Just under 25 miles outside of Dayton, Ohio, John Bryan State Park is known as the most scenic state park in Western Ohio. The park is named after businessman John Bryan who left his 335-acre estate to move to the state of Ohio with the intention of preserving and protecting the land's natural beauty. In 1925 the land became one of the state's first forest parks.
The park is most recognized for its impressive limestone gorge that was formed by the picturesque Little Miami River. The U.S. Department of the Interior designated the gorge as a national natural landmark and the Little Miami River as a national scenic river. Beginning about 980 feet above sea level, the Little Miami River gradually drops down 130 feet through different layers of bedrock, each layer revealing interesting details from times past. The park is also home to more than 100 different types of trees and shrubs and over 340 species of wildflowers that grow throughout the year.
The Little Miami River is the center of recreation in the park. Visitors can spend their time boating, swimming, and fishing in the water while rock climbers scale the steep walls of the gorge. Hiking is another popular activity with trails available for people of all ages and experience. The park is open year-round with the peak season running from the start of April until the end of October.
John Bryan State Park is located in the middle of Clifton and Yellow Springs. However, the entrance to the park can only be accessed from the Yellow Springs side, so guests who are coming from the east will have to drive around to enter the park. The park is close to both Springfield, Ohio, and Dayton, Ohio, and can be easily accessed by RVs throughout the year.
There are two different parking lots at John Bryan State Park. The main parking lot is located near the park entrance on the Yellow Springs side of the park. Guests who would like to park before checking in for camping will need to go to the Yellow Springs lot. The second parking lot is located on the Clifton side of the park. This lot can be used to access several hiking trails within the park.
The camping area at John Bryan State Park is built for mostly tents and RVs on the smaller side. RVs and trailers only up to 40 feet long will feet in this campground.
There are 61 campsites available by reservation only. Only nine of these campsites have electrical hookups, so these sites tend to book up fast. The remaining 52 campsites are more primitive with no hookups but are often more shaded than the electric sights. Campers will want to be sure to make their reservation as early as possible, which can be made up to six months in advance.
Each campsite comes with a picnic table, a grill, and a fire ring. Other amenities include drinking water, a dump station, and a camp store where campers can purchase any supplies that they might need. There are no shower facilities at this campground, but there are pit toilets available. Pets are allowed in the campground but must be kept on leashes. Because John Bryan State Park is so close to the city, campers should have no trouble getting cellphone reception on any network.
Also within the campground are two sites designed especially for group camping. Each site can host up to 50 campers each and comes with a grill and picnic table.
Within the park, there is a large lodge that is available by reservation for day-use only. The lodge comes equipped with two fireplaces, restrooms, several major kitchen appliances such as a fridge and stove, as well as a large screened-in porch where guests can enjoy the fresh air without having to worry about any pesky bugs bothering them.
A unique activity that can be found at John Bryan State Park is disc golf. The park has its very own disc golf course consisting of 18 holes that is available for visitors to use all year long, making it the perfect off-season activity. Spreading out over a large area of the park, disc golf enthusiasts will love the challenge of dodging the course's natural landscape as well as the gorgeous views that will surround them as they play.
There are separate trails reserved especially for mountain biking at John Bryan State Park. With just under ten miles of interconnected trails for both single-use and multi-use, these trails will suit bikers of all levels from beginners to the experienced. Ramps, log jumps, climbs, and creek crossings provide challenging obstacles to make riding in the park a real adventure. The longest trail, known as Great Scot, is 4.5 miles long and has the biggest ramp in the park. Make sure to sign in at the park kiosk before riding in order to stay informed of the latest changes to trail activities.
There are plenty of hiking opportunities in John Bryan State Park with 10 different trails that lead guests through some of the most beautiful scenery that the park has to offer. The trails vary in length and difficulty, so campers are sure to find a trail that meets their needs. The two most popular trails are the Pittsburg-Cincinnati Stage Coach and the South Gorge Loop because these two trails take visitors along the river, showing off the stunning landscape that makes the Little Miami a national scenic river.
The towering limestone gorge isn't just for looking at. Visitors can actually climb this natural wonder thanks to the public rock climbing and rappelling area that is located on a section of the North Rim Trail. Top-rope climbing is permitted from dawn to dusk in the park, but bouldering is prohibited. Visitors who are interested in climbing will need to make sure they bring all their own equipment with them as none is provided.
The Little Miami River is the perfect place for anglers to hook their bait. With over 70 different species of fish found in the river, guests will be surprised with every catch. The most popular fish to try to hook are panfish, rock bass, and smallmouth bass, which are all in abundance in the river. Be careful not to venture too far as fishing is banned in the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve which is located next door. A valid Ohio fishing license is required in order to fish in the park.
The Little Miami River within John Bryan State Park is a very popular canoeing area. There is a canoe launch area located near the park on Jacoby Road that provides access to this stunning river. As the river twists and bends, guests will uncover steep rock cliffs, huge sycamores, and many historic sites along the way. Remember to notify staff if intending to go for a long paddle and to wear a life jacket at all times out on the water.