Maybe spending the night in the wilderness is a little more than you want, maybe you just want to
spend a few hours one day in what seems to be a truly wild place. That desire is easily
accommodated, since the two backpacking loops run near enough to one another in places that loops
of varying lengths are possible. There are also several short hikes located throughout the park.
Be sure you are equipped with sturdy hiking boots that will keep your feet dry, the trails can be
very muddy (swampy would be a better word) at times.
Best Short Hike
By far the best short hike (less than 2 miles) in the area in our opinion is the Fern Hill Trail.
This trail is almost never muddy due to the terrain it traverses. This hike is at it's best in
winter, because while most of the ground is some shade of brown from dirt and dead leaves, Fern Hill
is blooming with greenery. The trail begins across the road from the Campground Beach (not the main
Beach). Directions are as follows:
Proceed to the Campground.
Enter the campground, stay on the main road and park at the campground beach which is on your left
shortly before the end of the road.
Walk back out to the main campground road, and across the road and a little to your left you
will see a clearing which marks the start of the Fern Hill trail. (you can also access the trail
from Loop G in the campground).
The trail is a loop of a little over a mile, with steep up and down sections that are sometimes
strenuous but rarely slippery.
Best Day Hike
For those of you longing for a dayhike with connotations of remote wilderness hiking, the following
5 mile loop hike should satisfy your craving. It is only difficult if it has rained recently, and
even then, your obstacles occur entirely in the first mile. Be warned though, there is a stream
crossing in that first mile that may turn you around if it has recently rained a lot…
Begin your excursion at the south access point. Click here for directions.
From the parking area, walk southeast back up the gravel road toward the paved road, then cross the
paved road. You will see a sign welcoming you to the Perimeter Trail. The trail begins by crossing
a grassy area near the road. It soon enters the woods and crosses a small wash. Shortly after
entering the woods, the trail makes a sharp right turn, it almost looks like the trail continues
straight ahead, you'll see a couple of fence posts that used to support a fence indicating that
straight ahead is not the correct way. Watch out for barbed wire fences, none are extremely close
to the trail but some are close enough that caution is warranted. As you enter the forest, Sugar
Maple Trees dominate your view. After 0.5 miles you will spot a brick building to your right, this
is a park maintenance building. Go left (East) as you approach the fence that surrounds the
building (watch for ankle busting drainage holes in this area). In 100 feet you will see a fork in
the trail, and a sign for overnight area #1, sometimes covered with brush. Turn leftish toward the
overnight area, through a small patch of dense ground cover and down a short hill. You will soon
encounter a stream crossing (impassible after hard rain). If you find the stream crossing to be
impassible, I suggest returning to the parking area and hiking the Backpack Trail in the other
direction for a couple miles, then turn around and head back to the parking area. By doing this
you will hike some great trail without danger of getting stuck at another stream crossing.
Assuming you were able to cross the stream, continue on to the overnight area. Once there, you will
find a fire ring next to a small pond, a bunkhouse, another covered shelter that people put firewood
in to dry, and some outhouse-type toilets with the doors missing as of this writing. Keep walking
in the same direction straight through the overnight area, and continue past it. In about 15
minutes walking time you will junction with the Backpack Trail, shortly after crossing a road.
As you are walking toward the junction there will be a sign on your right that says "Overnight
Area #2: 4 miles". You will want to go the left instead, which will take you back to your vehicle
in about 4 miles. A few minutes after leaving the junction, the trail will finally dry out, and the
hiking from this point onward is much nicer.
There will be two more road crossings coming up before long, the first of which is the road that
goes to the beach (you should see the parking lot for the beach as you look to your right). You
may want to take a few minutes to visit the beach area if you have the time. Further along, there
will be some other places when you will be very near to the lake on your right, and you may want to
stray down to the shore to have a look. Also, after about 2.3 miles of travel you will see some
picnic areas to your left, and 1 or 2 nice restrooms. Frequent orange blazes, blue blazes, and
occasional ADT markers identify this section of trail. This indicates that it is the Backpack
Trail, part of the Buckeye Trail, and part of the American Discovery Trail. You will eventually
come to some fairly steep downhill switchbacks that take you to a wide stream crossing. This
stream is rarely high enough to be a problem to cross. From the stream crossing, it is about a
quarter mile of somewhat muddy hiking back to your car.