Urbana and Champaign County is Southwest and Central Ohio’s Spring and Summer destination for outdoor exploration and activities!
With its close proximity to the Columbus and Dayton metropolitan areas and being within an hour’s drive of these locales, Champaign County is a great place for a day or overnight trip to venture outdoors as the weather warms up. From caves, fishing, fly fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and camping to parks, bike trails, nature preserves, disc golf, and golf courses, Champaign County has something for every outdoor adventurer.
Ohio’s Mad River is a popular brown trout fishery with the river being stocked yearly with over 12,000 brown trout by the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s fish hatcheries. In Champaign County, this river flows through the county with multiple access points, including a newly created, state owned access point near the intersection of State Route 296 and State Route 29, just north of Urbana.
In addition to fishing and fly fishing, the Mad River is one of Ohio’s great places to kayak and canoe. Birch Bark Canoe Livery provides rentals of canoes and kayaks for paddlers who want to enjoy the cool and clear waters of the Mad River. In most places within the river, the water is only 2-3 feet deep with the river bottom visible to paddlers, and the gentle current of the river allows for a leisurely pace.
For the camping enthusiast, Champaign County is home to Kiser Lake State Park and Rittenhouse Resort which both offer camping sites. Campsite reservations are required for Kiser Lake State Park and can be placed by calling (866) OHIOPARKS or by reserving online. Kiser Lake State Park features a 396-acre lake and is a popular destination for camping, swimming, non-motorized boating, picnicking, hiking, and fishing. Rittenhouse Resort is a privately owned, 40-acre campground that is open May through October and features a swimming lake and fishing pond.
The Simon Kenton Trail bike trail extends through Champaign County and connects to the larger Miami Valley trail system which features the nation’s largest paved trail network of over 340 miles of trail. In total, the Simon Kenton Trail is a 35-mile trail adventure from Springfield, through Urbana, and up to Bellefontaine. Within Champaign County, parking and access to the trail is available at County Line Road, at Woodburn Road, at State Route 55, and at the restored Urbana Depot. In addition to public parking, the restored depot on Miami Street in Urbana features public restrooms and a popular coffeehouse.
For the nature lover, Champaign County is home to three state owned nature preserves, including Cedar Bog, Davey Woods, and Siegenthaler-Kaestner Esker. Cedar Bog Nature Preserve is located just south of Urbana and is considered by many to be Ohio’s premier natural area. The site is home to many rare plants and animals and it is a National Natural Landmark, one of only twenty-five such sites in the State of Ohio. A boardwalk and nature center are also located on site. Davey Woods State Nature Preserve is a 103-acre mature forest woodland featuring tulip trees, sugar maples, and oak. This site is a great place for hiking or fall color viewing. Siegenthaler-Kaestner Esker State Nature Preserve is a 37-acre preserve that features glacial landforms.
More evidence of glaciers can be found at the county’s caves that are open to the public. Cave Adventures is home to an extraordinarily breathtaking cave where guests descend 33 feet underground. Each guest is fitted with their own helmet and headlamps to guide the way in this unique adventure, to be explored in the most primitive sense. Crawl, climb and walk as you discover splendid stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, columns, flow stones, curtains and more! The ancient cavern boasts a “red room” that will astound all visitors.
No trip to Champaign County is complete without visiting Ohio’s largest and most beautiful cavern! Ohio Caverns is an all-weather attraction that is open all year. Each tour is guided and is a comfortable walk through the cavern. Each tour takes approximately one hour where the temperature remains a constant 54 degrees throughout the year. The tours are educational and provide the public with an opportunity to see the wonderful world of underground beauty.
Lastly, Champaign County is a destination for both disc golfers and traditional golfers alike. The Hilltop Disc Golf Course at Melvin Miller Park in Urbana is free and offers nine open holes and nine wooded holes with varying terrain. In addition, Melvin Miller Park also offers an additional nine disc golf course that is located on flat terrain. Beyond disc golf, Champaign County is home to the Urbana Country Club, Lakeland Golf Club, and Woodland Golf Club.
For outdoor adventurers planning an overnight trip, the Cobblestone Hotel-Urbana is offering special rates for those participating in the Explore the Outdoors Trail. Call the hotel directly and ask for the FFT rate.
To learn more about the unique destinations and attractions in Urbana and Champaign County, follow the Champaign County Visitors Bureau on Facebook and Instagram or check us out on the web at www.visitchampaignohio.com.
Doug Crabill is a member of the Champaign County Visitors Bureau Committee.