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Exploring Nearby Free Camping

By Jenn

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Getting out of town on  a Friday, during rush hour, can be an inhibitor to more frequent camping. Cost can be another inhibitor. I like to spend the colder winter months researching for trips and campgrounds so I decided to take a trip to three campgrounds, just over the Ohio border from Pittsburgh earlier this month.

View a map of the campgrounds here.

I visited three campgrounds: Hidden Hollow Campground in Fernwood State Forest and Ronsheim and Trailriders Campgrounds in Harrison State Forest. I didn’t spend the night since it was a Sunday afternoon, but I did take my time to check them out.

Here are some photos from Hidden Hollow:


It’s true. None of these campgrounds have a fee for use but all require you to self-register with the forms located on the exterior of the restroom facility.

But they must be ugly.

Surprisingly, these were pleasant little campgrounds, nestled amidst state forest lands in Ohio.

Here are some photos from Ronsheim:

What’s the Catch?

Of course you couldn’t expect paradise, so let me get the negatives of these campgrounds out of the way.

  1. Limited facilities: no electric, no drinking water
  2. Shooting ranges and hunting nearby. I have no particular issue with this but some might not appreciate having hunters in their campground or hearing guns being fired from dawn until dusk.
  3. Bathrooms are terrible.

How good can they be?

All three campgrounds were equally cared for and in very good shape, except for the bathrooms. They have paved sites situated pleasantly, most with long driveways. Since I tow a T@b trailer, I can’t give you an estimate of size of rig that you could pull into the sites, but I believe some larger rigs could fit in the sites.

Here are some photos from Trailriders:

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Some of the features included:

  • Trash cans at each site
  • Fire rings at each site
  • Grey water dumps at many sites
  • Bathrooms (vault toilets in poor shape)
  • Pets and generators are allowed, follow common sense courtesy

Staying Connected

I checked for cell phone reception and was able to get 2 bars LTE at Ronsheim and Hidden Hollow on Verizon but none at Trailriders. Since I didn’t have my T@b, I couldn’t check for TV reception.

Waste Not, Want Not

Since there are no black water dump stations available, you will need to find another source. The closes is at Tappan Lake. There are a number of other paid campgrounds in the area. There is also a Love’s Travel Center Dump near Zanesville, and along the OH Turnpike, every other rest area has free dump stations. Unfortunately, nothing is available between the campgrounds and Pittsburgh, to my knowledge.

The Employee’s Perspective

I spoke to an state forestry employee and he said that the campgrounds were definitely family oriented and fill up in the summer. They are generally pleasant and only the end of semester celebration of college students at Hidden Hollow gets a little louder, but even then he said things don’t get out of hand.


I was pleasantly surprised to see how nice these little campgrounds were. I am looking forward to trying these when my T@b is able to get out from under the snow and I will follow up with a post camping report.