National Parks in Ohio: 12 Sites You Need To Visit

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Are you looking for the perfect getaway destination? The national parks in Ohio offer some of the most beautiful natural and historic areas in the region.

With their stunning views, plentiful wildlife, and wide range of recreational activities, there is something to get everyone in the family excited for your next vacation.

From serene rivers and lakes to cliffs and hidden waterfalls, Ohio’s twelve National Parks sites contain a variety of landscapes that are well-suited for outdoor recreation. Wildlife lovers can enjoy a plethora of animals such as bald eagles, beavers, white-tailed deer, and other species found throughout the state’s parks.

Whether you want to hike or camp, canoe or kayak, boat, or fish, these national parks in Ohio have what it takes to make your trip unforgettable. Inside this guide, we provide an overview for you to decide which are the best parks in Ohio for you to explore on your next vacation.

Let’s take a look at the 12 sites you need to visit!

Ohio National Parks Site Map

National Parks in Ohio

Just like the Michigan national park sites, there is only one official national park in Ohio. While it is a more urban national park than many of the others in the system, it is worth a visit to explore between Cleveland and Akron.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio’s only national park, covering an area of 33,000 acres of beautiful landscapes. The park is full of both natural elements and man-made treasures.

The Cuyahoga River cuts through the heart of the national park and a lot of effort has been made to revitalize the waterway in recent years. Keep an eye out for waterfalls in Cuyahoga, as well. There are a few hidden gems that make this Ohio national park worth visiting!


October 11, 2000 (Upgraded from a national recreation area)

Closest Cities

Cleveland, Akron

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park is any time of year! This beautiful park is located in Northeastern Ohio and has lush forests, winding rivers, and endless recreational opportunities.

No matter what season you visit, there is something fun to do. Spring brings blooming wildflowers and flowering trees. Summer offers hiking, kayaking, biking, birding, and more. Fall brings an enchanting display of colorful leaves with the promise of cooler temperatures. Winter provides a quiet escape, but there are plenty of opportunities for winter recreation in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

No matter which season you choose to visit, you will surely be rewarded with an unforgettable experience.

Things to Do

Within the national park, visitors can find a number of fascinating attractions to explore. The Towpath Trail offers a glimpse into history as it meanders along the old Ohio & Erie Canal. Imagine goods being transported down the waterway as you ride your bike or walk along the path.

In addition to walking, biking and horseback riding are allowed too! Hikers will also find plenty to do – from rugged terrain to gentle nature trails.

No visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park would be complete without exploring its abundance of outdoor activities. Visitors can go canoeing or kayaking along the river, go skiing on its glittering slopes on winter days, or enjoy a scenic train ride.

Don’t miss popular spots like Virginia-Kendall Ledges and Brandywine Falls, either. These spots are among the busiest within the park, but they’re popular for a reason!

Where to Stay

The Staybridge Suites in Stowe is less than 10 minutes from the park! The rooms are spacious, so you’ll have plenty of areas to spread out.

Fees & Passes

Visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park is free! There aren’t any entrance fees.

If you want to take a ride on the scenic railroad or explore the historic villages, entrance tickets are required for those activities. 

Brandywine Falls is the largest and most popular Cuyahoga Valley National Park waterfall
Brandywine Falls is one of the most popular sites to visit in CVNP.

Ohio National Monuments

Ohio is home to one national monument. You’ll find it about 30 minutes outside of Dayton. 

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio is an amazing site to visit.

It preserves the home and farmstead of Charles Young, the third African American graduate from West Point and the highest-ranking black officer in the United States Army at the turn of the century.

The monument was created to commemorate Colonel Young’s love for his country, exemplary military service, diplomacy, and selfless contributions to national parks throughout his life.


March 25, 2013

Closest City


Best Time to Visit

There has been a 15-month renovation project going on at the homestead, so tours have been extremely limited to nonexistent for quite some time.

There is a temporary visitor center set up less than a mile from the house. Find it at the Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom Memorial Library.

Things to Do

At Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument you can experience a cell phone-guided driving tour that takes you through Wilberforce to various points on Colonel Young’s journey.

You can learn about his experiences as a cadet at West Point and as leader of the Buffalo Soldiers regiments sent to protect developing regions in our nation’s frontier. 

Eventually, when the historic home reopens, you will also be able to explore the restored interior.

Where to Stay

We’d recommend staying closer to Dayton and combining a visit to this national monument with a visit to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.

Check out the Springhill Suites in the Beavercreek area of Dayton. It’s clean, comfortable, and conveniently located off of the interstate.

Fees & Passes

Visiting this site is currently free! No fees or passes are required for the visitor center or interpretive exhibits.

National Historic Parks & Sites

The state of Ohio is full of history! Each one of these preserved historic sites has something special, providing a little glimpse into the past which we can learn from.

We’ve included 5 great historic sites here. They’re spread out all over the state. Include them all on an epic Ohio road trip!

Hopewell Culture National Historic Park

The Hopewell Culture National Historic Site is a must-visit for anyone visiting Ohio’s National Parks.

Located in Chillicothe, this historic site contains sacred ancient burial grounds, ceremonial mounds, and earthworks that have been preserved by the National Park Service since 1923.


March 2, 1923

Closest City


Best Time to Visit

Summertime is the best time to visit the Hopewell Culture NHS. You’ll be able to enjoy the outdoor spaces and sacred grounds, appreciating the beauty even more. 

Things to Do

At the Hopewell Culture National Historic Site, visitors have an opportunity to explore and appreciate the beauty of hundreds of years of history.

This Native American culture featured earthen mounds painted with bright colors in geometric shapes representing artwork from their time.

Today, the site remains largely full of unspoiled natural treasures with bits of history scattered throughout its woodlands and river valley.

Guests may take part in outdoor recreation activities such as bird watching and exploring the walking trails onsite.

Where to Stay

Chillicothe is an adorable small town with lots of restaurants and things to do. 

The Fairfield Inn & Suites is a great place to stay near town.

Fees & Passes

There is no entrance fee for any of the park areas. Explore the grounds and enter the visitor center areas for free.

A replica of the Wright Brothers’ first planes, which you can see around the Dayton Aviation Heritage NHP.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park honors some of the most important pioneers of early aviation, the Wright Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Located in Dayton, Ohio, this site celebrates early contributions to aviation technology.

The Park consists of six separate units: Huffman Prairie Flying Field, the Wright Cycle Company Complex, John W. Berry Sr. Wright Brothers Aviation Center, Hawthorn Hill mansion, Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park, and the Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historical Site.


October 16, 1992

Closest City


Best Time to Visit

Many of these sites can be visited at any time of the year. There are plenty of indoor exhibits.

Things to Do

Visitors can explore both indoors and out at Huffman Prairie Flying Field where Orville and Wilbur tested their early aircraft designs. This prairie is located on a current Airforce Base.

Other sites in the park include a replica airport hangar, restored artifacts and replicas, and historical locations like the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar House remembers the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who purchased this house in 1904. Though he was only able to live here for 2 years before passing on from tuberculosis, this house he purchased, which was also home to his mother, is now a great history exhibit.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is dedicated to not only preserving history but allowing visitors to explore informative exhibits that detail the legacy of very remarkable individuals who were able to achieve what was thought impossible at one point in time!

Where to Stay 

Combine this Dayton park with a visit to the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, just east of Dayton.

We recommend the Springhill Suites in the Beavercreek area. It’s clean, comfortable, and conveniently located off of the interstate.

Fees & Passes

Five of the six spots making up the Dayton Aviation Heritage NHP are free to visit. One, however, does require an entrance fee.

The Dayton History at Carillon Park site is free for members, but other visitors must pay for a ticket. Most recent ticket prices at the time of posting were $12.00 for adults, $10.00 for seniors aged 60 and up, and $8.00 for children between the ages of 3-17.

First Ladies National Historic Site

The First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio is a must-visit for anyone who loves American history. This is the only historic home to honor all the first ladies of the United States!

The site contains a restored home, gardens, and exhibits that take visitors through the lives of former first ladies.

When you visit, you’ll get an authentic look at life for these iconic women, as well as explore fascinating artifacts that tell their stories. From furniture and costumes to personal belongings like letters and books, this site displays a great variety.

Plus, interactive experiences throughout the site will make sure you get an immersive view into their lives!


October 20, 2000

Closest City


Best Time to Visit

Because the major attractions in this historic site are mostly indoors, the First Ladies National Historic Site would be a great spot to explore any time of year.

Things to Do

You’ll be able to explore 2 locations: the Education Center and the Saxton House. The Saxton House was the family home of a first lady, herself, Ida Saxton McKinley.

She was the wife of the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley. Even though this house was her family home, she and her husband, President McKinley, also used this house as their primary residence for the majority of their marriage.

This beautifully restored home provides visitors with a unique look into late 19th-century life for American women.

There are also special exhibits such as gowns, decorative items, and autograph albums belonging to past First Ladies available for viewing too!

Short educational films, lectures, and educational events are held onsite throughout the year.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of things to do in Canton, so you’ll want to stay in the center of it all.

Stay at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Canton. It’s within walking distance of the FLNHS and is also conveniently located near many other Canton attractions.

Fees & Passes

Tours starting at the Education Center and going through the Saxton House do require a ticket, which can be secured on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Fees for the tour are as follows:

Adults: $7
Seniors: $6
Children under age 18: $5
America the Beautiful Passholders: $4

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

James A. Garfield National Historic Site is located in Mentor, in the northeast corner of Ohio. This former home of the 20th President of the United States showcases what life was like for President Garfield in the late 19th century.

The site is open year-round and includes seven acres of land, including the Garfield home.


December 28, 1980

Closest City


Best Time to Visit

This historic site is open year-round, but hours are different in the summer season versus the winter season. 

Plan your visit ahead of time to ensure open hours, but you can most likely visit any time of the year on the weekends.

Things to Do

You’ll likely begin exploring at the visitor center, where you can watch a short film about the life of the 20th president of the United States.

There is also a small museum to explore at this site.

Then, you can either take a ranger-guided or self-guided audio tour, using your phone, throughout various outdoor exhibits, as well as through interior rooms in the house that are jam-packed with original artifacts from President Garfield’s life.

You’ll see pictures, clothing garments, toys, books, and even furniture that belonged to him while he was living there.

Where to Stay

While your visiting northeast Ohio, you might want to add in some time immersing yourself in the area’s wine country. Reach the Grand River Valley in 30 minutes or less from this national historic site, or stay somewhere in between for a weekend away.

Check out the Lakehouse Inn in Geneva. The views of Lake Erie from the outdoor patio are beautiful!

Fees & Passes

This is a fee-free site! The entrance is free for all visitors.

William Howard Taft National Historic Site

The William Howard Taft National Historic Site honors the birthplace and boyhood home of the 27th President of the United States.


December 2, 1969

Closest City


Best Time to Visit

Any time of the year is a great time to visit, as most of the experiences in this historic site are indoors.

Things to Do

Did you know that William Howard Taft was the only person to serve as both a US president and a chief justice of the United States? He was the 27th president and the 10th chief justice!

At this national historic site, you can learn all about his life and accomplishments.

In addition to touring the beautiful original architecture of Taft’s home, visitors can explore interactive exhibits that highlight things like his presidential years and judicial career.

The William Howard Taft National Historic Site also offers educational activities for kids and lots of events throughout the year.

Where to Stay

Stay at the Lyte Park Hotel, located in downtown Cincinnati. It’s within walking distance of the Taft Art Museum and within 2 miles of the national historic site.

Fees & Passes

There is no entrance fee or pass requirement for visiting the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

National Memorials

National Memorials are remembered and honored locations that offer unique historical, cultural, architectural, and scenic significance.

With a variety of attractions to explore, including monuments, plaques, and statues; these important points of interest are a great way to study history.

Ohio is home to one memorial site.

the Perry’s Victory & International Peace Monument

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial is located on the shores of Lake Erie in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

The park serves to commemorate the Battle of Lake Erie between the United States and Great Britain in 1813.

The monument itself is an impressive granite structure, rising 352 feet above Lake Erie, making it one of the tallest historical monuments in the United States.

Aside from its memorial significance, visitors are also treated to breathtaking views of the lake, islands, wetlands, and limestone cliffs surrounding it – perfect for nature lovers!


June 2, 1936

Closest Cities

Put-in-Bay, Sandusky, Toledo

Best Time to Visit

Summer is the best time to visit here. The facilities are seasonal because they’re on an island in Lake Erie!

The park is typically open from May to October, and you’ll have to take a ferry across the bay to reach the monument.

You won’t be able to access them during the winter months.

Things to Do

Visitors can explore an educational center to learn more about the War of 1812. You can also enjoy beautiful views out over Lake Erie from the Observation Deck. 

There’s plenty to explore here; visitors can take part in seasonal programs such as guided walks or Historic Weapon displays, or just relax and enjoy the beauty of this historic site.

Ranger-led talks are hosted throughout the week on various topics including history, the construction of the monument, and the natural landscape.

Where to Stay

You might as well enjoy the rest of South Bass Island in Put-in-Bay while you’re out there!
Stay at the Anchor Inn, a small boutique hotel on the island.

The hotel has bicycles available for you to use to get around the island, so you can see everything that the island has to offer a little more easily.

Fees & Passes

The Observation Deck of the memorial does require a ticket to visit. Adult tickets cost $10, but children under 16 years old are free. 

Get your tickets at the onsite visitor center. On busy days, tickets can sell out by mid-afternoon.

Ohio’s National Heritage Areas

There are 2 great national heritage areas in Ohio, and while they include some of the already mentioned national parklands, we thought they were worth including as larger heritage areas, too. These two are among 61 national heritage areas across the US.

Biking the Towpath Trail is one of the many great things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Bike the Towpath along the Ohio & Erie Canal through this Heritage region.

Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway

The Ohio & Erie Heritage Canalway spans from the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland and heads south. The first 110 miles of the towpath and canal are protected by this land.



Closest Cities

Cleveland, Akron, Canton

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway is during the summer months when temperatures are warm and the days are pleasant.

There are so many things to do, from riding bikes on the towpath trail to exploring the historical significance of the area, that you’ll want to be able to enjoy them all.

Summertime also brings some exciting events to this national park site. Plus, during the summer months, visitors can take a leisurely boat ride along the Tuscarawas River which offers beautiful views of nature and scenic waterfalls.

While you can still enjoy some of the activities during the winter months, you might need to bring your cross-country skis. Enjoy the small towns along the way or take in the scenic landscapes.

Things to Do

The Ohio & Erie Canalway is a great place to explore if you’re looking for outdoor activities. Whether you want to hike, bike, or simply observe wildlife, you can do that!

This scenic site offers stunning views of the Ohio & Erie Canal corridor and plenty of opportunities to explore the area’s rich history. There are countless things to do around the canal way, ranging from historic tours to water activities.

You can explore by foot or bike along sections of the towpath trail or take a boat ride on a vintage replica boat! The canal area also provides plenty of recreational activities like fishing, kayaking, and canoeing on the Cuyahoga River.

What’s more, visiting the surrounding towns will teach you more about life during 19th-century America and its impact on current-day Ohio. The Ohio & Erie Canal is credited with helping to progress America!

Where to Stay

This is a large area to explore, so you probably want to stay somewhere in the middle of it all. This Springhill Suites in Canton fits this bill. 

The suite-style rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the hotel is conveniently located with easy access to the highway.

Fees & Passes

There aren’t any general fees to enter this heritage area, but there are some specific historic sites and museums that do have fees. 

Check with each specific site to be prepared regarding entrance fees.

National Aviation Heritage Area

The National Aviation Heritage Area is one of Ohio’s most exciting historical destinations.

The NHHA celebrates and showcases America’s rich aviation heritage with interactive museums, historical landmarks, hands-on activities, live performances, special events, and educational opportunities.

Whether you’re an avid aviator, just interested in the history of flight, or simply looking for something new and exciting to do outdoors – this national park site has you covered!



Closest City


Best Time to Visit

While this site does overlap and include the Dayton Aviation National Historic Park, there is even more to see. There are plenty of things to do in all seasons, even winter.

For the best visits, though, you’ll want to visit in the summer when you can get the full aviation experience!

If you can visit during an Airshow, you’re sure to be impressed.

Things to Do

Visitors to the National Aviation Heritage Area can explore a collection of unique attractions that celebrate the history of flight.

These experiences include airport tours and air shows; aircraft displays; aviation-themed exhibits; seminars; museums dedicated to flight pioneers such as the Wright Brothers; and interactive experiences with aviation science and technologies allowing guests to experience what it’s like inside a cockpit or a pilot’s seat.

Check out a replica of the Wright “B” Flyer, the Wright Brothers’ first production airplane. Visit the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Pay your respects to some of the pioneers of flight, including the Wright Brothers, at their final resting places in the Woodland Cemetary & Arboretum.

Where to Stay

We recommend the Springhill Suites in the Beavercreek area. It’s clean, comfortable, and conveniently located off of the interstate.

Plus, it provides easy access to all of the national park sites located around the city of Dayton.

Fees & Passes

The National Aviation Heritage Area is free to explore, however, some of the attractions may have their own entrance fees or special event fees.

Check with each specific site to be prepared regarding entrance fees.

National Trails

There are both a hiking trail and a waterway trail with federally protected status traveling through Ohio’s borders.

The North Country National Scenic Trail is a 4,600-mile footpath that stretches from North Dakota to Vermont. It passes through eight states and has over 1,000 miles of trail in Ohio.

The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail follows the same path that these two explorers took on their expedition west from 1804-1806.

Explore beautiful sections of the North Country Trail throughout Ohio’s forests.

North Country National Scenic Trail

The North Country National Scenic Trail is one of the longest of America’s national scenic trails at 4,600 miles! It enters Ohio in the northwest corner from Michigan, travels all the way south nearly to the Kentucky border, then heads east to Pennsylvania.

Traveling through lots of great national scenery including Hocking Hills State Park and Shawnee State Forest, there is plenty to see along the way.


March 5, 1980

Closest Cities

Dayton, Cincinnati, small southern Ohio towns

Best Time to Visit

You’ll want to plan your hikes on this trail from late spring through the fall. The trail conditions are more pleasant.

Hiking the North Country Trail in the spring, summer, and fall is a great way to experience Ohio’s natural beauty. The trails are lush with foliage and wildlife, making for a peaceful and enjoyable journey.

Things to Do

The trail crosses through many fascinating landscapes as it traverses throughout Ohio, including state parks and forests.

The combination of rolling hills, peaceful streams, and hardwood trees creates a tranquil atmosphere that many travelers will find appealing.

The trail is great for hiking, backpacking, camping, and fishing while soaking up the incredible views and wildlife along the way.

The North Country Trail travels through some of Ohio’s most beautiful places, including sharing some trails weaving through the Hocking Hills region.

Whether you’re planning day hikes or a longer multi-day adventure, the North Country National Scenic Trail has plenty of great routes to explore.

Where to Stay

You’ll most likely be hiking or backpacking, so bring your tent and find a site!

If you’re planning more of a day hiking adventure, check out the Hocking Hills region! This portion of the trail travels through beautiful rock caves and formations, waterfalls, and deep forests.

Stay in a Hocking Hills dog-friendly cabin so you can bring your furry best friends along!

Fees & Passes

There isn’t any fee specifically to hike the trail. There may be fees for camping in certain locations, like inside state parks. 

Plan your campsites ahead of time, so you know which ones require fees, and take care of this in advance!

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is an outdoor adventure begging to be explored!

Initially spanning more than 3,700 miles from Wood River, Illinois to the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River, this designated part of the National Park Service now passes through 16 states and over a dozen Ohio counties.


November 10, 1978

Closest City

Now begins in Pittsburgh, and travels along the southern part of Ohio; 
Trail headquarters is located in Omaha, Nebraska.

Best Time to Visit

Summertime is the best time to visit this trail, as the weather is usually mild and the days are long.

Fall and spring can be beautiful, too, with changing leaves and flowing waterways.

Although winters do not receive as much snow as the northern half of the state, we’d still recommend a visit during the other three seasons!

Things to Do

Now that this section of trail is included, connecting Wood River, Illinois to Pittsburgh, it is about 4,900 miles long! That’s a lot of miles of trail to explore!

Along the trail, you can walk in the footsteps of expedition members such as Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea as they trekked through parts of Ohio on their epic journey.

Try your hand at foraging for plants, engage in historical activities, or even take part in ranger-led tours!

It’s an incredible way to experience history first-hand, plus you get the added bonus of enjoying scenic scenery along the way.

Where to Stay

Stay just over the border in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The Townplace Suites there is a great choice. 

You’ll be near the beginning of the Ohio portion of this historic trail and near the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

Fees & Passes

There is no fee to follow along this trail.

National Parks in Ohio: FAQs

How many national parks are in Ohio?

There is only one national park in Ohio, and that is Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are plenty of other heritage and historical sites throughout the state, too.

Are there any national parks in Ohio with waterfalls?

Yes! Cuyahoga Valley National Park has multiple waterfalls within the park’s area, and there are a few more nearby too. Check out these Cuyahoga Valley National Park waterfalls.

Is Hocking Hills a state or national park?

Hocking Hills is is an absolutely beautiful state park in southeast Ohio. Whether you plan a summer or winter visit to Hocking Hills, it’s a great spot to explore.

Ash Cave with a trickling, freezing waterfall
Explore the massive caves and waterfalls in Hocking Hills. You can explore during all seasons, even winter!

The National Park sites of Ohio are a diverse and incredible body of both natural beauty and history that should be explored.

Whether you are looking to spend a weekend away or just want to do something fun to do for the day, these 12 sites offer something for everyone.

From cycling trails and waterfalls to stunning forests and historic tours – there is something in these national parks in Ohio that will spark your interest and keep you entertained!

Are you interested in more national parks in the region? Check these out, too!