At a park as large as East Fork State Park, it can be hard to quickly find a simple nature trail, so we came, we saw, and we conquered, and have hopefully made it easier for you. Covering over 4870 acres, with several entrances, and various types of terrain, the park is huge, and we felt overwhelmed at the thought of driving to the park and being able to quickly find a trail. After doing some research and exploration, not only did we find a simple way to find a great trail, we discovered that the park has many walking options.
We walked on Sunday, September 24, 2017, at 1:00 p.m., with a temperature of 89 degrees. The main park office is located at 3294 Elklick Rd., Bethel, OH, 45106, but we entered at the beach entrance off Rt. 125, between Amelia and Bethel, which is called Park Road One. About 1/2 mile down this road is a visitors’ center which was closed, but there was a map of the trails on an information sign in front of the building. A sign on the building said it was the ‘East Fork State Park Gift and Supply Shop,’ and when we went inside earlier in the week to ask for a trail map, we were told they were out of maps, and had no plans to have any more printed.
A short distance down the road from this building is a cross road with a sign for an Indian mound if you turn to your right, and a small sign with a 3 on it if you turn to your left. The Indian mound is small, with a split-rail fence around it, and there is a paved parking lot and restroom building there as well. The road with the 3 is actually Park Road Three where you find the entrance to the Prairie Trail, although there is no sign from the main road showing it is the way to the trail. Once you turn on Park Road Three, you find signs saying it is an area of native grass and wild turkeys, and eventually come to the entrance of the trail.
There is a large information sign under a shelter at the beginning of the Prairie Trail showing where all the trails go in the area, and how they intersect with each other. There is also a paved parking lot across the street from the trail entrance. The trail is a wide mowed grass path that meanders through a meadow of high grass and small trees. After 1/4 mile it enters the woods and becomes a narrow dirt trail with dips and hills and roots to maneuver. As we walked we noticed colored markings on rocks and trees that identified each trail by color, one of which is a mountain bike trail that you could join, but with folks on bikes whizzing through, it seemed a bit dangerous. We walked further in the woods a ways, and then turned back and joined the far side of the Prairie Trail that circled back to the entrance. The Prairie Trail is only 1/2 mile total distance, so it was great that we could lengthen our walk by joining other trails in the woods for a while.
Restrooms: The restroom building at the Indian mound was open, and we saw on the trail map there was at least one other restroom along the longer trails. There were also restrooms in a building at the beach, which is just a little further down Park Road One, and they were open as well.
Traffic Noise: There was no traffic noise except for an occasional car in the park.
Historic Points of Interest: The Indian mound is the Elklick Road Mound, and is identified as being from the Adena Culture who lived in the area from 800 B.C. to around 100 A.D. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Adena Culture is distinguished from earlier cultures by the invention of pottery, horticulture, house building and extensive burial mounds.
Overall Rating: Although walking the trail was a lovely experience, the Prairie Trail portion was short, and the dirt trail in the woods looked like it could be treacherous in wet conditions. For folks looking for a backpacking experience, however, the park offered many options, as other trails ranged from 9 to 32 miles in length. After walking the trail, we drove further down Park Road One to where it ends at the beach. The lake looked beautiful as the blue water twinkled beneath the hot sun, and happy people enjoyed the beach. Although there were paved stretches to walk at the beach, we were disappointed that there wasn’t a nature trail going along the edge of this beautiful lake view.