Lake Hope State Park offers a truly relaxing, yet rustic getaway from the high speed of modern life. The entire park lies within the Zaleski State Forest in the valley of Big Sandy Run. The park's heavily forested region is marked by steep gorges and narrow ridges with remnants of abandoned mining and iron-producing industries.
The park surrounds the lake and boasts a wooded family campground and a variety of cabins for families and gatherings of all sizes, including the roomy Laurel Lodge. No visit to the park is complete without a stop in the dining lodge for a hearty meal.
The 120-acre lake has by one boat ramp along State Route 278 by the dam. Hand-powered and electic motor-only boats are permitted on the lake. A variety of paddle equipment is available to rent during the boating season including pontoons, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards from the boathouse. For more information, call (740) 596-4949.
Cabins & Camping
Details on cabin and camping options are found on the Lake Hope State Park Campground page. There are a variety of vacation Cabin options and a family campground with Electric and Non-electric sites as well as Camper Cabins.
Backpacking campsites, an equestrian camp, and a hunters camp are available in Zaleski State Forest.
The Lake Hope Dining Lodge offers made-from-scratch food using Ohio products, with a strong emphasis on real pit barbecue. Banquet facilities and meeting room is available. Call (740) 596-0601 for hours and additional information.
Anglers will find good catches of bluegill, catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass at Lake Hope.
Several hiking trails traverse the park.
- Buzzard Cave Trail - 1/2 mile - moderate
- Greenbriar Trail - 1/2 mile - moderate
- Peninsula Trail - 3 miles - moderate
- Furnace Trail - 3.2 miles - moderate — Multi-use
- White Oak Trail - 1/4 mile - moderate/difficult
- Habron Hollow Trail - 1.5 miles - moderate/difficult — Multi-use
- Olds Hollow Trail - 1.5 Miles - moderate/difficult
- Tulip Trail — 1 Mile — Moderate/Difficult
Hunting is NOT permitted in the park; it is permitted in the adjacent Zaleski State Forest.
Eight mountain biking trails traverse the park totaling more than 25 miles of steep hills and ravines that offer challenges suited to intermediate and advanced cyclists. Lake Hope’s wooded mountain biking trails are considered one of Ohio’s top single-track mountain biking trail systems.
- Bobcat Trail - 2 miles - moderate
- Wildcat Trail - 3.5 miles - moderate
- Little Sandy Trail - 4.5 miles - moderate
- Copperhead Trail - 7.2 miles - moderate
- Red Oak Trail - 0.5 mile - moderate/difficult
- Yosemite Trail - 1.5 miles - moderate/difficult
- Sidewinder Trail - 2.5 miles - moderate/difficult
- Yosemite Falls Trail - 3.5 miles - moderate/difficult
Several picnic areas with tables and grills are located at many secluded and scenic areas around the park.
Three shelterhouses can be reserved online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
Swimming is permitted in designated areas along the 600-foot swimming beach, located near the dam. Facilities include a beach house with restrooms and a large sun deck and patio overlooking the lake, a boathouse with shelter (first-come, first-served), and concessions. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach. Pets are not permitted on the swimming beach.
- BeachGuard — water quality reports, Memorial Day to Labor Day, from Ohio Dept. of Health
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy sledding, cross-county skiing, ice skating, and ice fishing.
More to Do
- Nature Center with naturalist programming
- Basketball courts, horseshoe pits, and playground
- Zaleski State Forest surrounds the park and offers 31 miles of bridle trails and a 29-mile backpacking trail with primitive backcountry camping (register at trailhead).
History & Natural Features
Though the roar of the iron furnaces no longer echoes through the hills of Vinton County, there are many reminders of days gone by at Lake Hope State Park. Situated at the northern edge of Ohio's Hanging Rock iron region, the park reflects the rich history of southeastern Ohio's industrial past. Built in 1853-54, the Hope Furnace processed the iron ore extracted from the region’s sandstone bedrock. The iron resulting from the ore smelting process was used to produce many different items including ammunition and cannons for the Union Army during the Civil War. Hundreds of men labored, cutting timber, working the furnace, and driving teams of oxen hauling iron ore to the furnace. Charcoal fires, needed to fuel the furnace, were tended 24 hours a day. So much wood was required for this process that the surrounding hillsides were almost completely stripped of their timber.
At the height of the Hope Furnace’s production, Ohio was one of the nation’s leading producers of iron. As time passed, iron ore was discovered farther west, and Ohio’s reputation as a major iron producer waned. The Hope Furnace shut down in 1874, after only 20 years of operation. By 1900, nearly all the major furnaces in southern Ohio were shut down. Today, the Hope Furnace chimney and some of the foundation are all that remain of the structure. Near the chimney, one may find pieces of slag, the cast-off residue from the smelting process. These pock-marked, glass-like pieces have now become a part of the forest floor.
The forest we now see is one that has grown back in place of the primeval forest that once stood hundreds of years ago. For a time, coal was an important Vinton County export. Many mines tunneled into the hills and large quantities of coal were transported out utilizing ox-drawn coal cars, and later the railroad. Most of the mines were abandoned early in the 20th century. Lake Hope Forest Park was created in 1937 by the Division of Forestry. The lands became Lake Hope State Park in 1949 when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was created.
Lake Hope State Park is truly a nature lover's dream. In the forest-draped hills, the observant visitor can discover the abundant natural resources of this wild and scenic park.
During the Pennsylvanian Period, about 300 million years ago, Ohio was a lowland plain where rivers meandered through vast swamp forests and sea waters periodically flooded the land as elevations changed. The rocks deposited during this time are shales and sandstones with coals, clays, and limestones in thin layers that reflect the unstable conditions under which they were laid down. The clays formed from the old leached soils on which the forests grew. The coals are the remains of trees and plants preserved in the waters of the swamps. As sea levels rose, brackish water killed the trees, and the muckbeds — buried under mud and sand along the shore — were changed by time and pressure to form coal. Sea animals migrated into deeper, more favorable areas. Their shells, mixed with limy mud, make up the thin limestone and flint layers found in the area today. Rivers carried mud and sand from their headwaters in mountains to the east, building deltas and flood plains, which today are the shales and sandstones in the area. This sequence of events was repeated over and over, giving rise to successive coal beds and marine sediments. At last, great movements of Earth's crust raised the Appalachian Mountains higher, and the sea was drained from Ohio. The rock layers were tilted gently eastward, and a new generation of rivers began to carve valleys and expose the rocks.
Although most of the region's original forest was cut to fuel the iron smelting industry that once flourished here, the land has recovered and supports a magnificent, second-growth forest. Oak and hickory are the dominant trees while the woodland floor harbors a fascinating assemblage of shrubs and wildflowers.
The yellow lady's slipper, one of the rarest and most showy orchids, blooms in secluded hollows in the park. Other spring wildflowers, such as blue-eyed mary, bloodroot, and wild geranium can be found in abundance.
Deer and wild turkeys are often seen in a number of park locations. Of the many animals inhabiting the park, none is as popular as the beaver. As nature's dam builders, the beavers are found in numbers and can be observed near the quiet inlets of the lake.