One of Ohio’s state park lodges, this Midwest getaway offers natural surroundings with resort amenities.
At the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains nestled deep in the forest on the banks of Burr Oak Lake, you’ll find Burr Oak Lodge and Conference Center, a Ohio state park property in southern Ohio. Having grown up just north of Ohio in the “far superior state” of Michigan (sorry Buckeyes!), I assumed all of Ohio was the same — pretty flat and uninspired. During our drive to Burr Oak State Park, I was pleasantly surprised to see rolling hills and eventually, the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. And the lodge is located on a lake, a must for any native Michigander.
The lodge lobby welcomes families and encourages them to slow down and relax. My kids were enamored with taxidermied animals and nature displays. As we ventured farther into the lodge, we discovered the large wall of windows with beautiful lake views. The lodge lobby also includes a large fireplace and areas to play games.
KidTripster Tip: The lodge is in an isolated area of Ohio, so cell service is very spotty. The lodge does have strong internet, so you aren’t totally cut off from technology.
Photo courtesy: Burr Oak Lodge
What to do?
Burr Oak Lodge offers an indoor pool, fishing, and rentals for canoes, kayaks, and boats. Cost: Kayak & canoe $12/hour; Pontoon boat $48/hour or $125/4 hours. Burr Oak Lake does have a small beach area near the backside of the lodge, but it’s not intended to be a swimming beach. There’s a larger sandy beach located across the lake from the lodge that has a changing area and marked swimming area.
During our stay, my family and I decided to rent a pontoon boat from the nearby marina for an afternoon of fishing on the lake. We’ve driven pontoon boats before, so we didn’t have much hesitation about taking the boat out after the brief instructions at the marina, but other families leaving at the same time seemed a bit nervous. Make sure you’re comfortable with driving the boat before you get into the big lake.
Before leaving the marina, I bought cane fishing poles and bait for my boys. Kids under 16 don’t need a fishing license, but if parents intend to touch the poles at all (including baiting the hook or taking off a caught fish), a fishing license is required. You need to purchase that license before arriving at Burr Oak. We didn’t have much success fishing, but the boys enjoyed trying. Of course, they found driving the boat to be even more exciting. For those a bit more serious about fishing, there are a variety of tours and guides who can take you on fishing trips in Burr Lake. The staff at the lodge can help set up those activities.
After a day on the lake, we were ready to relax at the indoor pool at Burr Oak Lodge. The heated pool was large enough for several groups to play at the same time. The pool area also had a sauna, available for adults and kids (with supervision).
There’s a variety of different hiking trails for all skill levels - from a 23-mile trail that loops around the lake to the shorter and less strenuous Chipmunk Trail. Families can expect to encounter a variety of wildlife, abundant wildflowers, and lush trees.
If hiking isn’t your thing, check out some of the property’s other activities, including badminton, basketball, tennis, and cornhole. Most of the outdoor activities are free to guests and equipment, including balls and tennis rackets, can be checked out from the front desk. The courts are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, but during our visit, there was plenty of availability. Our family also enjoyed the outdoor playground, which is located near the sports courts and gives younger siblings a place to run off some energy.
Burr Oak Lodge also boasts a 9-hole miniature golf course near the tennis courts. The course includes a waterfall, a miniature version of the lodge, and fun bridges. Cost: $3/person. Or your kids can try disc golf, the lodge’s newest addition.
You’ll find several fire pits on the grounds that can be used by guests. While there’s wood available onsite, s’mores supplies or other food items need to be purchased before arriving at the lodge.
When Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, choose from the many board games in the main lobby or head to the nature center, located just a short drive away. It schedules programs on most days. Information about the nature center can be found in the main lobby.
During our stay, the staff scheduled a presentation from a local Native American chief. He spoke to the assembled group is character as Chief Black Hoof from the Shawnee tribe who used to live in this area. The presentation was captivating as well as educational for all of my kids. The speech was well attended by a mix of resort guests and local residents.
Photo courtesy: Burr Oak Lodge
Where to stay?
Burr Oak Lodge offers a limited number of standard king hotel rooms as well as suites. The 16 king rooms offer one king bed and views of the woods or lake. For most families, the suites are a better option. Our suite included a master bedroom with bathroom and king bed and a second bedroom with a set of bunk beds and a second bathroom. The bunk beds had a full-sized bed on the bottom bunk and a twin up above, so you potentially could fit three kids in the bunk beds. Our room also had a lovely outdoor terrace with a table, chairs, and sunset views over the lake.
The property has 22 standard cabins and eight deluxe cabins located down the road from the main lodge. The standard cabins have two bedrooms with a double bed in one room and two single beds in the second bedroom, as well as a rollaway bed. The deluxe cabins offer two bedrooms - one with a double bed and the second one with two sets of bunk beds (one bed in the bunk configuration is a double bed, as well). Each cabin has a full kitchen, screened-in porch, fire pit, and charcoal grill.
KidTripster Tip: During our visit to check out the cabins, we found the internet service to be weak to non-existent. Plus the cabins don’t have phones, so you could feel a bit isolated. They’re a great alternative to camping for those who don’t like to sleep outside. Just be prepared to be off the grid.
KidTripster Tip: Some of the cabins do allow pets (dogs and cats); you just need to let the reservation staff know in advance.
Photo courtesy: Burr Oak Lodge
Where to eat?
There’s just one restaurant at the lodge, the Cardinal Dining Room, that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We enjoyed our meals there but were ready to eat somewhere else by the end of our stay. There aren’t many other restaurants in the area, so unless you have a cabin and brought food, you won’t have many choices. All of our food was good; we particularly enjoyed the deep-fried pickles and the black and blue linguine. The kids loved their meals which were served in Burr Oak frisbees that were immediately played with after dinner.
The hours for the Cardinal Dining Room are limited, and both nights when we were visiting, the dining room closed early. The staff did place a note on the restaurant door earlier in the day, but we witnessed more than a few disappointed families who missed the time change and were hoping to grab dessert before bed.
Burr Oak Lodge is located in southern Ohio about 2 hours from Columbus, 3 hours from Pittsburgh, and 3-1/2 hours from Cleveland. You’ll definitely need a car, if visiting. The lodge doesn’t charge a parking fee.