Once the hunting grounds for the Native American Shawnee tribes, the rugged landscape of the 1,095-acre Shawnee State Park offers outdoor adventurers an opportunity to explore the back country of southern Ohio’s Appalachian foothills near the banks of the Ohio River.
Nestled within the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Forest, the area is often called the “Little Smokies.” When combined with the state forest, the scenic trail system offers a variety of options for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Two lakes provide a variety of boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities.
Overnight features range from the rustic, well-appointed Shawnee State Park Lodge, and modern vacation cabins to the wooded family campground.
The range offers static targets at 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. Field tips only; no broadheads. Bring your own equipment.
Shawnee Backpack Trail (40+ miles, orange blazes) — This trail winds through wilderness area and includes portions of the Buckeye Trail and North Country Trail. Take the 40-mile main loop, or a shorter trek around the 23-mile North Loop or 17-mile South Loop. Back country camping is offered in seven designated areas. Register at the trailhead in the parking area. Drinking water and latrines are provided at camping areas.
Birding is great in late April and early May as migratory birds make their first stop in Ohio throughout the Shawnee region. Visitors encounter birds from ridgetops to valleys by taking the scenic auto tour through the state forest or by walking the many miles of trials within the park and forest. More than 100 species can be found in the region during migration and many stay to nest, including the noteworthy Cerulean, Worm-Eating, and Kentucky warblers. If you take the scenic auto tour, roll the windows down and pull off safely on the quiet back roads when you hear songs to get a closer look with your binoculars.
Roosevelt and Turkey Creek lakes total 68 acres and each has a launch ramp. Hand-powered and electric-only motorized boats are allowed on Roosevelt while Turkey Creek Lake allows gas motors at idle speed.
• Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and pedal boats can be rented May through October from the camp store, (740) 858-4561.
• A full-service marina facility located off of U.S. Route 52 offers access to the Ohio River with 72 docks (including 1 ADA courtesy slip for loading and unloading and 8 transient docks.)
The Shawnee State Park Campground offers Electric and Non-electric sites as well as two Camper Cabins. Reservations may be made up to six months in advance online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
The Black Bear Disc Golf Course is located near Turkey Lake. Park in the Beach parking lot.
Two well-stocked lakes provide good catches of largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill, crappie, and trout. A trout derby is held annually (4th Saturday in April) at Turkey Creek Lake.
Many hiking trails traverse the park and the surrounding state forest:
- Lampblack Trail - 1.5 miles, takes hikers through an oak hickory forest on high dry ridgetops. It is also used by mountain bikers and disc golfers for a short section, but hikers have the right of way. The trailhead is conveniently located at the end of the lodge parking lot near the fork in the road leading to the cabins. Follow the purple triangles.
- Lake Trail - .8 mile, provides excellent views of Turkey Creek Lake and is part of the Park Loop trail. A bench along the trail offers a lovely view into Slate Hollow where a beavers lodge can be seen along the Park Loop trail. The trail can be accessed from the Nature Center or the Back Pack Trail parking lots. Follow the aquamarine triangles.
- Lodge Beach Trail – ½ mile, trail leads to the beach from the lodge and includes a steep grade—both ways, up or down. Follow the florescent green triangles.
- Knighton Nature Trail - 2.9 miles, named for local mycologist, Harry Knighton, who started the North American Mycological Society. It supports a rich abundance of mushroom species and wildflowers. Features views of Turkey Creek Lake from the lowest point in the park to the highest point. Follow the red triangles.
- Turkey Creek Nature Center Trail - half-mile mile loop which is covered in crushed gravel so it is family-, wheelchair-, and stroller-friendly. Visitors will enjoy views of Turkey Creek as they travel through cool moist hemlock trees. Interpretive signs tell the life history of trees along the path. Follow the bright green triangles.
- Park Loop Trail - 5 miles, trail showcases a variety of ecosystems and connects to other trails. It looks around Turkey Creek Lake and includes the park’s highest peaks. (Shawnee is home to the docile endangered Timber Rattlesnake. If you encounter one along the trail, simply walk around it, leaving plenty of space between you and the animal.) Make sure to wear sturdy hiking boots and pack water and snacks. Follow the blue triangles.
- Lookout Trail – 1.5 miles, historic trail built in 1938 by CCC, traverses through a diverse forest with beautiful view of Roosevelt Lake and the original Theodore Roosevelt Game Preserve founded in 1922, which is now the campground. The trail is a loop with one steep climb and one steep descent, either way . Follow the hot pink triangles.
- Campground Loop Trail - 0.5 mile, paved trail is perfect for families with small children. It starts in the small loop of the campground and ends in the large loop of the campground. It also takes in part of the Park Loop Trail and the Harry Knighton Trail. Follow the coral triangles.
- Shawnee Forest Day Hike Trail West Loop - 4.6 miles - Follow blue blazes
- Shawnee Forest Day Hike Trail East Loop - 7.2 miles - Follow blue blazes
Bridle trails in the park:
- Lampblack Bridle Trail
- Mackletree Bridle Trail
Over 70 miles of bridle trails as well as primitive equestrian camp sites are located within the adjacent Shawnee State Forest.
Hunting is NOT permitted in the state park but is allowed in the adjacent state forest.
A mountain biking trail system has recently been completed. Park at the lodge and ride towards the playground/cabin entrance. Trail head is across the grassy knoll and is marked with signage. Find more details at www.trailfork.com
- High Meadow - easy - 0.6 mile
- High Meadow Gap Pass - intermediate - 0.3 mile
- Cabin Fever - intermediate - 0.6 mile, loop
- Horseshoe - intermediate - 0.4 mile
- Lampblack - intermediate - 1 mile, loop
- Down & Out - 0.6 mile
Seasonal hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 12-3pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day
Located on State Route 125 between the lodge road and the campground entrance, Shawnee's Nature Center offers visitors a chance to learn about native flora and fauna; view displays that include fossils, insects, local history, reptiles, and amphibians; and browse a small nature library.
A natural playground for the young ones — including a mud kitchen and pioneer garden and historic CCC cabin — can also be toured. Naturalist Programs and Special Events calendars are posted on the kiosks by the nature loop trailhead, on the side of the campstore, in the lodge, and in the park office.
Several picnic areas with tables and grills are located in many secluded and scenic areas of the park. All areas are Carry-in, Carry-out; no trash cans are available.
The park offers two reservable historic shelters situated on the edge of Roosevelt Lake. One is in the Campground and the other located on Mackletree Road directly across from the historic Look-Out Trail. Both shelters are equipped with picnic tables, party size grills and electricity.
Located at the marina, a meeting room is available for reservation. The room offers heat/AC and is equipped with tables and chairs for 40, kitchen area with stove/oven, refrigerator/freezer, coffee pot, food prep area, sinks with hot/cold running water, and flush toilets. Please note the marina room is not ADA compliant.
Reservations may be made online or by calling (844) 644-6727.
Public beaches are situated on both Roosevelt Lake and Turkey Creek Lake. Swimming is permitted in designated areas. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach; the beaches are unguarded. Pets are NOT allowed on swimming beaches.
- BeachGuard — Water quality advisories, Memorial Day to Labor Day, from Ohio Dept. of Health
In winter, park guests can enjoy sledding near the park office on the lodge road under the proper conditions.
More to Do
- Miniature golf, located at the camp store, is open to all park visitors
- Volleyball and basketball courts, and horseshoe pits
- Tennis courts and shuffleboard at the lodge
- Geocaches and Earth Caches are located in the park
Shawnee Lodge and Conference Center offers breathtaking views of the forest and Turkey Creek Lake. There are 50 guest rooms and 25 vacation cabins managed by the lodge as well as a restaurant and conference facilities.
Shawnee State Park Campground offers Electric and Non-electric campsites suitable for tents or trailers and Camper Cabins.
History & Natural Features
The 63,000 acres of Shawnee State Forest and Shawnee State Park encompass a part of the former hunting grounds of the Shawnee Indians. Historians note that the Shawnee name means "those who have silver," as the tribe conducted considerable trade in this precious metal. A major Shawnee village, known as Lower Town, was located near the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto rivers. The Scioto River provided access to the heart of the Shawnee country in central and southern Ohio.
The Ohio River was the gateway to frontier settlement in the Ohio region as well as for Indiana and Illinois. This expansive waterway, the Spaylawitheepi in Indian tongue, was the site of many confrontations between incoming pioneers and the Native Americans. The Shawnees monitored the influx of the white settlers from the line of ridges that overlooked the mighty Ohio River.
During the 1700s, the Shawnee Indians were gradually displaced as the settlers continued to build their cabins and clear land in this new and fertile country. The face of the region changed a great deal in the years to come, but through effective timber management practices by the state's Division of Forestry, Shawnee State Forest has regained much of its original appearance. Similarly, resource conservation programs coupled with wise land use practices at Shawnee State Park have assured that this 1,168-acre recreational facility will continue to maintain its natural beauty.
Lands were acquired for the park in 1922, which was first operated as Theodore Roosevelt State Game Preserve. In the 1930s, six Civilian Conservation Corps camps were located in the area. During this time many of the roads and lakes of the area were constructed. In 1949, with the creation of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Parks and Recreation, the area became a state park and forest. The name was changed to Portsmouth State Park in the early 1970s, but has since been changed back to Shawnee State Park.
Several hundred million years ago, a general upheaval of eastern North America made changes in the terrain; changes still evident in Ohio today. South and east of Ohio, the layers of bedrock folded and buckled, giving rise to the Appalachian Mountains. The forested hills of Shawnee are a part of the Appalachian Plateau. Here, the bedrock layers were uplifted but no real distortion occurred; for this reason, Shawnee never had true "mountains." In fact, all of Ohio's hill country is a feature of stream erosion on this prehistoric raised plain and is often referred to as the foothills of the Appalachians.
The hills of Shawnee have also been dubbed "Ohio's Little Smokies." Looking toward the Ohio River, one can certainly see how the region acquired such a nickname. From the highest points in the forest, ridge after ridge appears to roll away toward the horizon in a gentle blue haze. This distinctive color comes from moisture in the air which is generated by the thousands of acres of forest.
The hardwood forest is host to a variety of flora and fauna. Wildflowers are abundant including several rare types of orchids such as the tiny whorled pogonia and the showy orchis. Forest wildlife includes white-tailed deer, wild turkey, raccoon, various songbirds, and rare sightings of bobcat and black bear.