This three-day, two-night road trip makes a 350-mile loop through southern Ohio and visits four haunted houses, one fall festival, two state parks, one secluded campground, or cabin, and a few mysterious places in between. It is a camping/cabin, hiking, haunted-house-hopping, see-as-much-fall-color-as-you-can adventure, and it’s meant to coincide with the Fall Festival of Leaves on Oct. 19-21 in Bainbridge, Ohio – located about 95 miles from Miami County.
However, this trip can be enjoyed (minus the festival) any time in late September through October, when haunted houses and fall foliage are in full swing.
On the low end, by camping, the trip can cost as little as $136 for the entire weekend, plus food and entertainment. Or, stay at two cabins and only spend $286 for the long weekend. Either way, it's an affordable adventure close to home.
For those who can time up the trip with the Fall Festival of Leaves, this is what the weekend of Oct. 19-21 will look like…
The first stop is Pike Lake State Park, which is not only close to Bainbridge and the festival, but also two haunted houses, and a few other interesting sights. The park is located 95 miles from Miami County, and it has campsites and cabins for rent.
Camping is $23 per night for a tent site with electricity, or, you can rent a 4-person cabin starting at $60 per night. The campground has clean, hot showers, a camp store with food and supplies, and, best of all, a lake where canoes, kayaks and paddle boats can be rented. In the fall, the lake is surrounded by orange and yellow trees. Paddling around the lake beneath this color is breathtaking.
After setting up camp and checking out the park’s lake and hiking trails, which range in length from a half-mile to just over a mile, head into Bainbridge for the festival, and maybe some dinner. But on the way, stop by Siep Mound on nearby U.S. 50. This is the largest earthen mounds built by the Hopewell culture in prehistoric times, and its secluded location makes it both a mysterious and beautiful place to visit. The site is free to visit.
In the small town of Bainbridge (home to the first dental school in the United States!) the Fall Festival of Leaves offers carnival rides, cotton candy, candied apples and other fall treats, lots of hot food, games, craft booths, a community garage sale, and live entertainment, plus lots of fall and Halloween themes. For a small town, it’s a pretty big, fun festival.
If festivals aren’t your thing, you can choose to spend the day exploring the Skyline Drives. These are four scenic drives that loop around Bainbridge and show off the area’s brilliant fall foliage, and Appalachian foothills.
After the festival, it’s haunted house time! Located within 10 miles of the campground is a haunted attraction known as the The Last Carnival Haunted House. It’s actually an indoor/outdoor haunted attraction with a famous 10,000-square-foot maze! Admission is $10 per person. This attraction’s location in the middle of nowhere makes it even creepier to visit, as does the location of Terror in the Trees Haunted Trail, which is 30 miles south of The Last Carnival attraction. If so desired, Terror in the Trees Haunted Trail can be visited first. This way there will be less distance to travel back to Pike Lake at night.
Admission to Terror in the Trees is also $10 per person.
Start Saturday morning with an early visit to the Fall Festival of Leaves (look for famous breakfast options on the midway), or begin your travels south through Wayne National Forest and, ultimately, your next stop for the night.
Traveling along Ohio Route 93 is an experience in itself. Along with plenty of beautiful, underrated fall foliage, this rugged route visits Oak Hill (an Amish community in Appalachia), an abandoned iron furnace, as well as a restored charcoal iron furnace, and it passes through several small Appalachian towns.
There are two secluded lodging options in this area, which also happen to be close to tonight's haunted house hopping. The first is the Iron Ridge Campground, located at Lake Vesuvius. It's only $15 per night to camp here (with electricity), and it's located next to the amazingly beautiful (especially in fall) Lake Vesuvius and the Lakeshore Trail, as well as other hiking trails and recreational opportunities. The second lodging option is a 12-person cabin located a few miles away called the Cedar Knoll Lodge. It has a hot tub and seclusion, and it's only $125 per night, however, it is further away from civilization.
After spending the day sightseeing and hiking, when evening approaches, head into Ironton (located nearby on the Ohio River) for dinner (The Depot is a good choice) and then visit the famous Doctor Dekays House of Screams. After this, cross the river and attend the nearby Bogies Haunted House in Flatwoods, Kentucky. Both attractions charge $10.
(Please note that there are hotels located in and around Ironton, including Holiday Inn Express).
In case you haven’t had enough yet, before heading home, visit nearby Shawnee State Park for one last hike, and then take scenic Ohio Route 73 north toward home.
Along the way, visit the Otway Covered Bridge, the mysterious Serpent Mound Historic Site, and, to top it off, stop by any number of farm markets located along Ohio Route 73. Most offer fresh apple cider and fall treats, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and other fall and Halloween activities for all ages.
In the end, this is a Halloween and fall adventure that delivers on so many levels, all at a low cost.
Use the links on the right side of the page to plan your trip. Enjoy!
Click on the map above to view the directions on Google Maps, as well as to send them to your smartphone for navigation. The route starts in Troy, but can be picked up anywhere along the way.
Things you'll Experience on this trip:
Attend the Fall Festival of Leaves in Bainbridge
Get lost in a 10,000-square-foot maze at The Last Carnival Haunted House
Hike the Lake Vesuvius Lakeshore Trail
Paddle boat around Pike Lake State Park with fall colors reflecting all around
Visit Serpent Mound at the height of fall color
Survive the top-rated Doctor Dekays House of Screams in Ironton
Spend the night deep in the woods at Iron Ridge Campground
Visit the largest earthen mound built by the Hopewell culture at Siep Mound
See an abandoned iron furnace in the middle of a national forest, as well as a restored one
Take 4 scenic fall drives around Bainbridge called the Skyline Drives
Dine at The Depot in downtown Ironton
See the picturesque Otway Covered Bridge
Stay in an isolated cabin in Wayne National Forest that sleeps 12 and has a hot tub
Sip cider and pick pumpkins at countless roadside markets found along this loop trip
Hike through Shawnee State Park, also known as “the Little Smokies,” and see some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the state
See where Ohio Route 41 goes after leaving Miami County
Experience a haunted house in a place called Flatwoods, Kentucky
And much more!!!
Total Mileage (450+ miles) = $45 (roughly)
Camping at Pike Lake State Park = $23
4-Person Cabin at Pike Lake State Park = $60+
Paddle Boat and Canoe Rental = $5/$8 (1/2 hour or hour) for paddle boats and $6/$9 (1/2 hour or hour) for a canoe
Backwoodz Oddities/The Last Carnival = $10
Terror in the Trees Haunted Trail = $10
Iron Ridge Campground = $15
Cedar Knoll Log Cabin = $125
Doctor Dekay's House of Screams = $10
Bogies Haunted House = $10
Serpent Mound = $8 per carload
Primitive Option = $136
(minus food and entertainment)
"Luxury" Option = $286
(minus food and entertainment)