If you’ve lived in Cincinnati for a while, chances are you’ve probably heard about the “railroad trestle trail” at Ault Park. I don’t remember when I first heard about this intriguing trail, but it’s long been on my list of places to visit.
Come to find out, this mysterious trek has a name—the Ault Park Valley Trail—and it follows the path of an early roadway between Observatory Avenue and Old Red Bank Road. And not only that, but the trail also features an abandoned railroad bridge that once carried trains running between Cincinnati and Portsmouth, a route established in 1878.
This trail isn’t the only legend swirling around about Ault Park. Have you heard about the Ault Park lizards? The Lazarus lizards landed in Cincinnati in 1953 as stowaways from Italy. Legend has it a 12-year-old stuffed these little lizards in his luggage, and then released them in his backyard upon arriving home in the Queen City. And thus, this invasive species found a home in Cincinnati; specifically, in Ault Park.
But back to trains and trestles. We found the trail information on AllTrails, which directed us to park on Observatory Avenue. There is a large trail marker right off Observatory, and a marked path that leads straight into the woods. Now, I’ve been to Ault Park dozens and dozens of times over the years. I saw former President Obama speak here in 2008; I’ve participated in yoga classes in the Pavilion; I’ve had family photos taken by the cherry blossoms; and the playground at Ault Park is one of my kids’ longtime favorites. But I’ve always driven right past this trailhead on Observatory, thereby missing out on some truly spectacular scenic beauty within this park.
Because once you wander off Observatory and into the woods, a whole other world awaits. In here it’s quiet and calm, with a picturesque creek running parallel to the trail. There are towering trees that create a forest canopy, providing shade, beauty, and an ambient soundtrack as the wind rustles through their leaves. A short, 1.3 mile out-and-back trail, you’ll approach the old railroad bridge after a little over half a mile. Happening upon this haunting piece of Cincinnati history makes for a magical hiking experience.
Unfortunately, there is currently a restoration project underway that stops the trail right before the railroad bridge. You can still view the bridge via a few other trails within the area, and signage suggested that the project should be finished in early fall. Either way, this hike makes for a fun, off-the-beaten path adventure with your kids—especially now, as Ohio’s trees are just beginning their colorful seasonal transformation.
And another bonus: now when my kids hear whispers about Ault Park’s train trestle trail, they’ll totally be in the know.
Ault Park, 3600 Observatory Ave., Mt. Lookout