OHIO OUTDOOR NOTEBOOK
By Laura Jones, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Blaze a trail this summer to adventure and good health
School is out and it’s time to find some amusement for the kids that doesn’t involve computer games or the television. Why not take advantage of the many miles of hiking trails that crisscross the Buckeye State? Trails are our foot paths to exploration, providing opportunities to discover natural wonders such as cascading waterfalls, tree-shaded gorges and cool caves.
Before hitting the trail, look at who is in your group. Choosing the right trail can mean the difference between a day of smiles and one of frustration. Hilly terrain, while exhilarating to you, is hard work for some children. Consider starting the hiking season with short loop trails that feature mostly level ground. A good first experience on the trail is the best way to keep young hikers interested in future outings.
Hiking trips are also opportunities to reinforce good eating habits. Pack healthy trail snacks such as carrot sticks, granola, and apples. Oh, and don’t forget the water. Children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults. Keep everyone in your group healthy and happy while on the trail with individual bottles or canteens of water.
To help make your hiking experience one to remember with a smile, I’ve put together a few easy, but awesome hikes that should please adults and children alike.
One of my favorite places to explore is Malabar Farm State Park. Located among the rolling hills of Richland County, Malabar is Ohio’s only state park that is also a working farm. Hikers can choose from 14 miles of trails and take in some great Ohio history. The one-mile Butternut Nature Trail starts behind the park’s Pugh Cabin and meanders through a forest of maple and beech trees. At the end of this unpaved trail, kids and adults can explore a cave once used for shelter by Native Americans. Be sure to leave time for Malabar’s Big House, former home of well known conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield. Contact number: 419-892-2784
Get wild in the city and hit the trails of the Rocky River Reservation, on Cleveland’s west side. This green oasis is one jewel in a string of 14 metroparks that are collectively known as Cleveland’s Emerald Necklace. Several trails within this valley parkway are kid-friendly, allowing you to hopscotch from one trail adventure to another. Especially interesting are the half-mile long Cedar Point and Morley Ford loop trails. Both offer great views of the river and the area’s 350 million year old shale cliffs. While you’re there, stop in at the Rocky River Nature Center, which has some great hands-on wildlife and natural history exhibits. Contact number: 440-734-6660
Another natural gem can be found much farther south in Pickaway County. Some 17,000 years ago, glacial meltwater formed a kettle lake that today is the centerpiece of Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve. Budding geologists and aspiring naturalists will enjoy discovering the area’s range of habitats and wildlife that make up the preserve. In the summer, hikers along the nearly 3 miles of trail might see nesting great blue herons along with several species of shorebirds. Other preserve residents include red-tailed hawks, deer, muskrat, fox, squirrel and more. Morning hikes are especially entertaining at Stage’s Pond, when the greatest variety of wildlife can be seen. Location: Five miles north of Circleville on U.S. Route 23; proceed 1.5 miles east on Hagerty Road to the preserve parking lot and trail system.
What do trilobites and trails have in common? Caesar Creek State Park, where hiking and fossil hunting converge! Many of the park’s 43 miles of recreational trails are kid-friendly, including the Fifty-Springs Trail Loop. The three-mile loop is a gently sloping trail leading hikers through woodlands and open meadows surrounding the park’s 2,832-acre lake. An added fun feature at Caesar Creek is its fossil bed, evidence of a sea that once covered our state hundreds of millions of years ago. Today, you can hunt for trilobites, horn coral, cephalopods and other fossils. Before digging in, stop by the visitor’s center for a free fossil hunting permit. Contact number: 513-897-3055
Obviously these are just a very small sampling of the trails waiting to be explored. To learn more about hiking Ohio, visit ohiodnr.com or pick up one of the several good trail guides available in local book stores.
Now, lace up your boots and grab the kids it's time to get out and hike Ohio's many trails!