Making the most of the weather at Mohican

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Mohican State Park Bridge
Instead of a traditional wooden framework as support, this bridge at Mohican State Park has steel as a foundation and a wooden canopy to give it a historical look. (Julie Geiss photo)

When I planned our first camping trip of the season, I envisioned warm walks through wildflower meadows. What I didn’t anticipate was 30-degree temps and rain, snow and sleet. It was a lesson in that even the best-made camping plans succumb to the weather. 

We had brought the camper out of its winter storage in the garage and checked all the lines and storage tanks. Knowing that it was finally time to camp again after a long winter, packing wasn’t a torturous chore. 

We had reservations at the campground at Mohican State Park in Ashland County near Loudonville, Ohio. With extended family members joining us for the weekend, it was guaranteed to be memorable. 

Glacial creation

Mohican State Park has 1,100 acres of trees, trails and natural treasures waiting to be explored. Adjacent to the state park is Mohican-Memorial State Forest with 5,000 additional acres of land. 

Driving south after we exited the freeway, we noticed rolling hills and scattered farms. Loudonville and the Mohican region sit at the edge of where the last glacier, the Wisconsinsian, came to a halt and began to melt. 

Moraines and ridges of linear rock mark the line between land flattened by the glacier and untouched landscape. Water from the melting glacier helped to carve out Clear Fork Gorge which is found within the state park boundaries. The gorge, as it can be seen from the top of the scenic overlook, is 1,000 feet wide at the top and 300 feet deep. 

My family spent time at the overlook watching red tail hawks swoop above the treeline, but below our vantage point at the overlook. It was a strange change in perspective. 

At the bottom of the gorge lies the Mohican River. A covered bridge stretches across the river, reminiscent of earlier pioneer days in the area. The covered bridge is actually not as old as it appears. It was built in 1969 as a tribute to the many historic covered bridges throughout Ohio. 

Instead of a traditional wooden framework as support, the bridge has steel as a foundation and a wooden canopy to give it a historical look. There are two outside lanes for pedestrians. As I went across it with eight kids running and bouncing on the planks, I decided to make the return trip on the very stable concrete center lane. 

The gorge area draws many hikers and trail runners to the area. Trails follow the river or zigzag along the terrain until they reach the top of the gorge. Hemlocks, some old-growth white pine, and sycamore trees reach very tall heights and fill in the landscape. 

Change of plans

There are two waterfalls in the park, Big Lyon Falls and Little Lyon Falls. Unfortunately, our hiking time was cut short due to the weather. What is a camping trip in Ohio in the spring without cold temperatures and rain? 

Instead, we found donuts that were as big as our heads and took a short driving tour. 

We stopped at the Mohican Lodge and Conference Center to explore and escape the rain. Built in 1974, the architecture of the lodge allows it to reflect the nature of the park. 

Fieldstone walls and rough-hewn timbers give the lodge a welcoming rustic feel. The central indoor fireplace is cozy and relaxing with rocking chairs all around it. Large windows make wildlife viewing possible without being subject to the finicky weather. 

While relaxing near the fireplace, we saw bald eagles flying over Pleasant Hill Lake. Thankfully, the clouds parted and sunbeams poured down instead of rain. 

Mohican State Park Bridge
The suspension bridge spans 120 feet across the Clear Fork of the Mohican State Scenic River. (Julie Geiss photo)

We did get one hike in at the campground to the new suspension bridge. It is a new addition to the park trails, approximately one mile from the campground. The bridge, spanning 120 feet across the Clear Fork of the Mohican State Scenic River, was completed in May of 2021. It connects the Hemlock Gorge Tail with the Gorge Overlook Trail. Hikers can travel from the lowest section of the gorge at the river to the scenic overlook. 

Another option hikers can choose is to skip the long hike and run back and forth on the bridge, making it bounce. We are that family.

Since everyone was having fun on the trail and not complaining, I didn’t push my luck with a vertical hike. 

Bike trail

My boys were anxious to switch gears into mountain biking. Mohican State Park and the adjoining state forest are known for their 24.5-mile mountain bike trail. It was created by the Mohican/Malabar Bike Club in conjunction with the ODNR.

I was certain that I would need to Google the location of the nearest ER, but all cycling enthusiasts in our party remained unscathed. They are excited about riding the trails again in the future. 

By the end of the weekend, we had experienced the weather of three seasons. However, despite the weather, we had fun experiences as a family and time spent together huddled around a campfire. 

We hope to return to Mohican in its peak season, summer. There are many more areas to explore and the best part is it’s only a one-tank trip away from home.

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