Looking for a getaway?
I’m sharing some of my favorite destinations for outdoor adventure that are great road trips from Cincinnati.
I’ve personally visited each one of these destinations and many of them I’ve experienced multiple times over the years.
1 Hour Road trip from Cincinnati
Enjoy a remote getaway at one of three unique treehouses at EarthJoy Tree Adventures. I’ve stayed in all three and each treehouse has unique features that I love.
- The “Pete Nelson” has a giant barn door that opens to connect the living room to the outside.
- “Aliyah” has a swinging bridge that connects two sleeping spaces. There is an exposed tree with seating in the living area with board games stored on the seating area shelving.
- “Old Hickory” has a great sleeping nook inside and a slide from the deck. Below the treehouse, there are hammocks to rest in.
Each treehouse has an area inside where you can cook your meals too or you can grill outside or on the campfire.
There are plenty of hiking trails on the property, a creek, and a fishing pond. You can also schedule a guided tree climb that allows you to experience the thrill of tree climbing without the risk thanks to your harness.
1+ hr Road Trip from Cincinnati
Take a Hike at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve 268 acres with trails that connect to John Bryan State Park. My favorite part of the trails was the waterfalls.
Another beautiful spot to visit is the Historic Clifton Mill. It seriously looks like a postcard. I highly recommend trying their giant pancakes at the Historic Clifton Mill restaurant that serves breakfast all day. During the holiday season, add their legendary Christmas light display to your list.
After a long day on the trails, cool off with ice cream from Young’s Dairy Farm.
For the best value purchase a family fun pass that gives access to an assortment of family-friendly activities on-site and included 2 scoops of ice cream.
2.5 Hour Road trip from Cincinnati
A popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, Hocking Hills has an assortment of distinctively unique hiking trails. Over a two-day period, you can cross off most of the popular hikes at Hocking Hills if you are strategic.
If you don’t want to camp in a tent, I highly recommend staying in a cabin at the local Hocking Hills KOA campground.
While you are in the area, check out Athens, Ohio located 45 minutes away. This university town has hiking trails and several fantastic bike and brew destinations on the “Brewed on the Bikeway.”
Outdoor Adventures at Hamilton County, Indiana (North of Indy)
2 Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
Home to Conner Prairie, an outdoor interactive history museum with hands-on interesting making history educational and fun. For an unforgettable aerial view of the park try the tethered 1859 Balloon Voyage, weather permitting.
For a unique adventure in the trees, I highly recommend Edge Adventures Koteewi – Aerial Adventure Park. This self-guided course with obstacles and ziplines is one of my favorite aerial courses to date.
At Koteewi Archery Range, you can put your archery skills to the test with several ranges and unique targets including dinosaurs.
If you need some restaurant recommendations in Hamilton County, I’ve got you covered.
If you want to stay close to Conner Prairie, Prairie Guest House is a bed and breakfast located across the street. During our previous stay there we also visited Morse Beach and park.
1.75+ hour Road trip from Cincinnati
A visit to Shaker Village slows down your pace in a good way. You’ll learn about the history and culture of the community that previously lived there in a way that connects to the here and now.
The 3,000-acre Shaker Village property has historic buildings that include 13 buildings and 72 overnight rooms for guests.
You can explore 35 Miles of Hiking Trails at Shaker Village. My favorite discovery was the Fulling Mill waterfall off on the Shawnee Run trail.
The Preserve has 1200 acres of native grasses attracting 500 plant species and diverse wildlife including 150 species of local and migrating birds.
There is an educational working farm with animals and an amazing garden that sources many of the items at the restaurant.
The locally-sourced food at the Trustees Table restaurant is fantastic! Make sure that you try the lemon pie which is an original Shaker recipe.
Check the calendar to learn more about upcoming special events at Shaker Village.
2 hour Road trip from Cincinnati
A popular destination for climbers from around the world, Red River Gorge does not disappoint. You will run out of time before you run out of hiking trails to choose from. For your first visit, I recommend starting at Natural Bridge first.
You can take the skylift chair lift to the top and hike around to see perspectives of Natural Bridge from afar, above and below without doing a big hike. Ticket options are round trip or one-way in case you want to experience a leg of the hike to or from the top.
Some other unique experiences in the area include driving through a mountain at Nada Tunnel, hiking to a waterfall, Via Ferrata guided rock climbing, and taking a cave tour via boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard with The Gorge Underground.
2.75+ Hour Road trip from Cincinnati
You don’t need a passport for this adventure. The Wilds gives visitors a taste of an African safari with the affordability of midwest prices.
The Wilds resides on over 9000+ acres that were formerly used for strip mining in Cumberland, Ohio.
During the open-air safari tour, you will see several rare and endangered species, along with rhinos, ostriches, and giraffes roaming around in a natural setting.
Outdoor Adventure at Horse Cave and Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
2.75-3 Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
Some of the outdoor adventures for this region might also take you underground.
Hidden River Cave in Horse Cave, Kentucky has ziplining, rappeling to the mouth of a cave and cave tours. You can learn more about caving in the American Cave Museum.
Animals lovers will definitely want to experience the unique encounters with kangaroos at Kentucky Down Under. Their cave tour is also a great one for kids.
You can take an underground boat tour at Lost River Cave or explore the hiking trails.
At Mammouth Cave National Park you can tour the world’s largest underground cave system. There are multiple cave tour options available that allow you to choose your comfort level. There are lots of hiking trails above ground.
Aboveground you can go horseback riding, ride an alpine slide, or zipline or enjoy a scenic chairlift nearby at Kentucky Action Park.
Check out these check places to eat around Bowling Green while you are in the area.
Outdoor Adventures in the French Lick, Indiana Region
2.5+ -3.5 Hours Road Trip from Cincinnati
Explore the beautiful grounds of the West Baden Springs Hotel with an incredible domed atrium once known as the “eighth wonder of the world.”
Hike above ground and then take an underground boat tour at Blue Springs Cavern.
For lodging options, we’ve stayed as a family at the property next door, at French Lick Springs Resort. Another fun option is to sleep in a tepee at Sleeping Bear Retreat and spend some time at Patoka Lake.
Outdoor Adventures at Lake Erie Shores and Islands in Northern Ohio
3.5+ Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
Sandusky, Ohio is most known for Cedar Point Amusement Park, but there is still so much to do in the area. Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve is a beautiful place to hike and observe wildlife.
For access to a private beach, book a stay at Sawmill Creek Resort.
If you feel the need for speed try an airboat ride with Air 1 Airboats or rent a jet ski from North Coast Parasail. For a slower pace rent a bike, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard from Paddle and Climb.
For a sweet treat enjoy an ice cream from Toft’s, Ohio’s oldest dairy.
Did you know that there are islands in Northern Ohio?
Outdoor Adventures at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
4 Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
Experience sandy beaches, sand dunes, and views of Lake Michigan as far as you can see with less drive time than the ocean.
There is a nature center at the Indiana Dunes National Park and if you are feeling extra ambitious take the 3 Dune Challenge for bragging rights.
Pro tip: don’t try the 3 Dune Challenge during the heat of the day…the sand can get hot and the dunes have steep inclines. I speak from the experience of doing it the harder way.
On a clear day, you can see the silhouette of Chicago in the distance during an incredible sunset. While you are in the area, you can check out a few other stops in Valaparsio nearby.
Outdoor Adventures at New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia
4.5-Hour Road Trip From Cincinnati
Discover the beauty of the newest National Park in the US.
This 70,000-acre National Park is a popular place for hiking, rock climbing, and some of the best white water rafting in the country.
Get a new appreciation for the New River Gorge Bridge on a Bridge Walk tour that takes you 800+ feet above the New River. Guests are harnessed to a safety cable as they walk across a 24″ wide catwalk 25 feet below the bridge.
Adventures on the Gorge is a great option for lodging with both cabin and camping options. There are also special promotions that include white water rafting and other outdoor adventures.
Outdoor Adventures in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN
4.5-4.45 Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
There is so much to do in the Smoky Mountain region when it comes to outdoor adventure. Hiking, white water rafting, ziplining, alpine slides, mountain coasters, tubing, zorbing, waterfalls, and more.
I have visited this area many times and we always pack a LOT into a weekend visit each time.
Where to stay comes down to preference and what you want to be close to.
Gatlinburg Falls Resort is a great option if you want a cabin that feels like you are away but is still a close drive to downtown.
Greystone Lodge on the River is one of my favorites if you want to be within walking distance of everything downtown.
Outdoor Adventures in Saugatuck, Michigan
4.75+ Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
Enjoy soft sandy beaches next to Lake Michigan.
Oval Beach has been voted “Top 25 Beaches in the World” by Condé Nast Traveler and “Top Freshwater Beach in the US” by National Geographic Traveler.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park is another great stop with 2.5 miles of shoreline and 1,000 acres of land to hike and explore.
Saugatuck has a charming downtown with shops and restaurants. Round the Corner ice cream is a great stop with very generous portion sizes for their scoops.
A few unique adventures in the area include a ride on the Chain Ferry or a more extreme ride Saugatuck Dune Rides (check their website for reopening dates)
Outdoor Adventures in Erie, PA
5+ Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
Presque Isle State Park is a popular 3,112-acre Pennsylvania State Park between Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay.
Enjoy a relaxing day at my favorite scenic beach #7 or take one of the guided kayak tours to Misery Bay with rentals from The Presque Isle Canoe and Boat Livery. They also have canoes, paddleboards, motorized boats, and rowboats available for rent.
You can see another beautiful view of the bay climb Port Erie Bicentennial Tower.
Outdoor Adventures at Laurel Highlands, PA
5+ Hour Road Trip From Cincinnati
Test your driving skills and learn how to drive like a pro on the Jeep off-road experience at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
You can also experience outdoor adventure year-round at Seven Springs Resort. In the winter, there is skiing and snow tubing.
During the summer months try shooting clay pigeons, ziplining, hiking, ride the alpine slide, mountain biking, or try fly fishing,
Ohiopyle State Park is a very popular outdoor destination encompassing 20,500 acres with hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, fishing, and more.
If you love architecture, a visit to Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright is a must! You can also tour other Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area, Kentucky Knob and even sleep overnight in a Frank Lloyd Wright home
Another noteworthy site is in the area is the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Outdoor Adventures in Port Huron, Michigan
5 Hours Road Trip From Cincinnati
Port Huron is located in the “Thumb” area of East-Central Michigan about an hour north of Detroit.
This is a great destination for outdoor recreation on the water with several beaches that each have their own personality. The water is gorgeous with various shades of turquoise blue.
Take a bike ride or walk along the river on the BRIDGE TO BAY TRAIL. The paths along the Bridge to Bay Trail are wide enough that kids should feel comfortable too.
The Blue Water Bridge goes over the St. Clair River and connects Port Huron, Michigan, and Point Edward and Sarnia, Ontario.
If you are looking for a great place to stay, I highly recommend the Port Huron KOA Resort.
Outdoor Adventures in Muskegon, Michigan
5.5+ Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
It’s hard to beat the 26 miles of white sandy beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan in Muskegon.
On summer weekends experience archery 101 or try the summer wheeled luge track at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex.
I tried the summer luge track first and then came back in the winter to try the regular luge track.
Thrill-seekers have both water and park ride options for one price at Michigan’s Adventure. (Make sure that you check Michigan’s Adventure website for summer reopening dates)
5.5-Hour Road Trip from Cincinnati
Most known for the Biltmore Estate, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to experience on the property.
The 5000 acres Pisgah National Forest is located less than 30 minutes from Asheville. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails and gorgeous mountain views at every turn.
You’ll find several waterfalls to explore and don’t miss the Natural Waterslide, “Sliding Rock.”
Which outdoor adventure destination do you want to visit for your next road trip?
Hopefully, I’ve given you some ideas to get you started for your next outdoor adventure getaway. I’ll be adding more places to this article in the future too.