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Shawnee State Forest

NOTICE: Bridle trails are closed for the winter season, November 28, 2022, to March 31, 2023.

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Shawnee State Forest, also called "The Little Smokies of Ohio," has developed into the largest of Ohio's state forests with more than 60,000 acres. This working forest is managed to provide a variety of multiple uses on a sustained yield basis: Timber harvesting, tree planting, wildlife habitat, forestry research, watershed and soil protection, and production of tree seeds.

During the spring and fall forest fire danger periods, state forest crews detect and suppress wildfires that occur on state and private lands within the surrounding protection area.

Nearly 8,000 acres of the forest have been designated as wilderness. Timber is not managed and public motorized travel has been eliminated in the wilderness area.


In the mid-1800s and early 1900s, building stone was quarried from Vastine and Cabbage Patch hollows. The stone was moved by railroad to the Ohio River and loaded on barges. Much of the stone was used in the construction of buildings in Cincinnati.

Shawnee State Forest came into existence in 1922 with the purchase of 5,000 acres of land which had been cut over for timber and ravaged by fire. During that same year, land acquisition began for the Theodore Roosevelt Game Preserve.

In the 1930s, six Civilian Conservation Corps camps were located in the forest. During this period, many of the roads were constructed. Many other accomplishments resulted, including five small lakes that were built to serve as water supplies for the camps.

Following the creation of the Department of Natural Resources in 1949, the recreational facilities at Roosevelt Lake were transferred to the Division of Parks. The Roosevelt Game Preserve, by a 1951 agreement between the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, became a part of the forest.

Favorite Things to Do or See

  • Hiking/backpacking
  • Horse riding/camping
  • Hunting & fishing
  • Visiting Copperhead fire tower
  • Picking mushrooms & berries

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where is hunting legal in Shawnee? Hunting is legal in season on Shawnee State Forest. Please note, you are not permitted to hunt by any means within 400 feet of any camping area, residence, barn, service building, latrine, or other structures, or shoot on, from, or across any road or driveway within the forest. OAC 1501:3-6-01
  • Can I camp outside of the designated areas on the backpack trail? Camping is only permitted in the designated areas along the backtrail. Primitive camping in the Wilderness Area can be allowed with a Special Use Permit.
  • Can I camp roadside? Roadside camping is allowed during deer gun season and spring turkey season on forest roads with a camping permit. Roadside camping permits are available at the forest headquarters and all roadside camping rules must be followed. 
  • Why are we harvesting timber? Isn’t this a state park? Shawnee State Forest is not a state park. State forests are managed for multiple uses including sustainable timber production, wildlife habitat, soil and water protection, and recreation.

Unique Features

  • 8,000 ac wilderness area
  • Buckeye Trail
  • Backpack Trail - 46.4 miles
  • Dayhike Trail – 11 miles


Rules for Shawnee State Forest

  • Shawnee State Forest is open to visitors between 6 a.m. and 11p.m. daily. Legal campers, if applicable, hunters, and anglers may be present during other times.
  • Operation of motor vehicles is restricted to roads provided for such travel. Speed limit on state forest roads is 30 MPH unless otherwise posted. Vehicles may not be parked where traffic or access to division service roads or trails are obstructed. OAC 1501: 3-4 Motor Vehicles
  • Horses may be ridden along forest roads or on designated bridle trails.
  • Fires are not permitted except in grills or fire rings provided, or in portable stoves. Fires must be attended to at all times.
  • Trash must be disposed of properly.
  • Camping is only permitted on designated areas for such use. OAC 1501:3-3 Camping
  • Hunting and fishing are permitted in most state forests as regulated by the Division of Wildlife. Shooting is prohibited within 400 feet of any building, facility, or recreation area and from or across any road or driveway. Discharge of any firearm is not permitted except during lawful hunting season.
  • Public display or consumption of any alcoholic beverage is prohibited.
  • Disturbance, defacement, or destruction of any property, material, natural feature, or vegetation is prohibited. Berries, nuts, and mushrooms may be gathered and removed except from posted areas.
  • State forest boundaries are indicated with yellow blazes on the trees and/or posted signs.
  • Other general rules for visitation are found at OAC 1501:3-2 Rules for Visitation

Bear Lake Horse Camp

How long am I allowed to camp at the Horse Camp?

  • You are only permitted to camp 14 days out of any given 30 days at any State Forest, regardless if you camp continuously or not.
  • OAC 1501:3-3-06 Camp Occupancy

How many am I allowed to have at my campsite?

  • Only 10 persons are permitted per site.
  • OAC 1501:3-3-06 Camp Occupancy

Can I save a campsite for a friend?

  • No, the Horse Camp is on a first come basis. You are not permitted to save a site for a friend.
  • OAC 1501:3-3-02 Camp Registration

Can I register for a friend, or register multiple sites?

  • No, you’re only permitted to register one campsite, and you are also not permitted to register for a friend.
  • OAC 1501:3-3-06 Camp Occupancy

If I were registered at the Horse Camp, would it be okay if family stopped by to camp with me as well?

  • The Horse Camp is only permitted for persons camping with horses, so long as you do not go over 10 persons per site.
  • OAC 1501:3-3-06 Camp Occupancy

When is “quiet time” in the camp?

  • Quiet time is between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 8 a.m. Noise complaints will be promptly addressed.
  • OAC 1501:3-3-06 Camp Occupancy

What’s the rule on alcohol in the Horse Camp?

  • No person shall consume, display, or possess any alcoholic beverage in any State Forest.
  • OAC 1501:3-2-11 Use or Possession of Intoxicating Beverages ***This rule is strictly enforced***

Can I ride my horse at night?

  • Yes, however the Forest does close at 11:00 p.m. and you must be back at your campsite by then.
  • OAC: 3-2-01 Hours Closed

Who cleans up the manure?

  • We ask campers to clean up their own manure and place it in the manure bins. ***This rule is strictly enforced***

Can I tether or tie my horse to a tree, as long as he cannot reach that tree?

  • No, you are not permitted to tether or tie your horse to any tree or vegetation in any State Forest.
  • OAC 1501: 3-2-18 Animals and Pets in State Forests

Why aren’t there any over-flow sites for holidays and busy weekends?

  • Bear Lake Horse Camp provides 58 campsites. When it is full-to-capacity, the facility, horse ties, space and latrines simply cannot handle more campers. It would be irresponsible to crowd the camp beyond its capacity. It’s not fair to the campers either. Camping there is free of charge, and we cannot physically and administratively handle more campers than 58 sites will hold.

How close to the Horse Camp am I allowed to hunt?

  • When a legal hunting season is in, you are not permitted to hunt by any means within 400 feet of any camping area, residence, barn, service building, latrine, or other structures, or shoot on, from, or across any road or driveway within the forest.
  • OAC 1501:3-6-01

Can I gather firewood in the woods around the camp?

  • Yes, small branches and limbs are permitted.

Where is the closest store for supplies?

  • Weaver's Convenient Mart located on US Highway 52 (across the road from the forest headquarters).


Forest Manager: Dale Egbert, (740) 858-6685 

Administrative Office:
Shawnee State Forest
13291 US Route 52
West Portsmouth, OH 45663

Columbus Headquarters: (877) 247-8733, forestry.comments@dnr.ohio.gov


Call: 911

Phone Number

(740) 858-6685



Natural Features

    Available Trails