5 Spots to Visit on an Ohio Valley RV Road Trip

Jun 23, 2021 | Travel & Destinations

5 Spots to Visit on an Ohio Valley RV Road Trip

These destinations are ideal for RVers looking to travel in Indiana, Kentucky, or Ohio.

By Robert Annis

Photo: Robert Annis

When Middle Americans plan our dream RV trips, we might imagine heading to the majestic mountains or deserts out west. But there are plenty of scenic places in our own backyard—particularly Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio—perfect for touring and relaxing. 

Most of these locations are within a 90-minute drive of at least one major city, meaning less driving and more fun.


Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest 

Photo: Robert Annis

90 minutes away from Lexington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Red River Gorge may be the Midwest’s premier rock-climbing destination, but there’s still a ton of exciting outdoor activities for those who wish to remain closer to terra firma. While the Gorge is perhaps the most well-known section within Daniel Boone National Forest, the entire area is massive. If you can, devote a few days to see the rest of the park.

Highlights

Natural Bridge’s expansive 78-foot sandstone arch brings in plenty of visitors each day, so you’re never alone on the hiking trails. Skip the original trail, at least on the way up, for the more scenic Balanced Rock or Battleship Rock trails, both of which are slightly longer and more difficult. Depending on the trail, you’re likely going to be hiking between 2 and 3 miles, round-trip. 

Hike about 1 mile from the Auxier Ridge trailhead for perhaps the most spectacular views of the gorge. If you have several hours, continue on the trail to see Courthouse Rock, then connect to the trail leading to Double Arch. The entire hike’s a little over 7 miles and includes several stream crossings and elevation changes, but it’s well worth every step. 

If you don’t have the time for a long hike, the trail to Creation Falls and Rock Bridge further east in the park is fairly easy and only about 1.5 miles.

Further south in the Daniel Boone National Forest around London, Kentucky, you’ll find miles upon miles of multi-purpose trails beloved by mountain bikers. 

Getting There By RV

Take I-64 for the bulk of the trip, before exiting onto Kentucky Route 15. Interstate 75 also passes nearby. If you like bourbon, there are plenty of distilleries right off the highway where you can do a tasting (co-pilots only) and pick up a bottle for around the campfire. Drivers of large RVs should beware of several one-lane bridges and tunnels along Red River Gorge’s scenic drives.

Where To Stay

Natural Bridge State Resort Park has two campgrounds—Middle Fork and Whittleton—where RVers can stay, and both fill up fairly quickly. If camping at Middle Fork, try to book one of the serene spots along the stream, as the spots in the main loop can be a bit tight and noisy with neighbors. 

Koomer Ridge is a first-come, first-served, mostly primitive campground run by the U.S. Forest Service. It’s one of the nicer Forest Service campgrounds I’ve visited, but there are limited electric spots. Some hiking trails also start in the campground. 

If you don’t need amenities, Miguel’s Pizza allows tent and RV campers to stay at its property for just $2 a night. (Showers can be had for an additional fee.) Best of all, you’re a short walk from the world-famous pies—the bacon and banana pepper pizza is especially tasty. 

Dispersed camping is allowed in most areas of the park, but requires an inexpensive permit you can get at several local stores.

Other Options


Brown County State Park

Person mountain biking on expansive trails
Photo: Robert Annis

Less than 90 minutes away from Indianapolis, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky.

As a local, I’ve camped here more than any other spot. But there are plenty of other reasons besides proximity why it’s worth a visit. For starters, the biking is incredible; I’ve ridden bikes all over the world, and the trails at Brown County, an International Mountain Bicycling Association Ride Center, are some of my absolute favorites. The hiking trails are perfect for easy jaunts in the woods, and ideal for hikers of all skill levels. The park is also a quick drive to Bloomington, home of Indiana University. If you’re looking for more outdoorsy activities, Hoosier National Forest and Morgan Monroe State Forest are fairly close as well.

Highlights

The absolute best time to visit Brown County State Park is in the fall, when the walnut, ash, and sycamore trees explode with color. It’s also when visitation is at its highest. (If you’re planning to visit in October, make your camping reservations in the spring or early summer.) Luckily, most visitors don’t venture more than a few feet from their cars at the scenic vistas, so the hiking trails should be fairly clear. Be sure to climb the 90-foot fire tower for the best view of the woods.

Mountain bikers can either take Limekiln Trail to access the park’s 30-plus miles of singletrack or Ten O’Clock Line to head into Yellowwood State Forest and its more rugged backcountry trails. One word of warning: The trails leading from Limekiln are almost all downhill, meaning you’ll have to climb back up at the end of your ride. Park at the trailhead at the bottom and climb up, so you have the downhill as a reward.

Paddlers and anglers have two options inside the park, Ogle Lake and the smaller Strahl Lake. Both are calm and serene, perfect for a leisurely float with the family. 

Getting There By RV

Most roadtrippers will exit Interstate 65, then head west on Indiana State Road 46. Large RVs and fifth wheels must use Brown County State Park’s west entrance, as the road to the main entrance passes over a historic covered bridge with a 9-foot height clearance and 3-ton weight limit. 

Related The Best Apps for Planning a Safe and Fun RV Route

Where To Stay

The campground inside the park offers more than 350 sites with electric hookups. The closer you are to the campground entrance, the closer you’ll be with your neighbors. The campsites in the outer loops are buffered by trees.

If you love bluegrass music, Bill Monroe’s Music Park and Campground should be at the top of your list. According to local legend, a young Jerry Garcia came to the park to play for a less-than-impressed Bill Monroe, who is considered the father of the genre. Supposedly Garcia stayed at the park for weeks practicing almost nonstop before playing for Monroe again. Who knows if the story is true, but the RV park typically hosts several smaller music festivals each year, including the internationally known Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival. 

Other Places to Stay

Want more state park camping tips? Check out The RVer’s Guide to State Park Campgrounds for more information on booking campsites in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Available to download here.


Turkey Run and Shades State Parks

People tubing on river under a red covered bridge
Photo: Robert Annis

Less than 90 minutes away from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Separated by about 12 miles, Turkey Run and Shades state parks arguably feature the best hiking in Indiana, taking visitors through hemlock forests and mossy sandstone cliffs, pitted remnants of the last ice age. Fishing is popular here, too. The region is known for its covered bridges, holding an annual festival each autumn. 

Highlights

Shades’ signature Six Ravine Challenge traverses more than 4.5 miles, 550 man-made steps, and three ladders through Shawnee Canyon, Kickapoo Ravine, Frisz Ravine, Kintz Ravine, Devil’s Punchbowl, and Red Fox Ravine. Some of the trail is actually creek bed, so your hike can get a bit soggy after a rainy day.

If you have a full day to explore, you can paddle Sugar Creek from Shades to Turkey Run, passing under several covered bridges and even Turkey Run’s suspension bridge. (Several local outfitters offer rentals and shuttle service.) If you want to throw a line into the water, you might land a bass, bluegill, or the occasional carp.

All but one of Turkey Run’s trails are rated as rugged or moderate, but don’t let that intimidate you; experienced hikers shouldn’t have any issues navigating its 14 miles of trails. Each trail is actually fairly short, with the longest measuring only 3 miles. Trail 9 takes hikers through a couple of small canyons and a waterfall. 

Getting There By RV

Access Turkey Run State Park via U.S. 41 from the north and south and Indiana State Road 47 from east and west. Indiana State Road 234 is the primary way to enter Shades.

Where to Stay

Although the two parks are relatively similar, Turkey Run tends to be a bit more popular. The more than 200 campsites with electric hookups go fast, particularly in the fall. Sites are close together, but each comes with a fire ring and picnic table. Bathroom facilities are decent and have hot showers. Camping at Shades, on the other hand, is entirely primitive with no hookups. (Facilities are decent as well.)

If you miss out on reservations or prefer more water-based recreation, Raccoon State Recreation Area is fairly close, sitting on Harden Lake. Many campsites even have a lake view. Primitive camping at all three locations start as low as $12 a night, with electric spots a little over double that price.

Other Places to Stay


Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Waterfall at national park in Ohio
Photo: Robert Annis

Less than 30 minutes from Cleveland and Akron, Ohio.

While it’s located in an unexpected place for a national park, Cuyahoga Valley is a welcome oasis of nature in an area known for heavy industry. It may not have the instant recognizability or iconic features of Yosemite or Yellowstone, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find plenty of beauty and serenity in its 33,000 acres.

Highlights

There are supposedly more than 100 waterfalls scattered among the 125 miles of trails throughout the park. You can access the 65-foot Brandywine Falls via a short boardwalk, then continue onto a 1.5-mile hike to see a little more of the surrounding area. 

For one afternoon, ditch your rig for a train. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers 3-hour sightseeing jaunts, as well as an evening craft beer “Ales on Rails,” Murder Mystery dinner theater, and several other themed trips. On the sightseeing trips, you can hop on and off at any of the stations, allowing you to see even more of the park.

Cyclists love Cuyahoga Valley, and for good reason. The Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail traverses 20 miles of the park, along the remnants of an old canal. Riders will pass through several forests and wetlands, with ample opportunities for viewing deer, beavers, and other wildlife. Many riders enjoy riding the trail one way, then taking the train back to their RV. Mountain bikers have 7 miles of fun, fast East Rim singletrack to shred, with about 15 more miles elsewhere in or just outside the park.

Getting There By RV

Cuyahoga Valley may be one of the easiest national parks to get to, as it’s literally surrounded by interstate highways: I-80 and I-271 bisect the park.

Where to Stay

There’s no camping inside the park, but RVers have an abundance of options within a 30-minute drive.

West Branch State Park offers a plethora of outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, horseback riding, and disc golf. Most campsites have plenty of shade and are comfortably situated apart. Many sites sit on the Mahoning River, with a few allowing boat access. There are also showers, flush toilets, and laundry facilities.

If you’re just looking for a campground as a launching pad into the park, the Stow Silver Springs Campground may be a great bet. If you’re traveling with Fido, there’s a nice dog park nearby. 

Other Places to Stay


Hocking Hills State Park

Person taking a photo of waterfall
Photo: Robert Annis

Less than 60 minutes from Columbus, Ohio.

The Hocking Hills is often billed as “Ohio’s Crown Jewel,” and given its abundance of gorgeous scenery and outdoor opportunities, it’s an accurate description. It’s also located along one of the U.S.’s newly designated scenic byways

Highlights

Old Man’s Cave is the most popular hike, cramming waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and the eponymous cave into about 1 mile (or 1.5 if you take the extended trail). It’s ideal for families with young children. Cantwell Cliffs is another short but scenic trail, although it may be a bit more difficult.

The Hocking Hills isn’t an official dark sky park, but on a clear night, you can see thousands of stars. To get an even better look, head up to John Glenn Astronomy Park where you can take a peek through a high-powered telescope or listen to a volunteer astronomer give a presentation.  

Hocking Hills State Forest has nearly 60 miles of additional hiking trails, including some that connect to the state park. Be sure to check out the view from the fire tower.

Getting There By RV

Both U.S. 33 and Ohio State Route 56 get you into the area without difficulty. 

Where to Stay

The absolute best place for RVers to stay is in the Hocking Hills State Park campground. Most sites offer electric, with a few full hookup spots available as well. Some of the park’s hiking trails begin in the campground, so you can leave your rig (and tow vehicle) at the campsite. 

After a long day in the woods, Lakeview RV Park offers campers a relaxing place where they can wind down in the water. Certified divers can even scuba dive in the lake, exploring, among other items, a drowned twin-engine plane and a Frito Lay delivery truck.

Plenty of free dispersed camping can be found just east of Hocking Hills in Wayne National Forest.

Other Places to Stay


Plan Your Own RV Road Trip to the Ohio Valley

InspirationNational ForestNational ParksRoad TripsRV TravelState Park

Robert Annis

After spending nearly a decade as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, Robert Annis became an award-winning outdoor-travel journalist. Over the years, Robert's byline has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, Men's Journal, Lonely Planet, and more. If you’re looking for Robert, chances are you'll find him either pedaling the backroads and trails of the Midwest on his bicycle or hunched over his laptop in an airport bar, frantically trying to make his next deadline.

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