Thursday, April 23, 2009

East Fork State Park

One of the best last minute getaways from downtown Cincinnati is East Fork State Park. With more than 46 miles of Backpacking and hiking trails on easy to moderate terrain, there is a little something for everyone.

For backpackers, the 20 mile out-and-back backpack trail provides a horsemen free area that never traverses very far from the lake. On this well marked and maintained trail, you'll likely spot quite a few turtles and deer stumbling across the path. Four primitive campsites exist within the park, with a few good illegal sites scattered between. Each campsite features a privy and 3-walled shelters. Water sources may or may not be nearby, so plan accordingly. A free permit is required and can be found in the park office. The park office also sells trail maps for 2$ that is well worth the cost since the free ones are not very helpful.

The one downside to this trail is that it can be quite busy in the warmer months due to its close location to the city. I would recommend trying to camp on weeknights to avoid crowds. Our last trip to the park was on a Friday night, and we had the unfortunate experience of camping with rowdy teenagers who were eventually escorted out of the park. Bring a cell phone (reception is usually good) and call park authorities if you have trouble.

For hiking, the Steven Newman Worldwalker Perimeter Trail circles the lake and perimeter of the park. With a length of 32 miles, it provides plenty of area for exploration. This trail is shared by horses as well as hikers, so be prepared to yield if any approach.

A good pair of hiking boots would serve well at East Fork, especially in the spring when mud is an issue. The summer is often drier, but since trails often parallel not far from the lake, small plants and brush collect moisture that rubs off onto your feet. If backpacking or hiking for an extended period of time, filter all water accordingly. Also be sure to practice Leave No Trace when using the campsites to ensure that it stays clean, sanitary and safe for future hikers.

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