Quiet and remote, Burr Oak State Park is “chicken soup” for the body and soul
Peaceful nature retreats are a specialty of southeastern Ohio, but Burr Oak State Park
truly reigns as one of the region’s most restful and scenic getaways. Like a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter day, this remote resort lodge is just the cure for urban-weary Ohioans seeking a break from the daily grind.
Nestled amid the scenic, wooded hollows of Morgan County, Burr Oak is beautiful during each of Ohio’s four seasons. Yet to me, it truly becomes the perfect getaway during the colder months, when quiet is more than a word it is a reality.
Another thing about Burr Oak is that you don’t just happen upon this state park. Because it is located several twisting, turning miles south of Interstate 70, this park receives less visitation, creating a peaceful respite for its guests. Many people, including me, believe that getting there is part of the recuperative process the more the road winds toward this secluded getaway, the more the mind unwinds.
In fact, one of Ohio’s most scenic byways curves along the southern end of the park between Glouster and McConnellsville on State Route 78. Nicknamed the Rim-of-the-World, this drive provides stunning views of the area’s forested valley floor.
As a weekend destination, the 54-room lodge at Burr Oak is a great place to relax and kick back. After a day spent outdoors, you can warm yourself in front of the lodge’s wood burning fireplace, or sit down to a meal at the Cardinal Dining Room, which offers a picturesque view of the 664-acre Burr Oak Lake. Other lodge amenities include an indoor pool, game room and gift shop.
If you’re seeking a little more privacy, consider one of the 30 cottages each tucked a discrete distance from the other. Located in the wooded hills overlooking the lake, these fully furnished, cozy cottages are a great way to experience solitude. Just imagine sitting on the cabin porch, a hot beverage in hand, and having nothing else to do but enjoy the quiet and breathe in the cool, clean air.
Wildlife also abounds here, as I saw first hand during a recent visit. At the park entrance, I was greeted by the sight of a dozen wild turkeys, eagerly gobbling up fallen hickory nuts. White-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, gray squirrels, beaver and even the elusive bobcat are a few of the other creatures that make there home within these quiet Appalachian foothills.
A 70,000-acre section of the Wayne National Forest (the only national forest in Ohio) borders Burr Oak’s 2,593 acres of wooded ravines, creating one of the largest tracts of unbroken forested land in the state. With so much land to explore, the area is a hiker’s paradise.
During my trip, I opted for the modest 1.5-mile Ravine Trail, which cuts into a steep hillside above the lake. At this time of year, Christmas ferns are really putting on a show their green fronds growing in sharp contrast to the brown and gray leaves on the forest floor. A variety of lichen and fungi also decorate decaying logs and stumps, offering shutterbugs some great photo opportunities.
The highlight of my hike came less than halfway along the trail, when I heard the musical sound of cascading water. Rounding a bend, I saw a steady stream of water spilling over a sandstone cliff that was some 30 feet high. Just below, a thick blanket of ferns grew heavy over a large rock outcropping. It was a spectacular sight.
There are a number of other foot paths to enjoy while at Burr Oak, such as the half-mile Chipmunk and 1.5-mile Red Fox trails, which lead hikers at any easy pace through a woodland of oak and hickory trees. The popular 18-mile Backpack Trail follows the tree-lined lakeshore, and also connects with the Wildcat Hollow Trail, a 15-mile loop through the Wayne National Forest.
While winter visits to Burr Oak are certainly a favorite time of mine, this park shines throughout the year. In the spring, a colorful array of wildflowers blankets the forest floor, while returning songbirds bring with them some great wildlife watching opportunities. Come summer, the lake’s clear waters are busy with swimmers, anglers and boaters. Boat rentals for this 10-horsepower limit lake are available, including pontoons, canoes, rowboats and kayaks. The marina also offers fuel and seasonal dock rentals.
You owe yourself a visit to Burr Oak State Park. Create lasting memories and discover the restorative powers of this southern Ohio treasure: winter, spring, summer or fall.