Rural Grove State Forest was named after the nearby hamlet of Rural Grove, which had previously been called Leatherville because of the tannin industry. Its 2,000 acres contain a sizeable chunk of the Clarke Lands, which were abandoned by tenant farmers during the anti-rent wars of the 1840s. The state bought the land in the 1930s for timber production, recreational use, watershed production and wildlife habitat.

Big game hunting for white-tailed deer is popular in Rural Grove State Forests. The area also supports small game, such as turkey, squirrel and grouse. Trapping is allowed for beaver, muskrat, fox and coyote, according to season. Shibley Road and Carron Road are unplowed roads used by snowmobiles and cross-country skiers.