Today we were looking to do an approximate 10 miles somewhere in the Cincinnati area. Since I worked late last night and Ted just returned from a four day business trip, we defaulted to our favorite local hiking spot.
The Cincinnati Nature Center is the largest member-supported nature center in the country. In addition to fantastic nature programming and an amazing nature playscape, it offers 1,600 acres of wilderness and 16 miles of trail just outside of the 275 loop. Cost is $8 per adult, but I highly recommend anyone buy an annual membership and explore the many options available year-round.
The estimated mileage of the CNC Perimeter Trail is 10 miles. There are a couple lollipops that could be added or skipped for a shorter hike. And somehow we missed a turn-off, adding about 3/4 mile to our total mileage. Trail intersections at the CNC are typically very well marked, so we must have been deeply engrossed in conversation. I have marked our route on the CNC map and estimate our total miles at 11.1.
For some reason, we almost always hike the perimeter trail counter clockwise. I like starting with the brown Lookout Trail because I don’t think we would add in that final loop at the end of 9+ miles. About that time I’m starting to look for the shortest way back to the car. No way could I bypass the car (and cold drinks) to do another 1.5 miles.
We embarked on the Edge Trail just to the left of the Visitor Center from the parking lot, stopping briefly by the bird feeders to look for any early migrants. In a short time we were turning off onto the newly forged Lookout Trail. Previously, this trail crossed Tealtown Road near the Nature Center car entrance (as shown on the map) and traversed the field near the farmhouse. Now the trail crosses the road 50 feet further south and crosses the field along the southern edge before joining the old trail at the intersection on the map. So we turned right to continue in a counter-clockwise direction. We were excited to hear a couple Pileated Woodpeckers calling back and forth and spot some Tree Swallows swooping around one of the nesting boxes. We did the quick detour to the scenic overlook (of commercial warehouses) and I enjoyed one of my favorite red cedars. We looped back through the field, crossed Tealtown again, and then (as always) turned right on the Beach Memorial trail.
This trail descended into a ravine lush with wild ginger. We made a gentle climb to the rear of the maintenance area and joined the Upland Trail for an uneventful stretch to the Fernwood Trail. Fernwood descends rather steeply. My toes were sore from heels the previous evening, so this was unusually painful. But those huffing and puffing the other direction seem to be in much more pain. On the backside of the green trail we paused to check out the Raptor Inc. facilities and see if we could spot any of the rehabilitating birds. No luck. Shortly after, we became very preoccupied in watching a terrier with tiny legs trying to keep up with her momma on the trail and seemed to have missed the turn off for the Wildflower Trail. Only once we reached the fields along Avey’s Run did we realize our mistake and have to keep to the right in order to pick up the Far Ridge Trail.
The Far Ridge Trail starts by crossing the creek, an easy feat unless rains have been very heavy. We again tend to do this lollipop counter-clockwise; we like to climb the steps up and give our joints a break on the more gradual down hill. Once we looped back to the creek, we decided the water looked too refreshing to pass up. It was an unseasonably warm day and we knew we could use more sunscreen and a snack. We found some relatively shady rocks for our lunch break and cooled our feet.
The stretch back along the Wildflower Trail made us grateful for the sunscreen. As soon as we joined the Geology Trail we crossed the creek again and headed straight up! These steps are plentiful and kind of awkwardly spaced, forcing lots of tiny steps. Ted can take them two at a time, but I’m just too short. Fortunately, it is perfectly acceptable to turn around while climbing these and admire the view of the creek below. Climbers are rewarded with some of the prettiest open forest along the ridge for the next quarter mile. Hikers on this section of the trail may notice that the traffic noises have finally started to fade away. Unfortunately, this is also a popular trail so there are plenty of hikers to enjoy the nature sounds with you. As we joined the Redwing Trail we descend again to walk across a smaller stream and then wander along a large meadow. Earlier in the spring, these miles were excessively boggy and hiking involved sinking a couple inches into the mud with every step. Trail conditions were much drier today and the soft spongy ground made great shock absorbers for our quickly fatiguing feet.
On one past trip we spotted a pair of young barred owls on the Redwing Trail, but this trek was uneventful. Well, except for Ted running out of water despite starting with 100 oz. Soon after crossing the gravel road we joined Whitetail Trace. We were near enough to the parking area that Ted didn’t have to get water from the spring pond. And we made our only (intentional) left turn of the day when we bypassed the prairie bubble. The last half mile of the trail went quickly as we anticipated snacks and cold Gatorade from the gift shop. This area seemed to have been hit particularly hard by the Emerald Ash Borer and many of the big trees had been taken down to protect hikers. It was a little sad to see. We enjoyed a few last glimpses of the Powel Crosley Lake and managed to get back to the car without too much pain.
Despite the heat, it was a great day of hiking. I’m sure in September we would be thrilled with the weather and it is only a matter of getting used to it.
I could never say enough good things about the trails at the Nature Center. In my opinion, they are some of the prettiest miles in the Cincinnati area. I hope everyone takes some time to get to know this fantastic local resource.