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The Ultimate Guide to Malabar Farm State Park from a Local

If you’re looking to spend more time exploring the Ohio State Parks and wondering what to do at Malabar Farm, we can help. We live minutes from Malabar and have been visiting the park for years.

Use this guide to Malabar Farm State Park as your go-to resource when it comes to planning your trip to this treasured state park.

This image shows several cows in a field at sunrise while the bottom image shows a large home reflected in a pond.

Malabar Farm State Park is one of the best state parks in Ohio (I may be a bit biased since its so close to home) and is part of the National Register of Historic Places. A short 20-minute drive from downtown Mansfield, you’ll find Malabar Farm a great spot for outdoor recreation, relaxation, and more. The park even has a full calendar of fun events. 

The Ultimate Guide to Malabar Farm State Park

Located minutes from I-71, it’s also an ideal place to stop for road trippers and perfect for those looking for a day trip from Columbus (70 minutes) or Cleveland (90 minutes). We’ve even created this guide to Malabar Farm State Park to make sure you don’t miss anything while you’re there!

Where is Malabar Farm? 

Malabar Farm is in Richland County in Northeast Ohio. Just 20 minutes from Mansfield, it’s a great day trip from Cleveland or Columbus. It’s also just down the road from Pleasant Hill Lake Park. Mohican State Park and Mohican Memorial State Forest are also a short drive away, so there are plenty of attractions nearby that you could turn into a weekend getaway rather than a day trip. 

Directions to Malabar Farm from I-71

To reach Malabar Farm State Park from Interstate 71, take the exit for Ohio State Route 13, and follow Hanley Road. Turn right onto Hanley and continue to the first stop sign. Turn right again onto Mansfield-South Road and continue to follow as the road curves to the left to become Pleasant Valley Road. From there, you will head south until you reach Bromfield Road and the entrance to Malabar Farm. There’s a sign where Pleasant Valley and Bromfield Roads meet so you can’t miss it. 

The street address is: 4050 Bromfield Rd, Lucas, OH 44843-9745

The large white house with a green metal roof overlooks a pond at Malabar Farm State Park

What is Malabar Farm?

In the late 1930s, an author named Louis Bromfield returned from writing abroad and purchased a local farm on what is now known as Malabar Farm. This Pulitzer Prize winner grew up in nearby Pleasant Valley and began purchasing several adjacent farms around 1940, weaving together nearly 580 acres of rolling hills and Ohio farmland. 

Inspired by his recent travels, he named the estate “Malabar” which is a beautiful green, hilly region in southwest India. 

Who is Louis Bromfield?

Not only was Bromfield an award-winning author, but he was also one of the most outspoken conservationists of his time and one of the earliest influencers to recognize the importance of conserving natural resources. 

He experimented with several different types of agriculture and farming before becoming an advocate for conservation farming. Thanks to several unique farming techniques, Malabar Farm ushered in an era of “New Agriculture.” His love of the land is evident everywhere you look at Malabar Farm, from the forest floor to the wooded ridgetops surrounding the farm. 

When Bromfield wasn’t writing or farming, he was overseeing the construction of “the Big House” on Malabar Farm. He authored several books here and eventually earned his way into the Hollywood set, many of whom visited the farm over the years. Most famously, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married at Malabar Farm in 1945. They even honeymooned at the farm! Doris Duke was also a visitor to the Farm, and donated money to save the woods of Malabar Farm, part of which is now named “Doris Duke Woods.” 

Bromfield also collaborated with Walt Disney on the True Life Adventure Series, for which he penned the book “Vanishing Prairie” to help share the message of the importance of conservation. 

After Louis Bromfield’s death, his children donated the land to a conservation foundation, which later turned the land over to the State of Ohio in 1972. Four years later, the estate became Malabar Farm State Park. One of many farm buildings on the property operated as a youth hostel until 2017. Learn more about Louis Bromfield and Malabar Farm State park here.

How to Make the Most of a Visit to Malabar Farm

A horse and Shetland pony in the field at Malabar Farm after a rain. The white barn can be seen in the background.

We don’t want you to be unprepared for your Malabar Farm visit. We’re sharing all you need to know to have an enjoyable visit. If I take someone to visit for the day, this is what I do, but I’m providing additional information below in case you have something else in mind. Here’s an overview of what I suggest.

Please note: The Visitor Center exhibits and restrooms are currently closed for remodeling (updated August 2023). The Gift Shop is open and you’ll find restrooms just past the Barn near the Big House.

  • Your first stop should be at the Visitors Center. Inside you’ll learn about the natural features of Malabar Farm and the sustainable agriculture practices that were quite novel in Bromfield’s time. You’ll find modern restrooms to use before you explore the grounds. You’ll also purchase your tickets for the farm and house tours in the Visitor Center gift shop.
  • Check out the Gift Shop for locally made products and interactive displays. If you aren’t familiar with Bromfield’s books, this is a good place to pick one up! You can also pick up a trail map and get a stamp for your Ohio State Parks Passport.
  • You’ll even find a pressed penny machine inside so make sure you pack a few pennies and quarters for an inexpensive souvenir. 
  • Plan to do 2-5 additional activities at the farm (we list these below).

    My favorites include touring the Big House to learn more about Bromfield and hear about his connection to Hollywood. You can see where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married, see his art collection that is dispersed throughout the home, see the gallery of Who’s Who and see how many famous faces you may recognize that stayed on the farm as guests of Bromfield.

    If you have little ones, you’ll want to cross over to the barn and see the animals on the bottom floor. You may even be able to pet a few. From there you can visit the playground, pop back into the Visitor Center for a bottled soda or ice cream and take a drive to the top of Mt. Jeez before heading home.

    Another option is to take a wagon tour of the farm and learn about sustainable farming practices, go for a hike (my favorite it the Butternut Trail that leads to a cave), followed by the Shawshank filming locations, enjoy the view from atop Mt. Jeez (this is a MUST DO) and dine at Malabar Farm Restaurant. Reservations are highly recommended.

What is there to do at Malabar Farm? 

This overlook looks over the farm at Malabar Farm State Park

No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find something to do! The farm and woods are full of recreational, educational, and historic activities. Use our post on 15 Things to do with the Family at Malabar Farm for inspiration and find more ideas below.

Malabar Farm Tours

After stopping in the Visitor Center, you may learn more about the farm by joining a tour. Here are a few options to choose from. Keep in mind that there are other unique events and tours offered throughout the year, like the candlelight tour of the Big House during the month of December.

  • Malabar Farm House Tours are available from April through December. Visitors can join guided tours of the Big House, the centerpiece of the estate. Inside, you’ll find two Grandma Moses paintings and a unique mix of architectural styles. Tours of the mansion are offered twice daily Memorial Day-Labor Day. Check the website for the most up-to-date tour schedule. 
  • Farm Tours are available from May to October. Conducted by a tractor-pulled wagon, the farm tour gives visitors a chance to see the famous farm up close and personal. Note: The seats face outwards which means you’ll have great views but aren’t the best for little ones. If you have small children, you may want to skip the wagon ride until you’re confident they can sit okay on their own. 
  • Visit the Main Barn to meet some of the farm animals like horses, bunnies, sheep, goats, and the barn cats on the lower level. 

Malabar Farm Hiking Trails 

The Trailhead for the Butternut Trail at Malabar Farm State Park

Explore miles of trails through Malabar’s forests that are perfect for hiking, horseback riding, and even cross-country skiing in the winter. Pick up a free trail map in the Visitor Center.

The Butter Nut Trail

One of our favorite local hiking trails is the Butternut Trail behind the Pugh Cabin. This nearly 1-mile trail leads past Rock City Cave, a cool cave behind the cabin. You’ll find the opening to the cave off the hiking trail, down a ravine by a Black Hand sandstone outcropping. The cave is about 100 feet long and anywhere from three to six feet wide. Make sure you have a flashlight or headlamp if you plan to walk through it.

Directions to the Butternut Trail

To reach the trailhead for the Butternut Trail, park at the working farm on the left as you pull onto Bromfield Road. Walk left out of the parking lot, along Bromfield Road and continue onto the dirt road leading to Pugh Cabin. Walk to the end and the trail starts behind the cabin.

Doris Duke Trail

We’ve also enjoyed the Doris Duke Trail that leads through the thick forest to the top of the cliffs (keep little ones nearby if you’re hiking this trail). You’ll find Beech, Sugar Maple, Black Cherry, White Oak and many other types of trees along the trail. This is a steep trail so sturdy shoes and walking sticks are recommended.

Directions to the Doris Duke Trail

To reach the trail, park at the working farm on the left as you pull onto Bromfield Road. Walk left out of the parking lot, along Bromfield Road and turn onto the dirt road leading to Pugh Cabin. You’ll find the Doris Duke Woods Trailhead located at the end of the road near the Ceely Rose House.

Junglebrook Trail

The Junglebrook Trail is a great hike for kids. This area of the farm was named “The Jungle” by Louis Bromfield due to its diverse landscape. Just under a mile in length, this trail allows visitors to see three distinct environments that include a hardwood forest, a wetland and a riparian stream-side landscape. A boardwalk leads through the wetlands. This is a great trail to view spring wildflowers.

Directions to the Junglebrook Trail

There are two ways to reach the trailhead.

Follow Pleasant Valley Road past the Malabar Farm entrance and turn right at the white Bicentennial Barn across from the Malabar Farm Inn. Follow the dirt road past the pond until you see the trailhead marker on the left-hand side.

Or, you can turn into Malabar Farm and turn left onto the drive at the working farm, continue past the cemetery, and reach the Junglebrook Trail down the dirt road on the right.

Geocaching is another great way to fit in some hiking and learn about the history at Malabar Farm. Our quest to find some of the caches on the property has led us up Old Newville Road, past Ferguson Meadow, to the Ferguson Steps and near Ferguson Falls.

The Shawshank Trail at Malabar Farm

Malabar Farm State Park is one of many stops along the Shawshank Trail. While the Oak Tree no longer sits opposite the entrance to the Farm, it is marked by a Shawshank Trail sign. The Pugh Cabin is another stop on the property.

Paranormal Activity at Malabar

Rumor has it that a ghost has been spotted in the kids’ room in the Big House at Malabar and the Ceely Rose House is also said to be haunted.

The Ceely Rose House was the site of a scandalous triple murder in 1896. The home belonged to the family of David Rose, a mill operator, along with his wife, son, and daughter, Ceely. Ceely murdered her family with rat poison and spent the rest of her life in mental hospitals. 

Legend has it that she still haunts the farmhouse, and you can sometimes find unique events capitalizing on the paranormal activity at the farm. Five years after she died, Bromfield wrote about the story in his book “Pleasant Valley,” a collection of ghost stories. 

Malabar Farm Events & Festivals

Besides the variety of activities always available at the Farm, there are also some fun events throughout the year. In addition to a rotating program of special events, some Malabar Farm festivals are an annual tradition for many Ohio families. 

Maple Syrup Festival 

This early spring festival is typically held the first two weekends of March. It’s a locals’ favorite and a great chance to get outside as winter ends. A horse-drawn wagon ride takes you to the sugar camp where historical demonstrations offer insight into the maple harvest. Fresh products from the harvest are available for sale so it’s a great time to stock up on maple products! 

Spring Plowing Days

Each April, a local horse club hosts Spring Plowing Days at Malabar Farm. Draft horses kick off the growing season with demonstrations of historic farming techniques.

Heritage Days Festival

Each fall, celebrate nature’s bounty at harvest time, celebrated during the Heritage Days Festival. Each September, the Farm celebrates with historic demonstrations, wagon rides, crafts, antiques, and Civil War demonstrations. 

Seasonal Barn Dances

Malabar Farm offers barn dancing May, July, August, September and October. A professional caller will be on hand for square and line dancing that also features a live band. My kids used to love the barn dancing!

A fungi grows on a log at this state park

More Things to Do at Malabar Farm

  • Enjoy the barn-themed playground that is located by the visitor center. This is best visited in the morning or early evening as it sits in full sun. Sunscreen advised!
  • The Malabar Farm Spinners & Weavers Guild is housed in a white farmhouse where Bromfield lived before moving into the Big House. It is open on Mondays and Thursdays where you can see what projects the spinners and weavers are working on.
  • Visit the Olivet cemetery on the farm, where Bromfield is buried. 
  • Get an aerial view of the farm and 32-room Big House from the top of Mount Jeez. There’s a great overlook that’s easily accessible. Mt. Jeez is also a beautiful place to watch the sunset and on a clear day, you can see seven of Ohio’s counties from this spot. 
  • Head to one of the ponds at Malabar Farm State Park and see what you can catch. Don’t forget your fishing license!
  • In 2020, my husband and I discovered geocaching and were thrilled to find several at Malabar Farm that also taught us a bit of history. If you don’t have the geocaching app you may want to download it before you go.

Malabar Farm Camping

The Malabar Farm State Park Campground has 15 primitive horse campsites with easy access to the bridle trail. Sites include fire rings, picnic tables, and horse lines. The campground is a great place to view the night sky.

Malabar Farm Cabin Rentals

Malabar Farm has three cabins but only two are available to rent. The Sugar Shack is open and in use during maple syrup production and the Maple Syrup Festival.

Pugh Cabin

You can host an event at Pugh Cabin, which also happens to be the opening shot of Shawshank Redemption. I hosted my daughter-in-law’s bridal shower here, and it was a fantastic location!

Maple Syrup Cabin

Or, if you’re looking for overnight accommodations on the property, you can rent the Maple Syrup Cabin, the only one of its kind at the farm. The 1940s log cabin sleeps four guests and features modern amenities like air conditioning, heat, cable TV, and WiFi.

The cabin rents for $150 per night and reservations book up super-fast, so plan at least six months in advance if you want to sleep in this unique spot. Reserve the cabin here.

Things to Know Before Visiting Malabar Farm

  1. While there are no admission fees to visit Ohio State Parks, you may find a fee for activities within the park. At Malabar Farm, this includes the Big House and Farm tours. Everything else is pretty much free.
  2. Cell service is sporadic at Malabar Farm and on the road leading to the park. My service provider is Verizon and I don’t have service in many areas in the park.
  3. You’ll find flush toilets inside the visitor center or beside the Main Barn. Pit toilets are located at the working farm and picnic area.
  4. If you plan to do any hiking you will want comfortable but sturdy hiking shoes.
  5. The Visitor Center does sell water, soda and other drink options but you may want to be prepared with water from home.
  6. The park does offer several picnic areas with grills and with nearly 1,000 acres to spread out, the park rarely feels crowded.
  7. Malabar Farm is dog-friendly but please keep your dogs leashed near the farm due to the other visitors and farm animals.
  8. Free trail maps and brochures of things to do in the area are available in the visitor center.

Helpful Items for Your Visit to Malabar Farm

1. Pack your water bottle. I love this water bottle that is similar to a Hydrojug but at a discounted price.

2. You also want to make sure to pack sunscreen and bug spray.

3. Keep all your gear in a backpack. This one is super affordable but I really love this one.

4. Trekking poles are a good idea if you’re hitting the trails. These are great for little ones.

5. Guides to help you identify the trees, birds, or other wildlife are available in the gift shop or you can pick them up here.

Where to Stay Near Malabar Farm

Want to turn your Malabar Farm trip into an overnight getaway? While the farm is no longer home to the youth hostel, there are several accommodation options in the area, giving you even more time to explore. 

Pleasant Hill Lake Park

You’ll find this scenic park less than 10 minutes from Malabar Farm offering a variety of lodging. The campground offers spots for RVs and tent campers while several new cabins appeal to those looking for scenic views while experiencing the comforts of home.

Landoll’s Mohican Castle

Enjoy a magical stay at Landoll’s Mohican Castle, just 25 minutes from Malabar Farm State Park. This unique castle hotel was built 20 years ago, and overnight guests can choose from a castle room, a cottage, or one of the newer suites in the Stable. 

Mohicans Treehouse Village

Book a stay in one of the treehouses at the Mohicans Treehouse Village. This is a great spot for glamping, and it’s only 30 minutes from Malabar Farm. If you’ve never slept in a treehouse, this is the perfect chance to do so. The treehouse village has four cabins and nine treehouses; we’ve stayed in several and always enjoy our time here. It’s a step up from glamping, but you really feel like you’re sleeping out in nature. 

Mohican Lodge and Conference Center

Stay on Pleasant Lake at Mohican Lodge and Conference Center, only 15 minutes from Malabar Farm. This modern lodge has 96 rooms, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a fitness center, a game room, a sauna, hiking trails, and much more! In a nod to nearby Malabar Farm, the onsite restaurant is called Bromfield’s Dining Room. 

Mohican Pleasant Hill Round House

Rent the Mohican Pleasant Hill Round House on VRBO. For a unique private home rental, this round home has easy access to both Malabar Farm State Park and Mohican State Park. The adults-only getaway sits amidst the green surroundings of a nearby golf course, and the 3 bedrooms sleep up to six guests. The outdoor fire pit is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring the Pleasant Valley of Richland County. 

Solitude Luxury Cabin

Want to bring the extended family? The Solitude Luxury Cabin sleeps up to 14 guests in 5 bedrooms, with luxurious amenities to enjoy. The large fire pit and outdoor hot tub are both great spots to relax and enjoy the dark night skies. This cabin is surrounded by nature and just three miles from Malabar Farm State Park.

Mohican Adventures

Mohican Adventures is another great lodging choice nearby. They have a campground and cabins, plus an awesome location right on the river in Loudonville, less than 20 minutes from Malabar Farm. See why Loudonville is called the “Canoe Capital of Ohio.” 

Places to Eat Near Malabar Farm

After a day of exploring the fertile farmlands of Malabar, you’ll be looking for a hearty meal. Aside from several picnic areas where you can have your own picnic lunch, there are some wonderful places to eat at or near Malabar Farm. 

Malabar Farm Restaurant – Currently closed

3645 Pleasant Valley Rd, Lucas, OH

Set in an 1820s farmhouse, the Malabar Farm Inn serves up tasty comfort food just a stone’s throw from the Big House at Malabar Farm. After a recent closure for renovations, the restaurant and menu each got modern upgrades. A new patio allows for outdoor dining and pet-friendly dining. The Malabar Farm Restaurant serves lunch and dinner year-round. 

Wishmaker House Bed and Breakfast, Restaurant, and Winery

116 Main St, Bellville, OH

Less than 20 minutes from Malabar Farm in the town of Bellville, the Wishmaker House is a great place for dinner, with fresh produce and local ingredients served daily. The patio is a nice spot for outdoor dining, with private igloos offered in the winter! Enjoy soups, salads, flatbreads, and signature cheesecake. Did I mention cheesecake? And wine? The wine they produce on-site is soooo good you’ll want to buy a bottle or two to take home. 

Black Fork Bistro 

153 W Main St, Loudonville, OH

This tasty new spot on Loudonville’s Main Street is just 15 minutes from Malabar Farm and has something on the menu for everyone. They serve lunch and dinner daily, with options ranging from burgers and steaks to salads, pasta, craft beer, and wine. 

Obviously, Malabar Farm State Park is a place near and dear to my heart, but I really think it’s a great destination for anyone looking for something new to do in Northeast Ohio. In fact, the surrounding area makes the perfect weekend getaway as there are just too many things to pack into one day. 

I hope you take the time to visit Malabar Farm in northcentral Ohio and come to love it as much as my family does. We’ve made many memories on the grounds of this state park.

Have you visited Malabar Farm State Park? What would you add to this post? Protection Status
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