Located in southwest Ohio, the 4,870-acre East Fork State Park is one of the largest state parks in Ohio. The park offers diverse recreational and natural history opportunities only 25 miles from Cincinnati. Rolling hills, winding rivers, and a large lake provide a beautiful backdrop for a wonderful getaway.
The park's Harsha Lake offers unlimited horsepower boating and is also an excellent lake for paddling, fishing, and swimming. Other amenities include a large scenic campground, picnic shelters, nature center, and a vast trail system for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and backpacking.
East Fork offers two archery ranges located on the southside of the park, just past the park office at 3294 Elklick Road in Bethel, 45106.
- Static Range - Six lanes that offer point targets ranging from 20-50 yards
- 3-D Range - This walk-through range offers 8 different targets at 26-60 yards in heavily wooded area
Backcountry camping is free and available by permit only at five designated areas along the Backpacking and Perimeter trails. Adirondack shelters are available at camping areas 1 and 2.
- Backpack Trail - 16 mi, moderate. Parking and the trailhead are located at the south access parking lot near the park entrance. It is a challenging hike through oak-hickory forest and old fields. This trail has two overnight areas (camp 1 and camp 2) accessible from the trail. Marked with red blazes, the trail has a return loop at the far end. The Buckeye Trail (blue blazes) and the mountain bike trails (yellow and orange blazes) also share the Backpack Trail. All backpackers must register for overnight areas.
- Steven Newman Worldwalker Perimeter Trail - 33 mi, moderate; multi-use for horses, hikers and backpackers. Access and parking on the north side of the Perimeter Trail are available at the campground visitor parking lot. This trail is named after the famous world walker from Bethel, Ohio. Popular with backpackers and horseback riders alike; this is one of the park’s longest and most challenging trails. Five overnight areas are provided. All backpackers must register for overnight areas. The trail is marked in green blazes. Some of the trail is shared with the Buckeye Trail, so you may see blue blazes in some sections.
- The North Country Trail — This trail is the longest in the National Trails system, covering 4,600 miles across eight states from North Dakota to Vermont.
- The American Discovery Trail — 6,800+ miles of continuous trail, a combined effort to connect the east coast to the west coast.
The 2,160-acre William H. Harsha Lake (a.k.a. East Fork Lake) offers unlimited horsepower boating. Seven launch ramps provide easy access to the lake.
- Campground Boat Ramp - 2 lanes, in the campground, on the north side of the lake
- Hand Launch Boat Ramp - east of the beach on the south side of the lake
- North Shore Boat Ramp - 2 lanes, on the north side of the lake, on the western part of the lake
- Reisinger Boat Ramp - 2 lanes, south side of the lake east side of the park, north of the town of Bethel
- Slade Road Boat Ramp - 2 lanes, on US Army Corps of Engineers property near the dam, west of the park
- Tate Boat Ramp - 4 lanes, south side of the park
- Tunnel Mill Boat Ramp - 1 lane, in the East Fork Wildlife Area, on the east shore of the lake
A life jacket loaner board can be found at the Hand Launch ramp. A boat swim area and boat camping area are available near the Tate Boat Ramp.
East Fork State Park Campground is large and wooded, and located on the north side of the lake. It offers Electric and Full Hookup sites. Pets are permitted in all areas. The campground also offers horse-friendly Electric sites in Loop A.
The lake offers quality fishing with excellent catches of largemouth and smallmouth bass and crappie, and fair catches of bluegill. For the sport angler, East Fork is stocked with hybrid striper.
South side of the lake:
- Backpack Trail - 16 mi, moderate. It is a challenging hike through oak-hickory forest and old fields.
- Prairie Trail - 0.5 mi, easy. Located on Park Road 3, across from Blackberry Thicket parking lot. The trail was developed though the cooperative efforts of the Division of Wildlife, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the park. The trail offers exposure to prairie grasses, and forest and is good for bird watching.
- Steven Newman Worldwalker Perimeter Trail - 33 mi, east to hard; multi-use for horses, hikers, and backpackers. Named after the famous world walker from Bethel, Ohio, this is one of the park’s longest and most challenging trails. This trail provides the opportunity to see the beauty and diversity of the whole park. Green blazes.
North side of lake:
- Fern Hill Trail - 1.4 mi, moderate; mountain biking permitted
- Whippoorwill Trail - 0.5 mi, easy; mountain biking permitted
- Williamsburg-Batavia Hike Bike Trail - begins at the end of Old Broadway Road in Williamsburg and follows Williamsburg-Bantam Road through the East Fork Wildlife Area. After crossing Kain Run Creek via bridge, the trail winds to a scenic overlook along the edge of the lake. From there, the trail proceeds to the campground area and connects to the main campground road. The trail continues to follow the main park road and eventually connects to Zagar Road in Batavia Township. The existing total trail length is 6 miles.
West side of lake near US Army Corps property:
- Tailwater - 2 mi, moderate. Located below the dam, this challenging trail traverses an abandoned road, up a steep hill, and through mature forest. Wildflower displays in spring.
- Deer Ridge - 0.5 mi, easy. Located across from the US Army Corps of Engineers Visitors Center off Slade Road, this interpretive trail tells the story of the East Fork valley and has wildflower displays in the spring.
Hikers may also use the bridle trails; hikers should yield to horseback riders when hiking on horse and multi-use trails.
- Campground Trail - 2 mi, easy, hikers permitted. Connects the Horseman’s Camping Loop A with the trailhead at the North Trail Head Parking Lot. From the Parking lot it starts on the east side (old roadbed) near the activity field. Medium blue markers
- Cascade Trail - 3 mi, moderate; hikers permitted. Loop through hardwood forest offers challenging ravine crossing, across the road from the Horseman’s Parking lot. White markers.
- Pin Oak Trail - 3 mi, easy; hikers permitted. Loop trail through mostly flat fields and woods, good wildlife viewing. The trail starts at the lake end of the parking lot. Red markers.
- Red Fox Trail - 5 mi; moderate. Loop crosses many steep ravines and winds along the hilltops high above the lake, providing spectacular views. This trail starts by the activity field. Orange markers.
- Twin Bridges Trail - 9 mi, moderate; hikers permitted. Loop with many steep ravine crossings takes the user along rocky, picturesque areas with miniature waterfalls and scenic views across the lake. Trailhead at the north end of the lot. Yellow markers.
- Steven Newman Worldwalker Perimeter Trail - 33 mi, moderate; multi-use for horses, hikers and backpackers. One of the park’s longest and most challenging trails. Green blazes. (Portions of the trail are shared by the Buckeye Trail, so you may also see blue blazes in some sections.)
There are Electric campsites in Loop A of the campground that can accommodate horses.
Hunting is permitted in designated areas only. Hunting blinds accessible to persons with mobility impairments can be found at the park. Hunting access for all abilities is located on N. Campbell Road and Tunnel Mill Road.
Extensive trail system includes over 12 miles of traveling a mixture of flat, smooth stretches, twisting turns through wooded areas winds through steep hills, switchbacks, and ridges overlooking East Fork Lake. These trails are some of the most scenic in the region.
South side of the park:
- White Trail Loop, Mountain Bike, Hiking, Trail Running, 2.5 mi, easy
- Blue Trail Loop, Mountain Bike, Hiking, Trail Running, 3 mi, intermediate
- Yellow Trail, Mountain Bike, Hiking, Trail Running, 2.1 mi, advanced
- Orange Trail, Mountain Bike, Hiking, Trail Running, 3 mi, intermediate/advanced
North side of the park (Campground):
- Fern Hill Trail, Mountain Bike, Hiking, 1.4 mi advanced
- Whippoorwill Trail, Mountain Bike, Hiking .5 mi, easy
Eight picnic areas with tables and grills are located around the park.
A 1,200-foot swimming beach features changing booths, showers, and restrooms (including men’s, women’s and family). Swimming is permitted in designated areas during daylight hours. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach.
- BeachGuard — Water quality advisories, Memorial Day to Labor Day, from Ohio Dept. of Health
Trails that Connect
East Fork State Park and Clermont County are fortunate to be able to provide portions of three major trails. Each trail shares space, but destination can be unlimited! You may access these trails from the South Trail Head parking lot.
- Buckeye Trail - Marked by blue blazes, this trail loops 1,200 miles around Ohio and is the longest continuous trail in any state.
- North County National Scenic Trail - This trail is the longest in the National Trails system, covering 4,600 miles across eight states from North Dakota to Vermont.
- American Discovery Trail - This 6,800+ miles of continuous trail is a combined effort to connect the east coast to the west coast.
Under the proper conditions, park visitors can enjoy sledding, ice skating, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing.
More to Do
- Stonelick State Park
- Crooked Run State Nature Preserve
- Visit Discover Clermont County for more area attractions
History & Natural Features
East Fork State Park is home to the Little Miami River Basin, which possesses evidence of human activity dating back nearly 3,000 years ago. The Moundbuilders, specifically the Adena and Hopewell nations, occupied this area. The mound near Elklick Road is thought to have been built by the Adena. The Erie also lived here much later, though by 1655 this group had been completely wiped out by the powerful Iroquois. The area was virtually uninhabited through the remainder of the 17th century.
By the early 1800s, European Americans had begun to occupy the new state of Ohio. The new settlers were attracted to the East Fork region and began early commercial activities such as grist mills, sawmills, blacksmith shops, tanneries, and stagecoach depots.
In 1869, two gold mines operated in the vicinity. One mine was located near Elklick and consisted of a flume for washing gravel containing flakes of gold. The mine near Twin Bridges tunneled underground to reach gold deposits encased in bedrock.
Not far from the park office is the site where Reverend John Collins built a log church around 1807. Although the structure no longer stands, some of the hand-hewn timbers, secured with wooden pegs and hand-forged nails, were used to construct the existing building, “Old Bethel Church” on Elklick Road.
In the late 20the century, the area took on a new appearance due to the creation of the East Fork Reservoir in 1978. As part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control program, William H. Harsha Lake, and the surrounding region, comprise one of southwest Ohio’s largest recreational areas. ODNR currently leases East Fork State Park from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Located in Clermont County, East Fork State Park is characterized by a landscape shaped by the forces of the Illinoian and Wisconsinan glaciers. The region exhibits beautiful hill country scenery and is noted for the occurrence of remnant prairie habitats. Illinoian glacial deposits are not common in Ohio, but they can be observed at East Fork and the surrounding area.
East Fork's diverse landscape includes dry-forested hills, rocky cascades, abandoned farmlands, thickly grown floodplains, marshy grasslands, and swamp forests. This diversity lends well to an abundance of plant and animal life. Woodlands are composed of beech, sugar maple, red and white oak, shagbark hickory, and wild black cherry. The swamp forests contain silver maple, American elm, sycamore, and black gum. The meadows and remnant prairies contain big bluestem grass and purple coneflower among others.
Animals of the area include eastern plains garter snake, fence lizard, red fox, deer, raccoon, Canada geese, song sparrow, eastern meadowlark, and the barn swallow.