Posted in Hiking, Park review, Southeastern Ohio

Tar Hollow State Park

We’ve been going to Tar Hollow for many years. Its a great place for camping. The camp sites are usually not crowded (don’t tell anybody), the area is very scenic, and there are many miles of hiking trails.

Pine Lake at dusk

Tar Hollow State Park is a 604 acre park in Ross County. It is surrounded by the 16,354 acre Tar Hollow State Forest located in Ross, Hocking, and Vinton Counties. Traversing the park and state forest is the 21 mile red-blazed Logan Backpack Trail. Built and maintained by the Boy Scouts, this trail is a diamond shaped loop (two overlapping triangles). The blue-blazed Buckeye Trail also passes through the area. There are 25 miles of white-blazed bridle trails (can also be used for hiking) and a 2.5 mile mountain bike trail.

There is a trailhead near the fire tower for the Buckeye Trail. The Logan Backpack Trail joins up with it.
Sept. 15, 2017: The observation fire tower is currently closed and will remain closed until further notice.
View of parking area from firetower. If you go in the direction of the individual shown here, you will approach two outhouses and beyond that a number of primitive campsites for backpackers.
View of Buckeye Trail through Tar Hollow State Forest
Buckeye Trail in Tar Hollow State Forest

There is a trailhead for the Logan Trail near the spillway of Pine Lake’s earthen dam.

Pine Lake’s earthen dam

Surprisingly there was a small colony of Northern rough-winged swallows that appeared to be living in the spillway. In nature these birds would live in holes in sandy river banks, either using holes dug by some other creature, or possibly burrowing them out themselves. In this case the birds seemed to be living in pipes that opened out in the spillway wall. I would imagine at least some water is supposed to be exiting these pipes, so I wondered how their nests would be affected.

Northern rough-winged swallow
The swallows seemed to live in these holes near the spillway for the dam.

The park is named for the pine tar that early settlers extracted from local pine trees. The terrain is very hilly with a series of ridges and deep hollows. An abundance of wildlife can be found in the area. We’ve seen flocks of wild turkeys, beavers, coyotes, and heard bobcats at night. On several summer nights we’ve seen the hills surrounding our camp site flicker with the blinking lights of thousands of fireflies. In the spring we’ve encountered people wandering the forest hunting morel mushrooms. But don’t get the idea the trails are crowded, we generally can hike many miles without encountering anybody.

A couple of the local pines veiwed from firetower

There are an abundance of camping areas. We like the non-electric primitive camp sites in a valley south of the 15 acre Pine Lake. There is another area with electric sites, and a separate family walk-in site situated on a hill-top. A backpack camp is located by the fire tower on the eastern side of the diamond shaped Logan trail. The backpack camp is also convenient to the Buckeye Trail. Finally there are equestrian camp sites located on the bridle trail. Groups can rent a group camp with a private beach, or various shelters with latrines scattered through the park and forest.

Our tent
Beach in the group campground area. There is another beach and a playground for park visitors near the paddleboat rentals.
Paddleboat at the dock
Paddleboat on Pine Lake
A group has reserved the picnic shelter and pitched their tents near it.

Camp check-in in-season is available at the general store which also sells food and supplies, rents canoes and paddle boats, and has a miniature golf course. Off-season, we’ve checked in at the park office.

General Store of the Tar Hollow State Park
Miniature golf
Outdoor movie theater for the campers
This turtle enclosure was still empty when we visited in April, but later this season visitors should be able to see a few there. The turtle enclosure is also located in the area of the general store.

One of the advantages of camping is the opportunity to be out in nature at dusk and at dawn.

Rue anemone with morning dew drops
Myrtle (Vinca minor) drenched in dew

And here are a few butterflies and moths that we spotted while camping at Tar Hollow.

Eastern comma butterfly, top view
Red Admiral butterfly, top view
This moth has just emerged from its cacoon; it will shortly climb up on a stem to pump its wings and unfurl them.

We’ve visited Tar Hollow in spring, summer, and fall. The area presents different attractions in each season ranging from spring wildflowers to fall color. I’ve always enjoyed our trips and look forward to my next visit.

Additional information
  • TrekOhio: Tar Hollow State Park is in Ross County, but hiking trails in Tar Hollow State Forest are convenient to the park. The state forest also extends into Vinton and Hocking counties. Check out any of these pages for links to the official sites for the park and for the forest. There’s also information on nearby parks and preserves.
  • TrekOhio: Camping Checklist
  • TrekOhio: Ohio Backpacking Trails


Address: 16396 Tar Hollow Road, Laurelville, Ohio 43135

More on Ross County

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

11 thoughts on “Tar Hollow State Park

  1. Thanks for the awesome review and photos! Do you know how far it is from the fire tower to the backpacking campsite? I am planning a quick trip Friday after work and want to make sure I can get to the site before sundown.

    1. You could also try the North Ridge Walk-in Campground which is a little less popular than the others (you’ll need to bring your own water jug). Also Tar Hollow tends to be much quieter off-season or mid-week as opposed to Memorial Day weekend.

      1. And the night sky from this small campground is incredible, almost 180 degrees of full sky east to west and north to south! Dark and quiet. Park and walk right into the area.

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