Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday's Trail: Twin Creek Metro Park

Today's trail is located just outside of Dayton and is about an hour drive from downtown Cincinnati. Located in the newly established Twin Valley Backpack Trail, Twin Creek Metro Park is a quaint and enjoyable area full of trails to explore. The largest of the trails, the orange trail, measures about 6 miles in length and traverses through fields and forest in a scenic loop.

The trail is easy to moderate in terrain, with a few challenging climbs and descents. Be sure to wear good hiking boots since mud buildup in some areas is unavoidable. Also bring plenty of sunscreen and water, since about a quarter of the trail is out in open fields. Poison Ivy is abundant in this area of the US, so wear long pants if you have trouble identifying the plant.

Park at the trail head off Chamberlin Rd, and begin your trek by traversing through a natural Ohio prairie. Take the trail leading to the left for a more challenging course with plenty of uphill climbs. Stay to the left at each major intersection to complete the orange trail loop. This park does an excellent job in marking the trail, making it both easy to understand as well as see without imposing too much on the natural habitat. You'll soon descend into the forest where you'll remain for the first half of the hike. Before long, you'll pass a Hopewell Earthwork off a side trail from the main orange loop. Be sure to check it out either at the beginning or end of your hike. The forest is quiet, and you'll likely see several species of birds, squirrels, frogs and perhaps a mouse or two.

Rising out of the forest and passing a horse farm on your right, you'll hike uphill towards the High View picnic area and parking lot. This makes for an excellent rest stop. If you packed a lunch, sit here and enjoy several panoramic views of the countryside. A portapotty is also loacted here should you need it.

Descend back into the forest, continuing on the orange trail to the left. You'll reach the flattest portion of the trail here, which will continue until the end. Paralleling Twin Creek, you'll likely spot the river from time to time as the trail winds through the forest. Coming out into the prarie again, climb another hill or two and you've reached the parking area where you started.

If looking for a loop hike, do the whole orange trail. If you have small children or limited phsyical capabilities, take the orange trail that leads to the right towards High View, then double back on the same portion. For those wishing to backpack, park at the High View parking area, then hike to the backcountry sites just pass the Chamberlin Rd parking lot, circling back the next day to make it a loop.

The Twin Valley Backpacking Trail actually goes through another park besides Twin Valley MetroPark. I'll be hiking the other half soon and will post a review. For a day hike, however, or even a quick overnight getaway, the orange trail certainly is great for the location and variety of terrain. 4 stars.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tuesday's Trail: Shawnee Lookout

Located east of downtown Cincinnati is Shawnee Lookout, which is part of the Hamilton County park program. Two short trails wind through this area that are definitely worth checking out.

The Little Turtle Trail is 2 miles long with an easy grade. The wide path makes it ideal for families, small groups or those who desire a brisk stroll. Halfway around the loop is nice rest stop with a bench overlooking the Miami River. 3 stars.

The Blue Jacket trail begins on the opposite side of the parking lot from Little Turtle. This trail is much flatter and shorter- measuring only 1.3 miles. Be sure to bring your camera, especially if you come in the summer. The trail is quite picturesque and makes for a nice romantic hike through both woods and fields of wildflowers. 3 stars.

Also take note to bring money for a parking pass (if you don't already have one), since all Hamilton County parks require them. As of 2008, the price for a yearly pass was 5$.

For directions and to visit the park's website, click here.

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