Spending time in the great outdoors is a relaxing and wonderful experience. In central Ohio, we are fortunate to have plenty of greenspaces and parks, including Alum Creek State Park located in Delaware County.
Only 25 minutes north of downtown Columbus, Alum Creek’s 4,630-acres of shale cliffs, rolling meadows and beach-maple forests provides a hub of recreational activity for the whole family.
Whether you have a day, a weekend, or more, include a trip to Alum Creek State Park on the family calendar this summer.
On the Water
One of the best ways to spend the day at Alum Creek is to get out on the water. The 3,387-acre reservoir is a boaters paradise surrounded by trees, protected coves, and cliffs. The area south of US 36 permits watercraft with unlimited horsepower, while north of US 36 is no wake only.
The newly renovated Marina is a hub for boating activities. Visitors can rent boats and gear, get park information, stock up on supplies, purchase gas, or grab a bite to eat. Drive up docks are available for boaters to stop by anytime.
The Marina offers both non-motorized and motorized rentals at reasonable rates. Select from paddleboards, kayaks, personal watercraft, powerboats, fishing boats, or pontoons. Rent for a few hours or the whole day! Advanced reservations are highly recommended.
Music lovers can enjoy a relaxing evening on the outdoor patio during the 2023 Summer Music Series. Bring a comfy chair and listen to live music with a waterfront view. Enjoy classic rock, country, and folk music on scheduled nights from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm.
The Marina is located at 4000 Hollenback Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035.
The Howard ramp has rollers for easy launch and offers the most secluded paddling waters. If you don’t have your own kayak, Alum Creek Adventures is a local company that offers kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals launching from Howard.
The state of Ohio offers a free boater education course for safe operation of a boat on the water. Completion of the course is a requirement for anyone born after January 1, 1982 and renting a watercraft over 10hp.
The Marina has a training kiosk available, but completing the course in advance will get you out on the water a lot faster.
There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than a refreshing dip in the water. Alum Creek is home to the largest inland state park beach in Ohio. Whether you arrive by boat or by car, at 3,000 feet in length, there is plenty of room to spread out. (Pets are not permitted on the beach.)
Bring along a picnic and make a day of it. There is a grassy picnic area with charcoal grills, a playground for the kids, and a sand volleyball court. 3400 Lewis Center Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035
For boaters, there are a few designated swimmers’ coves, such as Big Run Cove, Sailing Association Cove, and near the US 36/37 bridge. Be sure to confirm the approved locations with park staff in advance.
Spend a quiet morning fishing along the banks of the reservoir. Anglers can expect to find a large variety of fish including small/largemouth bass, white bass, crappie, channel catfish, bluegill, muskie, and saugeye.
There are plenty of places to drop a line in the water, with or without a boat (ODNR fishing map). Check out coves and inlets accessible near the boat launches, shoreline access from roadside parking and pullouts, the spillway below the dam, or head north toward Howard Road in search of solitude.
Exploring on Foot
Hikers can find solitude on miles of hiking trails throughout the park. Choose from open and easy trails near the dam or remote and rugged trails in the northernmost sections. Below are a few of the most popular trails.
Before heading out, always check with a park ranger for trail details, current conditions, and advisories.
Visitor Center Trails
Enjoy this network of family friendly trails that connect the Visitor Center with the Dam and Beach. Walk through meadows, along the shoreline and through the woods on the Bluebird Trail, Beach Access Trail, Lakeview Trail, and Whitetail Run.
Dam Access Trail
This 2.0-mile out and back trail follows along the top of the dam with fantastic views of the reservoir, especially at sunset. It is a paved trail from Lewis Center Rd to the dam, changing to a grass path the remainder of the way.
- Summer 2023: The US Army Corp of Engineers has closed part of the trail for necessary upgrades. Access to the unpaved portion of the trail is available via the steps from the Below the Dam Park.
Rocks to Roots Trail
One of the longest trails in the park, the Rocks to Roots lives up to its name. While it offers minimal elevation change, the technical challenge of the terrain earns this trail a solid moderate rating.
There are two sections of this trail, North (6.4 miles) and South (6.6 miles), each starting at a common trailhead located near the Marina. Ample parking is available..
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) offers guided hikes along portions of this trail throughout the year. Check the ODNR calendar for upcoming dates.
Primarily used as a snowmobile & cross-country ski trail in the winter, this trail is also a popular birding spot. It is a wide grass trail that can become rather muddy after a good rain. Starting near the Galena boat launch, behind disc golf hole #8, choose between a 1-mile, 3.6-mile, or 5-mile loop.
Looking for a challenge? There are a few shared trails that will get your heart pumping. Plan ahead with proper hiking gear, trail maps, and ample hydration. Cell service may be spotty, especially in the northernmost sections of the park.
-Mountain Biking Trails
Choose between the Phase 1 or Phase 2 trails. Hikers are required to walk in the opposite direction of mountain bikers. Check the daily posted direction at the trailhead.
Experienced hikers looking for an all-day option will love the Maple Glen (9.1-mi), Winter Hawk (11.9 mi) and Hunter’s Hollow (6.3 mi) trails. These moderate trails follow the shores of the northern sections through ravines and heavily wooded areas. Keep an eye out for several nesting osprey along these routes.
Alum Creek Dam
Completed in 1974, the dam is part of the flood control plan for the Ohio River Basin. It is managed by the US Army Corp of Engineers. A visit to the state park isn’t complete without exploring the dam area.
Below the Dam
Pack a picnic and head to this large park for an afternoon of fun. Explore the dam, do some fishing, and let the kids burn off energy on multiple playgrounds.
If you have the stamina, tackle the steps to the top of the dam for awesome views of the reservoir, especially at sunset.
Join the US Army Corps of Engineers for a behind-the-scenes Dam Tour to learn the history, and how it was constructed. Tours are May – September, Saturday and Sunday at Noon – 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. Bonus tours are available on Memorial Day and Independence Day.
Tours require climbing 100+ steps. Recommended for ages 6+. The cost is free! Alum Creek Dam is located at 4189 Lewis Center Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035. (Meet in the Below the Dam Recreation area)
Grab a helmet and roll on over to one of four different mountain biking courses/trails. Whether you are a novice or expert, there’s something for everyone. The trails at Alum Creek SP are all maintained by the Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization (COMBO).
Gnomewood Skills Course
A perfect introduction to mountain biking, this skills course gives beginners of all ages an opportunity to practice biking skills. Ride the course with small jumps, drops, berms, and rollers, all meant to provide a fun and educational experience.
Gnomewood Beginners Loop
Put new skills to the test on this 2.0-mile loop located adjacent to Gnomewood Skills Park. This easy one-way loop is great for the entire family.
For more experienced riders or those ready to step up to the next level, the 6.4-mile P1 trail won’t disappoint. Riders will welcome low & wide bridge crossings, while enjoying the technical challenge of navigating plenty of tree roots.
Gnomewood, Beginners Loop, and Phase 1 all share a common parking lot at 6002-, 6090 Lewis Center Rd, Galena, OH 43021. Inclement weather may significantly impact rideability, so be sure to check trail conditions in advance.
Phase 2 is a 5.5-mile loop that promises to test even seasoned riders. There are several longer/narrower bridges, a banked wall turn, logovers, and elevated trail sections. P2 is also a popular trail for hikers and trail runners, so keep a watchful eye.
Parking for the P2 trail can be found just north of Cheshire Road at 1964 Africa Rd #1894, Galena, OH 43021. From the parking area, cross Africa Road to reach the start of the trail.
Disc Golf – The Players Course
Play a round of disc golf at The Players Course, a technical 18-hole course that weaves throughout the wooded areas along the lakeshore. The course is particularly picturesque in the evening, with great sunset views across the water.
Novices will appreciate the front nine with slightly more open fairways. The back nine will challenge even the most advanced player with narrow fairways and plenty of trees. Both sections have a few water hazards to keep things interesting. Players need to provide their own discs.
The Players Course is located at the New Galena Entrance. 4450 Africa Rd, Galena, OH 43021
The Alum Creek archery range offers standing targets from 10 ft to 50 ft. This is a nicely maintained, self-use range that is open from dawn to dusk. It is located at 4310 Curve Road, Delaware, OH 43021.
If you don’t have your own equipment but want to give archery a try, check the ODNR calendar for upcoming “Introduction to Archery” workshops. They are offered a couple times each month and are open to all ages.
For horse owners, the Ohio Horsemans Council (OHC) maintains forty-three miles of bridle trails located throughout the park. Enjoy a day in the saddle, riding through old growth forested areas and the quieter lakeshore found in the northernmost sections.
Trail access is available at the Equestrian Day-Use & Bridle Camp located at Howard Rd, Delaware, OH 43015. For those interested in spending the night, there are twenty-five primitive campsites available with high lines and potable water for horses.
Especially for kids
Every activity at Alum Creek State Park is family friendly, but there are a few special places meant especially for its youngest visitors.
Alum Creek Visitor Center
The visitor center is a perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon or find a respite from the summer heat. Nestled halfway between the beach and dam, there are several interactive exhibits that will interest everyone.
Jr Ranger Program
Go on an adventure to learn more about the park through the USACE Jr Ranger program.
Stop by the Visitor Center to pick up an adventure book or download one online (USACE Junior Ranger Adventure). Once completed, return to the Visitor Center to receive a special badge.
For those who complete the program online, just mail the completion certificate to receive your badge.
Hands on Learning
Learn how the dam was built. Try your hand at water management by using gates, levers, and valves to control water flow. Explore what creatures make the habitats around the park their home.
Learn about the importance of watersheds in the interactive sandbox. Watch for wildlife through the floor to ceiling windows with the dam in the background.
Catch a movie in the visitor center theater. There are twelve to choose from, including kids’ favorites (Rio, The Lorax, Fern Gully), nature & outdoors (First Snow in the Woods, Magic in the Forest, etc), plus more.
The theater is ADA accessible, offers subtitles, and T-coil for hearing aid users. Movies are available to all on a walk-in basis. Groups may reserve a time by contacting email@example.com with date/time, group name/size, and special requests.
The Visitor Center is located at 5905 Lewis Center Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035. There’s plenty of parking, but why not add to the adventure with a leisurely hike?
Beach goers can follow the Beach Access Trail to the Bluebird Trail, which passes by the visitor center and continues on to the dam.
Take your little ones on a storybook adventure on this 0.5-mile trail located at the north end of the beach. Follow the grass path, stopping along the way to read the enchanting story boards.
The story changes throughout the year, so be sure to check it out from season to season.
There is a Free Little Library at the entrance to the trail. Bring a book to leave for others or take one home to enjoy. 3400 Lewis Center Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035
The Nature Center is operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and offers several free programs and guided hikes each month.
There are special programs just for kids, such as Amazing Amphibians, Nature Explorers, Fairy Houses, Animal Feed & Greets, etc. Check the ODNR calendar for upcoming events & dates.
The Nature Center is part of the Alum Creek SP campground at 2911 S Old State Rd, Delaware, OH 43015.
Dogs are welcome in most locations throughout the park and on the hiking trails, as long as they remain leashed.
Friends of Alum Creek Dog Park
If your dog needs a place to run free and burn off some energy, check out this 4-acre dog park. There are two large, fenced areas for small and large dogs to run free and explore. Water is available. 3993 Hollenback Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035
For the swimmers (dogs only) in the group, head around the corner to the dog beach and swimming area. This large, fenced area is available along the shoreline with direct water access. Once in the water, there is no physical containment, so having a dog with good recall is critical.
Be a BARK Ranger
Sign your pup up for the Alum Creek BARK Ranger program and have fun while completing challenges to receive a special bandana and badge.
Repeat visitors or anyone looking for something new should check out one of these unique opportunities offered by various clubs and associations who call Alum Creek home.
Learn to Sail
The Alum Creek Sailing Association promote the sport of sailing through various events and education. They offer a Learn to Sail program for youth and adults and a summer camp for kids 8-15. The association also sponsors Sea Scout Ship 280, a program for youth ages 13-20.
The Westerville Model Aeronautics Association, a radio-controlled model aircraft club calls Dinneen Field home. Visitors to the dam can often see RC aircraft doing spins and loops in the sky or hear the buzz of an motor flying nearby.
Visitors are welcome to stop by at 5770 Africa Rd, Galena, OH 43021 to watch these flying acrobats. Only WMAA members or independently licensed AMA pilots may operate RC aircraft at Dinneen Field.
Where to Stay
Within the park boundaries, camping is the only overnight option. For those who prefer more modern accommodations, there are several hotels located nearby at Polaris or the I71 & US 36/37 Delaware exit.
Alum Creek State Park Campground
This campground is one of best in the Ohio park system. It offers well maintained electric or full hook-up sites that are large and private, with plenty of shade (pet friendly).
If camping isn’t quite your thing, there are a few rustic cabins for rent also (no pets).
The group camp is a private camp located along the southern end of the park. It’s a great option for youth groups, scouts, family reunions, etc.
Boaters can sleep under the stars on the lake. There are a few designated overnight locations near the US 36/37 bridge and in the Sailing Association Cove. Be sure to confirm the approved locations with park staff in advance.
Cross Creek Campground
Cross Creek is not officially part of the state park but is located very close to the state park campground, making it another good option for overnight guests.
The sites are closer together with a much more open feel. Cross Creek offers plenty of things for guests to do onsite, including a nice swimming pool.
Where to Eat
The Marina’s Lakeside Grill & Chill is the only in-park dining option. It is a quick service restaurant offering salads, sandwiches, pizza, ice cream, etc. Grab lunch and enjoy the great outdoor seating available at the Marina.
Cheshire Market – Honestly, a day at Alum Creek just isn’t complete without a stop here. It’s a convenient store, bait shop, and restaurant all in one. The pizza is amazing and the subs are pretty tasty too. Tip for boaters – they will deliver to the Cheshire boat launch too!
Tavern at the Creek – A cozy pub style place specializing in pizza and fantastic smoked wings. They have a nice craft beer selection and live music on some nights.
Waters Edge Sport Grill – Casual restaurant with more full menu options and nice bar. Good patio space and a great place to watch the big game. We like their wraps and gyros best but haven’t had a bad meal here.
Sticky Fingers – Regardless of where you eat, make sure to save a little room for an ice cream treat afterwards.
Plan a visit today
Alum Creek State Park offers so many fun activities for the entire family that it’s easy to spend several days. Add points of interest in the many wonderful towns and communities located in every direction, and you’ll wish you could stay longer.