An eight-mile segment of The Buckeye Trail winds through the park’s western edges. To be fair, much of that segment follows Knapp Road, but the wooded sections of trail (well-marked with the familiar blue blazes) are quite enjoyable, especially in the spring when the tulip trees are in bloom (usually early to mid May).
While the trail is largely comprised of gentle, rolling hills and isn’t difficult, this is a hike that begs for good footwear; it’s frequently wet, and you may have a creek crossing you can’t jump across. Also, mosquito repellent is a welcome accessory here, almost any time of day from March through October.
What Makes It Great
Sprawling along the Eastern side of Portage County, West Branch State Park's more than 5,300 acres of land surround a 2,600-acre reservoir.
First tip: take a map whenever and wherever you go in the park! Access and entry points to the marina, swimming beach, mountain bike/snow mobile trails, visitor center, campground, and other activity spots are spread throughout the park.
The mountain bike trails, managed by CAMBA, are challenging and popular with experienced cyclists. Hikers who are camping in the park can use a 2-mile connector spur to reach a trailhead for the Buckeye Trail from the campground. Speaking of camping, West Branch offers plenty. The majority of sites are located on the south side of the reservoir, with a smaller camp for horsemen on the north end of the park.
The Buckeye Trail offers a good stretch for marathon and half-marathon runners to train, and connecting the West Branch trails to those in Quail Hollow State Park ups the mileage to reach marathon length.
Who is Going to Love It
The cliché "something for everyone" comes to mind when you get to know West Branch. Whether you swim at the beach, put in your kayak at one of several access points, fish, cruise around on your motorboat (or rent one from the marina) or just take a sunset stroll across the dam, this large state park really does offer a lot of variety.
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice boating at the park. In addition, extensive snowmobile trails (which double as mountain bike trails) are situated on the park's western side; a trailhead is located near the west boat ramp.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Dogs (on a leash) are welcome throughout the park, EXCEPT on the swim beach where pets are prohibited. There is no admission fee and day use is free. Camping rates vary for tents, RVs, and primitive sites.