west branch state park in ohio what to see and do

West Branch State Park – What to See and Do

Located in northeastern Ohio, West Branch State Park is a great place to visit if you are into hanging out at a beautiful lake for the day or enjoying a few hiking trails.  It’s also an amazing spot for camping, with gorgeous sunsets and an extremely well-designed and well cared for campground!  It’s also a fantastic spot to call “home” while you are visiting nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which lacks any campgrounds inside the park.

west branch state park in ohio what to see and do

West Brand State Park is quite popular during the summer months in particular, so if you plan on visiting when it’s busy, you may want to come during the week or arrive early in the day to be sure you are able to get a good spot on the beach or get your boat in the water without too much traffic!

We hope this guide helps you figure out how to best plan out your day and enjoy your visit to West Branch State Park!

WEST BRANCH STATE PARK HISTORY

West Branch State Park is located on the plateau  that was formed at the same time as the creation of the Appalachian Mountains.  A result of glacial movement, the area surrounding the park includes small “kettle lakes” and a unique collection of foliage, including bogs and a beech-maple forest.

west branch state park in ohio what to see and do

Like many parks, the land was set aside and designated as a state park in 1966 after the creation of the Michael J. Kirwan Reservoir by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  What was created was a really special playground of nearly 5,400 acres.

ACTIVITIES IN WEST BRANCH STATE PARK

west branch state park map

West Branch State Park map, courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources

If you like spending time outdoors, then it’ll be easy to find something to do in West Branch State Park!  From time on the water to time in the woods exploring to just hanging out with friends, this is a great spot to visit.  Most activities don’t require much in the way of preparation, other than making sure you bring with you the right gear!

west branch state park in ohio what to see and do

When visiting West Branch State Park our recommendations for activities include:

  • Hanging out on the Beach and Swimming. Located on the southern side of the lake, a large sand beach invites swimmers and sunbathers!  There are picnic tables as well as grills to use.  The lake is amazing for swimming and you’ll be sure to enjoy your time here!  You can access the beach area at the end of Alliance Road.
  • Boating. The reservoir is ideal for boating, which is nearly six-miles long without any horsepower limit.  There are several spots to put your boat in, including the East Ramp (located at the end of Gilbert Road), West Ramp (located at the end of Rock Spring Road), the Knapp Road Ramp (located at the end of Knapp Road, which is gravel), the Rock Spring Road Ramp and the ramp at the Campground, which is only allowed for registered campers.  There is also a marina near the beach area, which offers gas and general supplies.  There are also rentals, including Waverunners, pontoons and fishing boats.

west branch state park in ohio what to see and do

  • Fishing.  Fishing is super popular in the park with a variety of species available to catch (including bass, walleye, catfish and muskellunge).  You need to be sure you have an Ohio fishing license if you are going to fish.
  • Mountain Biking. Near the West Boat Ramp (at the end of Rock Spring Road) is a parking area for nearly 12 miles of mountain biking trails.
  • Disc Golf. There are two disc golf courses in West Branch State Park.  A nine-hole course is located at the campground with an 18-hole course near the picnic area at the beach.  Disc rentals are located at the campground office.
  • Picnicking.  You can picnic at the beach area, which offers grills and picnic tables.

THE BEST HIKES IN WEST BRANCH STATE PARK

While you won’t find hiking trails with mountain views in the park, there are a few really nice trails that are a great way to spend part of the day.  If you are up for more challenging hiking then there are a few options as well, though most of those trails area just outside of the park.  Here are a few recommendations if you are into hiking!

  • The West Branch North Loop Trail is a great connection of smaller hiking trails. This loop trail is an easy/moderate hike that is 3.2 miles (round-trip) and climbs only about 140 feet in elevation.  Head counterclockwise on the loop by heading north from the parking area before entering the forest.  The trail crosses over Esworthy Road at the 1.3-mile point as it heads into the forest and ultimately along the reservoir with pretty views of the water.  Be advised that if it has rained recently, this trail does get a bit muddy.  The trailhead for the West Branch North Loop starts at the campground overflow parking area.

west brand north loop trail map

  • Though not in the park, Shaw Woods is another great easy hike to consider. This hike travels through a wooded area with grasslands and plenty of trees!  You’ll hear wildlife and have a wonderful time wandering through the woods.  The hike is about 2.9-miles (round-trip) with only about 170 feet of elevation gain.  It can get muddy here after it rains as well!  The Shaw Woods trail is on the west side of Berry Road, north of Newton Falls Road.

shaw woods hiking map

  • Another great place to hike is the trail system in Dix Park. This easy, 1.9-mile (round-trip) trail only gains about 90 feet in elevation as it heads though a beautiful wildflower walk.  The trailhead is located in Highway 44, just north of Highway 14 about six miles northwest of West Branch State Park.

dix park trail map

WHAT IS THERE TO DO NEAR WEST BRANCH STATE PARK?

Only 30 miles to the west of West Brand State Park is one of the most popular National Parks in the country, Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Cuyahoga Valley is full of great hikes, biking trails and even a train ride.  We highly recommend planning to spend at least a day here if you haven’t been before!

HOW TO GET TO WEST BRANCH STATE PARK AND OTHER TRAVEL INFORMATION

Though not directly on any major highway, West Branch State Park is located just north of Interstate 76 and about 12 miles east of Interstate 77.

ENTRANCE FEES AND REQUIRED PASSES FOR WEST BRANCH STATE PARK

There are no fees to visit any of Ohio’s State Parks, including West Branch State Park.

WEST BRANCH STATE PARK CAMPING

There is a campground inside of West Branch State Park, and it was an amazing camping experience for us!  Sites are paved, large and level. 

West Branch State Park Campground:

  • Location: The West Branch State Park Campground is located at the end of Esworthy Road off Ohio State Route 5.
  • Accessible via: Vehicle.
  • Reservations: Offered year-round. West Branch State Park Reservations.
  • Capacity: 198 sites.
  • Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: Yes / Yes / Yes.
  • Toilets / Showers: Flush toilets and showers.
  • Additional details: This campground large with plenty of sites. The bathhouses are immaculately maintained and quite new.

west branch state park in ohio what to see and do

west branch state park in ohio what to see and do

BEST TIME TO VISIT WEST BRANCH STATE PARK

By far, the most popular time to visit West Branch State Park is in the summertime.  We highly recommend going in the warmer months to fully take advantage of the swimming, boating and beach activities.  The spring can be a bit muddy with rains coming in, but the fall is gorgeous if you can get to the park on a day when it’s warm enough to enjoy the outdoors.

VISITING WEST BRANCH STATE PARK IN THE WINTER

The park is open year-round and is great if you love to snowmobile or snowshoe.  As long as you are prepared with warm clothing, the park is great in the winter and not crowded at all!

ARE PETS ALLOWED IN WEST BRANCH STATE PARK?

Pets are more than welcome to come to the park but must stay leashed in the camping area and on trails.  Pets are not allowed in the swimming areas or on the beach.

RELATED INFORMATION ON WEST BRANCH STATE PARK AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS

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About Just Go Travel Studios

We are Amy & Pete Brahan. Very simply, we are passionate about our National Parks and Public Lands and explore them with our three kids whenever we can.

As much as we enjoy traveling, we also love sharing our knowledge and helping others create everlasting memories through our custom-made travel posters, downloadable travel itineraries and detailed blog articles.

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