A natural paradise, 2,983-acre Lake Hope State Park lies entirely within the 26,824-acre Zaleski State Forest in the valley of Big Sandy Run. It is a rugged, heavily forested region traversed by steep gorges and narrow ridges.
Though the roar of the iron furnaces no longer echoes through the hills of Vinton County, there are many reminders of days gone by at Lake Hope State Park. Situated at the heart of Ohio's Hanging Rock iron region, Lake Hope State Park reflects the rich history of much of southeastern Ohio.
The Hope Furnace was built here over 100 years ago to process the iron ore extracted from the region's sandstone bedrock. The iron resulting from the ore smelting process was used to produce many different items, including ammunition and cannon for the Union Army during the Civil War. Hundreds of men labored cutting timber, working the furnace and driving teams of oxen hauling iron ore to the furnace. Charcoal fires were tended 24 hours a day; so much wood was required for this process that the surrounding hillsides were almost completely stripped of their timber. At the height of the Hope Furnace's production, Ohio was one of the nation's leading producers of iron. As time passed, iron ore was discovered farther west and Ohio's reputation as a major iron producer waned.
By 1900, nearly all of the major furnaces in southern Ohio were shut down. Today, the Hope Furnace chimney and some of the foundation are all that remain of the structure. In the vicinity of the chimney, one may find pieces of ****, the cast-off residue from the smelting process. These pock-marked, glass-like pieces have now become a part of the forest floor. The forest we now see is one that has grown back where hundreds of years ago a primeval forest once stood.
For a time, coal was an important Vinton County export. A number of mines tunneled into the hills and large quantities of coal were transported out in ox-drawn coal cars. Most of the mines were abandoned early in the 20th century.
Lake Hope Forest Park was created in 1937 by the Division of Forestry. The Division of Parks and Recreation and Lake Hope State Park came into existence in 1949.
46 electric sites
141 non-electric sites
3 small group sites accommodate 18 people: reservations required
Heated showerhouses, flush toilets, waste disposal, laundry facilities, picnic tables and fire rings
Pets are permitted
Lake Ridge organized group camp is reservable by calling the park office
Equestrian camp is available for bridle trail users in Zaleski State Forest
The 120-acre lake only allows boats with electric motors and can be accessed by one boat ramp. A variety of paddle equipment is available to rent during the boating season including pontoons, canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Anglers will find good catches of bluegill, catfish, crappie and largemouth bass at Lake Hope. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
Hunting is permitted in the adjacent Zaleski State Forest. A valid Ohio hunting license is required.
Several picnic areas with tables and grills are located at many secluded and scenic areas around the park. A shelterhouse is available for reservation online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
Swimming is permitted in designated areas along the 600-foot swimming beach is located near the dam. Facilities include a shelter with a large sun deck and patios overlooking the lake, restrooms, and concessions. Please exercise caution while swimming at the beach.
Seven hiking trails traverse the park. A 29-mile backpack trail with primitive campsites is available in the adjacent state forest; backpackers must register upon arrival.
Buzzard Cave Trail - 1/2 Mile - Moderate
Greenbriar Trail - 1/2 Mile - Moderate
Peninsula Trail - 3 Miles - Moderate
Hope Furnace Trail - 3.2 Miles - Moderate
White Oak Trail - 1/4 Mile - Moderate/Difficult
Habron Hollow Trail - 1.5 Miles - Moderate/Difficult
Olds Hollow Trail - 1.5 Miles - Moderate/Difficult
Eight mountain biking trails traverse the park totaling over 25 miles of trails of steep hills and ravines that offer challenges suited to intermediate and advanced cyclists. Lake Hope’s wooded mountain biking trails are considered one of Ohio’s top single-track mountain biking trails.
Bobcat Trail - 2 Miles - Moderate
Wildcat Trail - 3.5 Miles - Moderate
Little Sandy Trail - 4.5 Miles - Moderate
Copperhead Trail - 7.2 Miles - Moderate
Red Oak Trail - 1/2 Mile - Moderate/Difficult
Yosemite Trail - 1.5 Miles - Moderate/Difficult
Sidewinder Trail - 2.5 Miles - Moderate/Difficult
Yosemite Falls Trail - 3.5 Miles - Moderate/Difficult
Thirty-one miles of bridle trail are also located in the Zaleski State Forest. The bridle trails are available to riders with their own mounts.
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy sledding, cross-county skiing, ice skating and ice fishing.
Basketball courts, horseshoe pits and playgrounds are available in various day use areas