See what's makes Fort Ancient so incredibly special.

Celebrating 75 Years of Ohio State Parks - Starting with the First

Blog by Stacha Yundt

For 75 years Ohio State Parks have been offering visitors adventures in every direction. 75 is a bit of an auspicious birthday, not just because it’s a momentous number, but because the Buckeye State also currently has 75 state parks altogether.

Curiously enough, if you were to look over the Ohio Department of Natural Resource's list of those 75 parks today, you'd find one particularly important destination missing:

Ohio's first state park.

A First for Ohio - Again...

In September of 2023, Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve — along with seven other sites that together comprise the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks — was named Ohio’s first World Heritage Site. While that inscription marked a historic achievement for a place already rife with history, it wasn't the first time Fort Ancient was a significant first for Ohio.

When the land upon which Fort Ancient sits was purchased by the State of Ohio in 1891, it became the state’s first state park. This was a full 58 years before the official creation of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio State Parks. (Buckeye Lake in Licking County is Ohio's oldest State Park, having originally been used as a canal feeder in the early 1800s and later becoming a popular park destination. It's still managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources today).

In 1930, Fort Ancient also became the state’s first archeology preserve. Today, the Warren County wonder is managed by the Ohio History Connection.

Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve and the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks

The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are a collection of eight sites throughout Ohio that are remnants of the Hopewell Period. These amazing earthen mounds were created 2,000 years ago by early American Indians and serve as a testament to their understanding of geometry, architecture, astronomy and more. Some of the walls at these earthworks reach over 30 feet in height.

Unlike the other sites included in the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, Fort Ancient is a massive hilltop enclosure — so large that the Great Pyramid of Giza could fit inside. It’s the largest hilltop enclosure in North America and remains some of the best preserved. While other earthworks were often destroyed for farming, because of Fort Ancient’s hilltop location its earthworks were largely left undisturbed. During the Winter and Summer solstices, visitors gather to watch as the sun aligns perfectly with the ancient earthworks.

Today, Fort Ancient is also a nature preserve with a number of scenic hiking trails and a visitors center. Attached to the visitors center is an impressive museum that traces the history of Ohio’s early peoples from the Ice Age all the way up to post-contact with European settlers. A recreated early Native American garden and dwellings are available to explore behind the museum.

Caesar Creek State Park | Warren County, Ohio

Other State Park Adventures in Ohio’s Largest Playground

Fort Ancient may have been Ohio’s first, but it wasn’t the last park to earn a State Park designation in Warren County.

Caesar Creek State Park located near Waynesville is a sprawling park of more than 3,000 acres that features miles and miles of hiking trails, a huge recreation lake, playgrounds, fossil hunting, and more. The Little Miami Scenic State Park winds its way through four different counties, including Warren County, and includes the Little Miami Scenic Trail and the longest single trail in the Miami Valley Trails network. Visitors can cycle their way across 30 miles of the trail in Warren County and beyond.

Learn more about all of Warren County's outdoorsy adventures and plan your getaway today right here on!