Sharon Woods is one of Hamilton County’s Great Parks—perhaps the most popular and accessible. Centrally located, it’s 730 acres of glorious Ohio woods, wilderness, waterfalls…and fossils. Yes, fossils! And you’ll find these prehistoric relics along one of the most beautiful trails in town: the eponymous Sharon Gorge Trail.
While people often visit Sharon Woods for the epic playgrounds, bustling marina, and historic village, the hiking at this park truly is unrivaled. The Sharon Gorge Trail is our favorite hike, a mile-long loop that’s quiet and well-paved, with several overlooks perfect for soaking up the scenery—and perhaps even a frozen waterfall or two!
But the best part about this trail is the fossils. This region is full of them. Once wholly underwater, Cincinnati is littered with rocks holding marine deposits from the Ordovician Period, when ancient ocean covered most of the United States more than 450 million years ago. Today, we can see those ancient breadcrumbs in local creeks and rock beds, making for amazing fossil hunting conditions for little explorers.
In Sharon Woods, the forested gorge of Sharon Creek was created about 20,000 years ago by large volumes of glacial meltwater. A 90-foot cliff at the gorge is a great spot to search for marine fossils, which is something my kids enjoy doing during the warmer months of the year.
In the winter, however, the Sharon Gorge Trail takes on a peaceful, almost sublime beauty that invites curiosity and contemplation—even among the youngest explorers. Imagining what once was, so many years ago, is both grounding and inspiring.
In 1977, Sharon Woods Gorge was designated as an official State Nature Preserve because it contains valuable examples of Ohio’s native plant and animal communities, geological features, and the habitats of rare and endangered species. Today, it remains one of Cincinnati’s greatest treasures, and is rife with possibilities for adventure, exploration, and reflection.
Sharon Woods, 11450 Lebanon Rd., Sharonville. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission is free; however, you’ll need a Great Parks of Hamilton County vehicle permit for entry.