What to do in Shawnee State Forest

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 was begun 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 in the then nearly inaccessible area. 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.

Shawnee State Forest, also called "The Little Smokies of Ohio," has developed into the largest of the 20 state forests, with over 60,000 acres. While the Forest is a fantastic recreation feature in Southern Ohio, you should not be surprised to see other activities occurring. The forest is a working forest, 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 are all in a day's work for forest employees and many local residents. 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.

In 1972, nearly 8,000 acres of Shawnee Forest were designated as Shawnee Wilderness Area. This designation minimizes human influence by prohibiting vegetative manipulation and all mechanized activity. Prior to acquisition by the State of Ohio, these properties had been heavily impacted by habitation, mining, and logging.

In 1999, approximately 8,000 more acres adjoining the Shawnee Wilderness Area were designated as Back Country Management Area. The purpose of this area is to provide management opportunities for forest wildlife and State listed rare and endangered species, while creating a unique walk-in hunting, camping, and recreational viewing area. Motorized travel in this area is limited to "special use" permits, which must be requested in advance.

The Bear Lake Horse Camp included 58 campsites with tie rails, latrines, and water for horses. Shawnee State Forest has over 75 miles of bridle trails, most of which are directly accessible from the camp. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

A drive in Shawnee Forest, especially during the fall color or spring blossom season, is particularly enjoyable. At Picnic Point and other vistas, motorists can see the Ohio River Valley as Native Americans who scouted advancing parties of explorers and settlers moving down river viewed it.

Activities enjoyed on Ohio's largest state forest include backpacking, primitive camping, bridle trails, hiking, hunting, and fishing.

Shawnee State Forest Headquarters is located on U.S. Route 52, near the village of Friendship - west of Portsmouth.

This state has four distinct seasons and a brilliant fall foliage display in it southern woods during mid October. Winter lasts from December through February with average temperatures near 25 degrees F. Low temperatures dip to single digits, but do not often drop below zero. Northern regions of the state receive average snowfall amounts of 55 inches, while the central and southern regions of the state receive lesser amounts with averages near 30 inches. This difference is caused by lake-affect moisture patterns.

Spring temperatures begin to warm the landscapes of Ohio by mid March and are in full swing by April. Temperatures range from 40 through 70 degrees F through the spring months. This season often brings the most rainfall, before the drying heat of summer. Summer can be extremely hot and humid in the interior of Ohio. Temperatures reach above 90 degrees F frequently through July and August. Cooler fall temperatures don't reach the region until mid to late September. This is a pleasant time to visit as the air is crisp with low humidity levels. Ohio's annual precipitation usually reaches slightly above 50 inches.

13291 US 52
West Portsmouth, OH 45663-8906

Phone: 740-858-6685

Email: Ben.Hamiliton@dnr.state.oh.us
  • Shawnee State Forest Travel Q&A