Head out and explore Cincinnati’s parks, one nature trail at a time.
Off the windy path of Kellogg Avenue down a discreet, narrow driveway lies California Woods Nature Preserve. Being so close to the river, the terrain seems to roll and rear everywhere you look. We explored the Junction Trail, which, at just over a mile, is the longest trail at the preserve. On a brisk early spring day, you could catch anything from wildflowers blooming out of a blanket of dead leaves to shrubs sprouting leaves of effervescent green.
5400 Kellogg Ave., California, (513) 231-8678
Burnet Woods, a respite from the crowded and chaotic urban junction of Clifton and The Heights, is an easily navigated network of trails through a hilly forest that we made our way through in about 45 minutes. The park is girdled by busy city streets, and you can easily hear wailing sirens and zooming cars through the trees, but despite the blacktop and rocky paths, the park is an invaluable oasis.
3251 Brookline Ave., Clifton, (513) 357-2604
Mt. Airy Forest is 1,459 acres of wooded serenity that could be explored for days. We started our journey on the Red Oak trail and ended up…well, elsewhere. When presented with a fork in the path, curiosity in this expansive landscape got the better of us—there might be a little too much to see. And although the trail outlet was nowhere near the starting point, we walked the park road back, enraptured that’s still so much left to see in this little corner of our world.
5083 Colerain Ave., (513) 357-2604
Beyond a quaint white house with black shutters on Cypress Way in Norwood is a 14-acre nature preserve of rolling hills laden with expanses of ground-sprawling wild ginger and bald cypress trees, which the street derives its name from. The McCulloughs once lived here in harmony with nature. It’s easy to find yourself playing pretend amid the beauty and nuggets of the past on the estate, but the boundaries are compact enough to feel at home while your imagination—and feet—run wild.
2726 Cypress Way, Norwood, (513) 731-6455
Lolling inconspicuously at the end of a quiet residential street in Northside is the Buttercup Valley Nature Preserve, a network of trails that meanders over rolling slopes, cutting through the hillsides and over creeks. Fallen trees and snags along the trail’s opening stretch provide beds for fluffy mosses, cave-like underbellies for insects, and perches for birds. It’s a truly breathtaking landscape functioning mightily amid a bustling urban neighborhood.
1558 Stanford Dr., Northside, (513) 357-2604
Leave No Trace
Humans have caused an awful lot of disruption to wildlife. Follow the Leave No Trace principles to mitigate damage to surviving ecosystems and responsibly enjoy nature.
- Plan ahead before embarking on your journey.
Know what to expect and what you’re capable of. You’ll throw consideration out the window if you get yourself in a pinch.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
This means follow the designated trails, and if you need to deviate to select a campsite or use the bathroom, do so on a surface that has already been disturbed or won’t be scarred by your presence.
- Dispose of waste properly.
This is pretty simple—don’t litter! And for the inevitable bathroom break, latrines and cat holes are your best options.
- Leave what you find.
This allows nature to persist in its cycle and other human visitors to enjoy the rightful experience.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
Portable camp stoves are the most efficient and innocuous method to cook in the wilderness, but if fire is essential, try finding preexisting fire rings. Also, be absolutely sure to fully extinguish it.
- Respect wildlife.
You’re in their home. How would you like it if some bozo walked in your house gawking and causing you to overthink your daily routines?
- Be considerate of others.
No one owns this planet. Relish the beauty of what we have with kindness and compassion.