Salt Fork Lodge: A Grand Hotel in Ohio’s Outdoor Beauty

Expansive windows of the lodge overlook the pool and views of Salt Fork State Park.

Expansive windows of the lodge overlook the pool and views of Salt Fork State Park.

In eastern Ohio, Salt Fork State Park near Cambridge is one of my new favorite places, and Salt Fork Lodge is a reason why. Built in 1972, in a grand lodge style reminiscent of turn-of-the-century lodges like East Glacier Lodge in Montana, rough beams and stone wall highlights reflect the rugged outdoors, and the building’s expansive windows give visitors views of the lake and the surrounding woods.

Double bed room that opens to a patio.

Double bed room that opens to a patio.

Guest rooms either have a balcony or a patio, and the view depends upon the location. Our two double bed room on the first floor faced the outdoor swimming pool and children’s playground. For anyone with small children, this is a perfect room for sitting on the patio drinking coffee while keeping an eye on a young one.

Our teen, however, high-tailed it to the arcade with its ample set up of video games and air hockey and ping pong tables. One thing I appreciated was that instead of sucking up money as if it was water, games lasted a long time and the ones with the claws that grab prizes were programmed to actually grab a prize. As a person who loves a round of pinball, I can vouch that the “Walking Dead” pinball machine delivered satisfying dings, whirs and extra bonus points.

Gem mining is just one of many Salt Fork State Park activities

Gem mining is just one of many Salt Fork State Park activities

Board games can be picked up at the front desk. For more indoor action, there is an indoor pool and hot tub and fitness center.

Organized activities vary depending upon the season and the day. On Saturday, the lodge’s activity room is open where critters like salamanders, lizards and a box turtle watch over crafts projects and organized games.

The outdoor pool and nature trails also turn into activity locations where the whole family can sometimes participate.

For anyone looking for a place to just sit back and relax, there’s plenty of space—large fireplaces with grouped seating, and other comfy areas with outdoor views offer a several options for chatting, reading or playing cards. I saw some folks involved in a rousing game of euchre.

This box turtle mostly hangs out in Salt Fork lodge's activity center.

This box turtle mostly hangs out in Salt Fork lodge’s activity center.

The resort’s bar and lounge serves a variety of libations. I appreciated the wide selection of Ohio wines, some of which can also be purchased by the bottle in the hotel’s gift shop, although the gift shop selection is not as extensive.

The Salt Fork State Park, with its acres of groomed and untamed wilderness offers a bounty of free and reasonably priced options for day guests, campers or those staying at the lodge.

We took in the gem mining located near the campground office and store. Bags with arrowhead, fossils or gem treasures range from a few dollars to over ten. We paid for the $7 bag of gems which held an abundant mix of multi-colored beauty. A gem identifying sheet came with the purchase.

Kennedy Stone House Museum

Kennedy Stone House Museum

We also took the nature trail hike to the Stone House Museum. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this is the former home of the Benjamin Kennedy family. Kennedy purchased the land in 1837 and commissioned the house that remained in the family until 1966 when the state of Ohio bought it for part of the park. Unfortunately the museum was closed during our visit but we did peak in windows and enjoy the lakeside view. The museum is open Friday-Monday, May to October.

If you don’t want to take the nature trail (which I found out is walk-able in sandals–what was I thinking?), there is a road that goes right to the house. My husband drove to pick my son and me up. You can also boat to it.

Salt Fork Lake at dusk.

Salt Fork Lake at dusk.

About boating. Salt Fork State Park has two marinas where you can rent kayaks, canoes, and a variety of motor boats including pontoon boats and those powerful enough for water-skiing. We ran out of time during our visit for this one but we did stop by Sugartree Marina to check it out. There’s a snack bar along with a small shop that sells fishing and boating accessories. Boats can be rented by the hour up to by the week.

Although there isn’t horseback riding stables on site, there are 20 miles of horseback riding trails. Nearby you’ll find stables where guides will take you into the park if you don’t arrive with your own horse.

There are 14 miles of hiking trails. Plus Salt Fork State Park boasts an 18-hole golf course, tennis court, basketball court, shuffle board and horseshoes.

In addition to the lodge’s 148 guest rooms (from doubles to a king bed to rooms that also have bunk beds), there are chalet, hillside and lakeside cabins. Cabins are equipped with kitchen amenities, as well as, bed linens and bath towels and washcloths.

Some cabins are pet-friendly.

Campers can chose from sites that range from primitive campsites to those with RV hook-ups. Book a campsite through the Ohio State Park’s reservation page.

Over our two-day stay, I kept thinking that two days just gave us a taste of the Salt Fork State Park and the lodge’s offerings. We didn’t get a chance to visit the park’s nature center, for example, or swim in the lake.  Next time.

Cabins on the lake.

Cabins on the lake.

By the way, if you eat at the lodge’s Timber’s Restaurant, try the Texas Pork McDaddy, a hearty, tasty concoction of pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce on grilled Texas toast.  Also, don’t miss the specialty dessert, the Salt Fork Pretzel. It’s a soft pretzel drizzled with chocolate sauce and honey and topped with dollops of whipped cream and vanilla ice-cream.

Oh, yeah. If you’re a pickle lover, the Fried Garlic Pickle with Cajun sauce appetizer is perfect. I love fried dill pickles and Salt Fork’s version is about the best I’ve had. Maybe the best.

Salt Fork Pretzel

Salt Fork Pretzel

* Other room details. Rooms come equipped with a small refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron and ironing board and free WiFi. Shampoo, lotion and bathwash are also provided.

Book a room in a cabin or at the lodge through Salt Fork State Park’s website or by calling 1 (800) 282-7275.

Rates range from $109 to $249 before taxes.

Photos and post courtesy of Jamie Rhein

*My stay at Salt Fork was hosted by Xanterra Parks and Resorts as part of a travel writers press trip. All opinions are my own. I am quite fond of Ohio State Park lodges so I jumped at the chance to visit one that I had not been to before. We’re already planning a family get-together at Salt Fork.

 

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