Wilds is a wildlife preserve in Cumberland about 50 minutes from Salt Fork. We have visited many zoos but this was a unique experience getting to see the animals up close on the bus tour. The Wilds offers several types of tours and if you are taking the regular driving tour spend a bit more money for the open air bus because it is much easier to see the animals. When the kiddos are a bit older we would like to return and do the zip line adventure and the up-close safari experience.
- The Warther Museum and factory tour is a hidden gem in Dover, located about 40 minutes from Salt Fork. Ernest Warther made a living making some of the finest cutlery knives anywhere (which you can still buy today, handcrafted by his descendants), but it’s his carvings–including an intricate train collection–that is truly remarkable. If you are a model railroader, have kids who like trains, or just enjoy seeing something unique, this is an absolute must see!
Date of stay: May 2014