More than 20 ways to appreciate nature at our MetroParks

Perhaps the best way to experience nature’s beauty and appreciate our natural resources in the Dayton area is through our robust networks of parks.

Beyond the recreation and connection with nature they offer, they’re also key to some of the region’s top investments in conservation, reforestation and preserving and protecting wildlife.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the Dayton region’s top parks that offer a personal connection with nature.

Location: 955 Aullwood Road, Englewood

Description: Famous garden, mature forest, native trees, plants and wildlife. Paths for walking through gardens, woods and a prairie that is home to birds and other wildlife. Great place for nature study, birding, relaxing and observing butterflies. Don't miss the burr oak tree with the 1913 flood watermark and a twin sycamore aged when Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.

Location: 7800 E. Shull Road, Dayton

Description: Large, open grasslands, ponds and wetlands, a 14-acre lake and two forest tracts. More than 7.5 miles of wooded trails for walking, hiking and cross-country skiing. Fishing, plus more than 6 miles of trails at the Carriage Hill MetroPark Riding Center. Blacksmith shop, woodshop, historic house and bank barn. Historic breeds of farm animals also bring the past to life. Daily demonstrations and tours provided.

Location: 6733 Springboro Pike, Dayton

Description: Features include a dozen specialty gardens, including a Butterfly House with native butterflies and moths and a composting exhibit. Conservation Corner includes two ponds, a prairie, and area for viewing birds, wildlife. About 2.5 miles of trails through woodlands and meadows. Paved paths provide another mile of walking through the cultivated gardens. Mature woodlots, dense cedar glades, planted tall-grass prairie and created wetlands. Don't miss the Tree Tower that rises 46 feet high to offer an incredible view.

Location: 510 Webster St., Dayton

Description: Located at the junction of the Mad River and the Great Miami River with wonderful views of the City of Dayton. A variety of migratory and resident birds can be seen there. The Great Miami Recreation Trail runs through the park. The park has a bronze statue of Wilbur and Orville Wright as a fixture along the trail and an aviation timeline exhibit. The park also has a monument — Dayton Peace Accord — that symbolizes the agreement for peace between Bosnia and Herzegovina struck in Dayton on Nov. 21, 1995.

Location: 1385 Harshman Road, Dayton

Description: Winding shaded lagoon, 185-acre recreational lake, forest habitat along the Mad River, thickets and a few grasslands. Recreational uses include boating, paddling and fishing. Migratory bird populations. More than 3 miles of wooded and open meadow trails and scenic views of the Mad River and native prairie plantings. The trail is part of the North Country Trail and Buckeye Trails. Eastwood is connected with downtown Dayton by the Mad River Bikeway and with Beavercreek and Kettering by the Creekside and Iron Horse bikeways. Bikeway connectors to Huffman MetroPark, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Wright State University, plus the Fairborn and Riverside communities. Mad River Run is a partially complete kayak and canoe "whitewater" feature that restores a section of river from Eastwood MetroPark to downtown Dayton.

Location: 4361 National Road, Vandalia

Description: Forest areas, a large shallow lake/wetland, woodland area, grasslands and the scenic Stillwater River. Follow a boardwalk into this wet area that supports an unusual population of trees including black ash, swamp white oak and pumpkin ash. This wetland has been dedicated as a State Natural Landmark in recognition of the occurrence of pumpkin ash, a tree rarely found in Ohio. 12 miles of scenic trails including falls. Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, 18-hole disc golf course, bicycle paths, cross-country skiing and sledding.

Location: 7101 Conservancy Road, Germantown

Description: Many species of plants and animals here are found nowhere else in Montgomery County. Open grasslands, cedar glades, dry hillside prairies, ponds, Twin Creek. More than 15 miles of wooded trails for walking, hiking & cross-country skiing. Ordovician fossils can be collected below the Germantown Dam. The Twin Valley Backpacking Trail spans over 22 miles and includes three areas for overnight camping. The Nature Center offers opportunities to observe live animals. There are two large tanks that display native fish, toads and turtles, as well as several native snakes. The center's most popular feature is the "Window on Wildlife" with benches where visitors can sit and watch native birds through large plate glass windows looking out into wooded hills. The area outside the windows has even been wired with a microphone so visitors can hear the birds while watching them feed just beyond the glass. The park has over 800 feet of elevated boardwalk to view the scenic ravines and a tree canopy that can be easily accessed from the Nature Center.

Location: 2655 S. Patterson Blvd., Kettering

Description: Hills and ravines covered in mature and young hardwood forest, spring seeps and associated small wetlands. More than 2 miles of wooded trails for walking, hiking and cross-country skiing. Paw Paw trail loop is perfect for families with small children. Don't miss the "Staged Gates" landscape sculpture.

Location: 4439 Lower Valley Pike, Dayton

Description: Five Rivers MetroParks has partnered with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to restore and manage the Huffman Prairie since 1988. This 110-acre grassland is one of the largest prairie remnants in Ohio, and home to rich populations of native plants and wildlife. The site is adjacent to the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, a historic component to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park. See wooded meadows, river bottom lands, old growth forest and migrating birds including many species of ducks, gulls, herons, song birds, woodpeckers and birds of prey. More than 3 miles of wooded and open meadow trails for walking, hiking, running and cross-country skiing. Fishing. Get an overview of the park by hiking the section of trail on the dam. Don't miss the mountain bike trail at Huffman known as MetroParks Mountain Bike Area (MoMBA). Bikeway connectors to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Eastwood MetroPark, downtown Dayton, and the larger bikeway network.

Location: 101 E. Helena St., Dayton

Description: Specimen trees of floodplain forests such as sycamore, cottonwood, burr, oak, American elm and many others. Many migratory birds and animals such as beavers and softshell turtles are commonly seen here. More than 2 miles of trails for walking, skating, running and bike riding. Willow trees. Playground area, interactive waterplay system during summer. Bandshell for live music.

Location: 4790 Frytown Road, Dayton

Description: Bottomland hardwood forests along Possum Creek, two mature beech woodlots and numerous created ponds and wetlands. One of the largest and most diverse planted prairies in Ohio. Possum Creek MetroPark Farm is striving to become a leader in sustainable innovation. Approximately 100 community garden plots. More than five miles of wooded trails for walking, hiking and cross-country skiing and 4.5 miles of bridle trails. Fishing, ice fishing.

Location: 111 E. Monument Ave., Dayton

Description: Located along the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton, this urban park can be an excellent place to watch migratory and resident birds such as great blue herons, waterfowl, and gulls and even animals like beavers and snapping turtles. Free summer weekend concerts, parent and preschooler programs, major community festivals and an ice skating rink. RiverScape is the hub of a system of over 60 miles of recreational trails in Montgomery County. The Five Rivers Fountain of Lights (seasonal) shoots 2,500 gallons of water per minute toward the center of the river. The Dayton Inventor's River Walk includes seven invention stations along Monument Avenue and Patterson Boulevard that celebrate Dayton inventions. Bike and kayak rentals available. RiverScape is a beautiful garden that includes hanging baskets, life-size flower pots and beds overflowing with annuals, perennials and tropical plants. Daytonian Paul Laurence Dunbar's famous poems are etched in stone at the top of the staircase at the west end of the park. Swings perch atop the river levee for river viewing.

Location: 4178 Conference Road, Bellbrook

Description: A trio of 550-year old white oaks, planted prairie, meadows, and scenic Sugar Creek. Walk through a living tunnel created by the large arching branches of old Osage Orange trees. These trees were originally planted in rows in the late 1800s to serve as fence in the days before barbed wire was available. More than 5 miles of wooded trails for walking, hiking and cross-country skiing and 10 miles of scenic bridal trails. Quarter mile paved path that loops through the prairie for walking and running. Great for nature study, birding.

Location: 50 Edwin C. Moses Blvd., Dayton

Description: Located at the juncture of Wolf Creek and the Great Miami River in Dayton, this small park is an excellent place to watch wildlife including waterfowl, night herons, gulls and sometimes bald eagles and ospreys. Landscape and prairie beds border walkways, drawing in birds, butterflies and insects. The park is situated above the Great Miami River Recreational trail, which travels both north and south along the river's edge. The trails are ideal for walking, skating, running and bike riding. Fishing.

Location: 2000 State Route 40, Vandalia

Description: Wooded ravines, massive rock outcroppings, historic ruins and the Great Miami River make this large 1,300-acre park unique. Hike nearly 13 miles of scenic trails. The Buckeye and North Country trails join the Great Miami River Recreation Trail at Old Springfield Road and follow it south through the park. Running parallel to the Great Miami River through Taylorsville was the Miami-Erie Canal. Follow the Great Miami River Recreation Trail north, about 1¼ miles, to the site of Tadmor. In the 1800s, this small village was Montgomery County's busiest crossroad, standing at the intersection of the Miami-Erie Canal, National Road, Dayton-Michigan Road, and the Great Miami River. Today, remnants of this once bustling community have been identified as a significant site along the original route of the National Road. Other activities: Fishing, kayaking, canoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing.

Location: 9688 Eby Road, Germantown

Description: Steep, wooded ravines, forest, grasslands, a large scenic pond and the beautiful Twin Creek. Don't miss a winding prehistoric Indian mound and a scenic hilltop vista. The MetroPark is linked by the wooded Twin Creek Corridor that connects it to Germantown MetroPark to the north. The park has over 20 miles of wooded trails for walking, hiking and cross-country skiing. Seven miles of equestrian trails. Fishing. The Twin Valley Trail provides a backpacking experience with beautiful hills, babbling brooks and wildlife. The trail is over 22 miles and includes three areas for overnight camping.

Location: 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton

Description: Forman gardens and community gardens, including the Children's Discovery Garden. Swamp forest, woodlands along the Stillwater River, a meadow and two planted prairies. The Marie Aull Nature Trail is adorned by a variety of trees and wildflowers, and provides many opportunities for spotting native birds and wildlife.

Location: 1441 Wesleyan Road, Dayton

Description: Beautiful woods, scenic Wolf Creek and wildlife make this 55-acre park especially appealing. Walking and hiking trails through the woodlands and near the creek provide an opportunity to enjoy nature while getting some exercise. Popular scenic viewing spots include the pedestrian bridge over Wolf Creek, the paved pathway beneath the railroad crossing, and the gravel bar along the creek reached by the hiking trail on the west side of the creek. The park is the home of Adventure Central, an innovative partnership between MetroParks and Ohio State University Extension, 4-H Youth Devel­opment. Here, urban youth learn about the environment and develop life skills through after-school programs, clubs and camps. Playground. Fishing.

Caesar Creek State Park

Location: 8570 E. SR 73, Waynesville

Description: Caesar Creek State Park is one of the premier outdoor recreation and nature preserve areas in the state. The 7,900-acre park offers recreational and educational opportunities. More than 40 miles of hiking trails provide beautiful and striking views of the lake and the surrounding area. The trails range from mild to extremely rugged as the trails traverse everything from open meadows and shoreline to steep ravines. Boating, camping and more.

Location: 3790 State Route 370, Yellow Springs

Description: John Bryan State Park is perhaps the most scenic State Park in western Ohio. The park contains a limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami River (a state and national scenic river). A portion of the gorge itself is designated as a national natural landmark. Find more than 100 different species of trees and shrubs and more than 340 species of wild flowers. You may encounter more than 90 different varieties of birds, white-tail deer, beaver, coyotes, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, and even an occasional white squirrel. Ten different trails available for hiking, and there are 7.5 miles of mountain biking trials at John Bryan State Park.

Charleston Falls

Location: 2535 Ross Road, Tipp City

Description: Discover uncommon plants and a unique waterfall originating from small underground springs several miles to the east. Other features in this 216-acre park include an observation boardwalk near the falls, a limestone cave, wildlife pond, tall grass prairie and 3.74 miles of trail.

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