What people love about America’s newest adventure capital

Pedal, paddle or good old foot power, local outdoor enthusiasts get around.

With a 340-mile paved recreation trail network — the largest in the country — and six high-quality waterways, offering 400 miles of paddling opportunities, the Dayton area has long been recognized as a local gem but, recently, the “Outdoor Capital of the Midwest” reached national status as Dayton was recognized by National Geographic as America’s newest adventure capital.

>> Dayton in the national spotlight as ‘adventure capital’ of Midwest

More than 3.3 million visitors explored one of the many local urban green spaces in 2018 alone. So what makes the region such a hot spot for adventure seekers?

Members of the local outdoor community weigh in on some must-do items when it comes to exploring the riches the area has to offer. The Adventure Chicks, Dayton Hikers and Ohio Paddlers are just a few of the many active organizations that promote outdoor adventure.

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Highlights from America’s newest adventure capital

Joe Becker, Dayton Hikers: There are so many. Kayak the Mad River from the Harshman Bridge to the Monument Bridge — two hours and three whitewater features. Bicycle the 340 miles of paved trails, ride from Miamisburg to Franklin through Cranes Run — 11 miles round trip. Enjoy the many hiking trails, Grants Park, Sugarcreek, Taylorsville, John Bryan. I love exploring the small towns along the bike path and stopping at a local brewery or eatery.

Debbie Smith Downs, Dayton Hikers: For me, it is the Dayton Hikers group itself — so many individuals who step up and become hike leaders and guide us through the many wonderful MetroParks.

Gwen English, Adventure Chicks: MetroParks/Whitewater Warehouse kayak and SUP board rentals on the RiverScape river feature. Of course, it's always available to those with their own equipment.

Sharon Haberstroh, Dayton Hikers: The 340 miles of paved bike trails, Five Rivers MetroParks for hiking and the Little Miami, designated as Ohio's first National Scenic River, for kayaking and canoeing.

Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ohio Paddlers: How about Ohio's only National Water Trail? The Great Miami, Mad, and Stillwater rivers were awarded with that distinction, and there are only 22 in the whole country. Only rivers that are very clean and accessible for recreation can achieve that designation. Also, the Great Miami Riverway promotes fun activities and exciting things happening along the Great Miami River from Sidney through Dayton to Hamilton. The riverfront cities are working hard to promote the rivers as an exciting recreational opportunity.

Kristy Schooler Matheson, Adventure Chicks: The MetroParks here are absolutely a gift. They give you an opportunity to step away from the craziness of life and connect with nature. Also, the kayaking opportunities are awesome.

Richard Munn, Ohio Paddlers: I think our strength is in the great variety and amount of opportunities the area offers. We have miles and miles of wonderful bike paths and miles and miles of wonderful waterways. Our park systems, both local and state, work very hard to maintain and create opportunities. And there are opportunities within easy driving distance of everybody in the state. Our weather also helps because it is pretty pleasant most of the time.

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Melinda Murphy, Adventure Chicks: From a disabled person's perspective, I love that no matter where you live there is a MetroPark close by for hiking or even just a walk. But, to me, it's the adventurous spirit that makes us special. My 80-year-old friend took me hiking when I was still on a walker. You will meet people who range in age from 10 to 90 and everyone loves the beauty and challenges of our parks. I love the adventure community, separated by race, religion and politics but who come together with a wonderful adventurous spirit to encourage, support and simply enjoy all we have been given. The community is what makes us stand above the crowd.

Karen Power, Dayton Hikers: We represent the classic Midwesterner — thrifty and family-oriented. What better cheap, family activity than a hike on a local trail or a fishing excursion in a park or along the river? We enjoy four seasons that offer different outdoor experiences with every season. Proximity — there's probably a river, trail, park within 10 minutes of anyone who lives in Dayton.

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