Located in eastern Ohio, Salt Fork State Park encompasses a stunning landscape featuring forested hills, open meadows, and misty valleys decorated with winding streams. With thousands and thousands of acres of land and water, the park has something for every outdoor enthusiast. Boaters will appreciate the park's two marinas and eight launch ramps; hikers will be challenged by a trail system that offers a variety of lengths and levels of difficulty; history buffs can visit the historic Kennedy Stone House; and golfers will enjoy the top-rated 18-hole golf course. Overnight accommodations include a full-service resort lodge, deluxe vacation cabins, and a large campground.
Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center is a spacious retreat offering impressive views of the lake and rolling hills. Lodge meeting areas can accommodate up to 450 people. There are 148 Guest Rooms and 53 Cabins, including Chalet Cabins, Lakeside, and Hillside.
Salt Fork State Park Campground is a large campground with sites for all sizes of RVs. There are Full Hookup, 50-amp Electric, and Non-electric sites. An Equestrian Campground and Primitive Campground (walk-in, tent only) are also available. Reserve online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
The park has a 12-station walk-through range on Park Road 1 near the entrance to the campground. Stations 1 through 11 are field tip only and station 12 accommodates broadhead tips.
Boats with unlimited horsepower are permitted on the 2,952-acre lake. Combined speed/ski zones are marked by buoys. There are 8 boat launch ramps on the lake.
- Cabin Area Launch: Two asphalt lanes located in the main cabin parking lot. Nearby courtesy docks are available to registered lodge and cabin guests. Public restrooms available.
- Campground Launch: Single asphalt lane for registered campers, near the camper’s beach, Limited parking. Restrooms available.
- Morning Glory Launch: Two asphalt lanes located off Old Twenty-One Road on the north side of the park. Large parking area and restrooms available.
- North Salem Launch: Two asphalt lanes located off of Plainfield Road on the north side of the park. Approximately 1 mile from I-77. Restrooms available.
- Park Office Launch: Two asphalt lanes behind the park office. Restrooms available at the park office.
- Salt Fork Marina North Launch: Two asphalt lanes in the North parking lot of Salt Fork Marina. Large parking area and restrooms available.
- Salt Fork Marina South Launch: Two asphalt lanes in the South parking lot of Salt Fork Marina. Large parking area and restrooms available.
- Sugartree Marina Launch: Two asphalt lanes in the marina parking area. Launching at this ramp provides quick access to one of the ski zones. Restrooms available.
Boaters may camp on their boats in no-wake zones within 50 yards of shore. There are 3 boat swim areas and a 400-foot boaters beach.
Two marinas are open seasonally offering 469 rental docks, comfort stations, gasoline fuel stations, parking facilities, concession areas, and a variety of rental boats.
- Sugartree Marina: 740-439-4009 (managed by Great Ohio Lodges)
- Salt Fork Marina: 740-432-8883 (managed by Salt Fork State Park) (two launch areas)
All bridle trails are open to the public and are of moderate difficulty. All begin and end at the horse camp except for the Red Loop and White Loop B. Ample parking, flush restrooms, tie lines, water and picnic tables are available to both overnight horse campers (reservations required) and day use riders. All trails are marked with blazes and signs in the color of the loop, respectively. Trails may potentially be closed in the winter under extremely wet and muddy conditions. Some trails travel through areas open to hunting during lawful seasons.
- Blue Loop (12 miles) moderate. Begins and ends at horse camp. Generally considered by many to be the easiest trail to ride. Mostly wooded and shaded. Near the halfway point there is rest area with tables and tie lines, however no restrooms are available.
- Orange Loop (16 miles) moderate. Begins and ends at horse camp. Looping past the Hosak’s Cave area, this trail is a mixture of woodlands, shoreline, and open meadows.
- Purple Loop (12 miles) moderate. Begins and ends at horse camp. Trail loops the ridge around the main beach and campground area, looping through a mixture of woodlands and shoreline. There is a rest area at the camper’s beach with tie lines, tables, and a primitive restroom.
- White Loop A (11 miles) moderate. Begins and ends at horse camp or may continue to White Loop B at Sugartree Marina. Mostly wooded and shaded. There is a resting area with horse ties, picnic tables and flush restrooms at Sugartree Marina where Loop A turns into Loop B.
- White Loop B (11 miles) moderate. Can be accessed by riding White Loop A or beginning and ending at Morgan’s Knob parking area. Mixture of wooded and shoreline riding with nice views of the lake.
- Red Loop (8 miles) moderate. Begins and ends on US Route 22 near park entrance where a grassy parking lot is located. A mixture of woodlands and open meadows, this loop is not near the horse camp but does go past Salt Fork Marina where flush restrooms are available.
The park's one-acre dog park is located south of the main beach. It offers direct lake access for dogs to play and swim off-leash. There is a picnic table within the area and room for guests to bring their own chairs.
Sizable populations of largemouth bass, crappies, bluegills, walleyes, and muskellunge are present. Fishing hotspots include many small bays as well as an artificial reef on the north branch of the lake.
Salt Fork State Park Golf Course features a top-rated 18-hole golf course with a practice putting green, driving range, pro shop, and snack bar.
Hunting is permitted on designated areas. Cottontail rabbit, gray and fox squirrels, deer, grouse, quail, woodchuck, raccoon, mink, muskrat, beaver, wild turkey, and waterfowl are abundant. Check with Natural Resources or Wildlife officers for delineation of these areas. An ODNR Division of Wildlife office is located near the main park entrance.
The Salt Fork Nature Center is located at the main beach complex, off Park Road 2. The nature center boasts an array of animal displays, both live and mounted. Hours vary throughout the summer with information available by calling the camp office at 740-432-1508.
Several picnic areas with tables and grills are located around the lake. An ADA-accessible picnic area off of Park Road 27 has hard-surface paths, accessible latrines, parking, and tables.
- Salt Fork Marina Shelter: Located in the north parking area of Salt Fork Marina. Handicapped accessible, electrical outlets, picnic tables, and abundant parking. Restrooms within walking distance. Non-reservable.
- Main Beach Shelters: Two shelters located adjacent to the main beach area. Handicapped accessible, electrical outlets, charcoal grill, picnic tables, and water available. Restrooms located in the beach house. Shelters can be reserved online (www.reserveohio.com) or by calling (866) 644-6727.
- Campground Shelter: Located in the main parking area of the campground. Electrical outlets and picnic tables available. Restrooms and playground equipment located near shelter. Non-reservable.
- Handicapped Accessible Picnic Shelters: Three ADA picnic shelters located off park road 27. Picnic tables, grills, water, electrical outlets, and restrooms available. Non-reservable.
- Horse Camp Shelters: Two shelters located in the horse camp area. Picnic tables, water, and restrooms available. Non-reservable.
- Golf Pro Shop Shelters: Located near the golf pro shop which is located off park road 32. Picnic tables, grills, and restrooms available. These shelters can be reserved by calling Salt Fork Lodge at (740) 435-9000.
The park’s 2,500-foot public swimming beach is one of the largest inland beaches in Ohio. A concession stand, changing rooms, restrooms, and outdoor showers are available to visitors. Swimming is permitted during daylight hours only. Visitors swim at their own risk. Pets are NOT permitted on the swimming beach.
- BeachGuard — water quality alerts, Memorial Day to Labor Day, from the Ohio Department of Health
There are 14 scenic hiking trails in the park:
- Forest Crest Nature Trail - 0.32 Miles - easy
- Archery Trail - .29 Mile - easy
- Deer Run Trail - 1.5 Miles - moderate
- Valley Brook Loop Trail - 0.8 Miles - moderate
- Hosak's Cave Trail - 0.1 Miles - moderate
- Sunshine Brook Nature Loop Trail - 0.53 Miles - moderate
- Morgans Knob Loop Trail - 0.84 Miles - moderate
- Morgans Knob Trail - 0.62 Miles - moderate
- Pine Crest Loop Trail - 1 Mile - moderate
- Beach Point Trail - 1 Mile - moderate
- Stone House Trail - 1.8 Miles - moderate
- Gunn's Glen Trail - 2 Miles - moderate
- Shadebush Trail - 1.9 Miles - moderate
- The Buckeye Trail - 6.86 miles
Snowmobile Loop (19 miles round trip): Begins at Salt Fork Main Beach on Park Road 2 where there is a large, paved parking area and travels through woods and fields to Salt Fork Lodge. Returns to main beach along same trail
An optional spur travels out Park Road 4 through the Primitive Campground. Trail is marked with appropriate signage during winter months. Some portions of the trail, especially near the Lodge, travel along road berms. Restrooms, dining, and parking available at the Lodge.
Other Winter Recreation
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice boating.
More to Do
- A miniature golf course is located at the beach, near the park's nature center; it is open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
- Playgrounds are found in the campground and at the beach.
- Kennedy Stone House, a historic home built from stones quarried nearby, offers a look back to 1837.
History & Natural Features
Salt Fork is said to have derived its name from a salt well used by Native Americans, located near the southeastern corner of the park. This area was one of the first areas in Ohio to be settled by pioneers. Some of these settlers followed Zane’s Trace into the Ohio wilderness - a route which led them into the Guernsey County area. From Zanesville east to the Ohio River, the Trace became part of the National Road, a major east-west transportation route constructed in 1811. Today, the old National Road is known as U.S. Route 40 and passes near Salt Fork State Park.
One early resident of Guernsey County, Benjamin Kennedy, constructed a beautiful stone house overlooking Sugar Tree Fork in 1837. Built from locally-quarried stone, the Kennedy Stone House is a sturdy reminder of bygone days. Because of its unique and enduring construction, the house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and can be visited most weekends from May until October.
As the 19th century progressed, industry continued to develop in Ohio, and many of the southeastern Ohio counties came into prominence as coal-producing areas. Responding to the demand for this important fuel source, Guernsey County became one of Ohio's leading coal producers. Abundant reserves of clay allowed the development of a thriving pottery industry in the county as well.
Plans for developing the lake began in 1956. The reservoir was originally slated to become a water source for the city of Cambridge, but the potential for the area to become a major recreation area in the state was so great that, in 1960, land acquisition was begun to create a state park. The earthen dam was completed in 1967, and construction of recreational facilities began in mid 1968. The spacious Salt Fork Lodge was opened in May 1972.
Before settlement, Ohio was a vast wild forest stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Great Plains. Towering oak, hickory, beech, maple, walnut, chestnut, and ash trees (some more than 150 feet tall) were rooted in the fertile soil. By 1900, most of Ohio’s original forest was decimated and in its place grew wheat, corn, oats, hay, and thriving towns and cities.
Through conservation efforts over the past few decades, a magnificent regrowth has occurred. Today, nearly 30 percent of the state is once again supporting a thriving forest. This is most evident in the rugged, unglaciated hill region of southeastern Ohio including Salt Fork State Park. The park features diverse flora and fauna.
White-tailed deer, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, red fox, gray squirrels, and barred owls are well established here. Songbirds, such as the scarlet tanager, cardinal, goldfinch, Kentucky warbler and others, are a delight for park visitors to see and hear. Spectacular wildflowers, such as wild geranium, large-flowered trillium, violets, asters, and goldenrod, line the forest floor and meadows. In the spring, the melody of wood frogs, chorus frogs, and spring peepers echo along the park’s trails.
Salt Fork is said to have derived its name from a salt well used by Native Americans, which was located near the southeastern corner of the park. Salt Fork lies in the unglaciated portion of the state. Throughout the area, thick-bedded, erosion resistant sandstone or conglomerate overlays more erosive siltstone, shale, coal and limestone layers, resulting in shelter caves, such as Hosak's Cave, along with small waterfalls in the secondary drainages. Other interesting geologic features around the park are massive blocks of sandstone that have become detached, due to differential weathering, and toppled down slope.