East Fork State Park Backpack Trail & the Steven Newman Worldwalker Perimeter Trail
BackpackOhio.com status: This trail has not been visited
Nearest town: Amelia
Total distance: Backpack trail: 14 miles (unverified), Newman Perimeter Trail: 32-mile loop (unverified)
Hiking time: Backpack trail: 7 to 9 hours for a day hike or 2 days for overnight, Newman Perimeter Trail: 3 to 4 days
Trail conditions: Unknown
Blazes: The backpack trail is blazed with red, side trails with white; the Newman Perimeter Trail is blazed with green
Water: Available seasonally from April 1st to November 1st at campgrounds and other park facilities
Contact info: East Fork State Park, 3294 Elklick Road, Bethel, Ohio 45106, phone: 513-734-4323
Getting there: From the interchange of Interstate 275 and State Route 125 (exit 65), travel east on SR 25. In just over 8 miles, State Route 222 will enter from the left. Down the road about 1.5 miles, SR 222 will turn right. At that intersection, turn left on Bantam Road. In a short distance, turn left on the main park entrance road and follow it for 0.5 mile to the trailhead parking lot on the left. This lot provides access to both the backpack trail and the Perimeter Trail. An additional parking lot located north of the lake near the campground office provides additional access to the Perimeter Trail only.
Trailhead coordinates: 39.0065°N, 84.1419°W (WGS84)
Head about 30 miles due south from Caesar Creek Lake and you’ll hit the shores of William H. Harsha Lake (a.k.a East Fork Lake). This 2160-acre man-made lake created for flood control in 1978 is the centerpiece of East Fork State Park-one of Ohio’s largest. The park sits just ten miles east of the I-275 Cincinnati outerbelt. Like most of Ohio state parks, East Fork offers a great diversity of recreational opportunities, including over 400 electric campsites and 1200 feet of sandy beach.
Man’s history in this area dates back to 3,000 years ago when the mound building Hopewell and Adena Indians occupied the area. Some of their handiwork stills remains in the southern section of the park. Fast forward to the late 1860s, when gold was mined at two locations in the park’s vicinity. This minor “rush” resulted in the formation of the Batavia Gold Mining Company, whose existence didn’t last a year.
Like Caesar Creek, East Fork is located in the glaciated Till Plains, so expect similar topography. Despite advancing development from the west, low rolling wooded hill, abandoned farmlands and swampy lowlands create the park’s landscape and lay protected inside the park’s boundaries. East Fork Wildlife area occupies approximately 2000 acres at the eastern one-third of the lake. The areas woodlands contain beech, sugar maple, red and white oak, shagbark hickory and wild black cherry trees. The wetter lowland forests are composed of silver maple, American elm, black gum and sycamore. The meadows and remnant prairies contain big bluestem grass, purple coneflower and more.
Within the boundaries of East Fork State Park are two backpacking trails. The 14-mile East Fork Backpack Trail stays on the south side of Harsha Lake whereas the 32-mile Steven Newman Worldwalker Perimeter Trail loops it. Sharing a large part of the same route with the Perimeter Trail is the Buckeye Trail, the North Country Trail and the American Discovery Trail. The backpack trail is laid out in a fashion where the first 5.5 miles are hiked in two directions and the remaining 3 miles as a loop. The terrain of East Fork is not nearly as demanding as the hilly terrain of southeast Ohio. For that reason, East Fork may be a smart choice for beginning backpackers. Equine traffic is permitted on the Perimeter Trail, but not the backpack trail, although this rule does not appear to be clear to all riders.
Four backcountry camps are located along the trail system. Free permits must be obtained from the park office near the south trailhead prior to hitting the trail. Camps 1 and 2 are shared by both the backpack trail and the Perimeter Trail. Bunk style shelters are provided at these camps, along with pit latrines. Water is not available at camp and must be carried or treated from the lake’s many feeder streams. Water can be collected from the state park at several locations before beginning your hike, but like most state parks, water is typically shutoff in colder months. Several road crossings along both trails provide the option to cache water before setting out.