“When people thing spring they likely think of our garden parks – Cox Arboretum, Aullwood Garden and Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark – but don’t miss what’s happening in parks with extensive natural surface trails too,” said Lauren Lemons, Five Rivers MetroParks marketing and public engagement specialist. “That being said, if you are on a trail for a fast-paced hike or trail run, be sure to slow down and literally stop to smell the flowers because you don’t want to miss all the things that are growing.”
That’s not to say spring hiking is not without its pitfalls.
“Hiking in the spring means being prepared to walk straight through mud,” said Angela Moore, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation events specialist. “Trying to avoid mud by going around unnecessarily widens the trails and damages plants along the side.”
If there is muddy terrain, Moore suggests staying on trails in higher areas or choosing paved trails until the natural trails have time to dry out. Taking special care to avoid negatively impacting the natural beauty and woodland habitats should be a priority.
“We should all strive to preserve the wildflowers for as long as possible, so others may enjoy them, and the birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators may utilize them for food and shelter,” said Angela York, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation special events coordinator.
Ready to hit the trails? Whether you are looking for beautiful blossoms or family fun, there are plenty of options.
Flora and fauna aplenty
If April showers bring May flowers, local parks and trails should be brimming with color. Looking for some buds and blooms?
* Aullwood Garden MetroPark, 955 Aullwood Road, Dayton
Conservationist and gardener Marie Aull devoted her life to preserving and promoting the natural beauty of the region. Visitors to her former country garden retreat can stroll the mile-long garden path that traverses past stunning wildflowers and through scenic woods and a prairie. The prairie comes alive in the spring as it’s home to a variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
“It’s hard to beat Aullwood Garden MetroPark for spring wildflowers,” Moore said. “If there isn’t enough trail for you there, just jump right over to Englewood MetroPark for a loop to see Martindale, Patty and Oaks Falls.”
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/aullwood-garden/
* Cox Arboretum MetroPark, 6733 Springboro Pike, Dayton
Spring colors are on full display at Cox Arboretum with its specialty and pollinator gardens. Get a bird’s eye view of the spring splendor from the Tree Tower or stroll along the ADA-accessible paved paths that wind through a variety of scenic features. The natural area offers hikers 2.5 miles of trails through the woodlands and meadows. Visit the bird blind on the 0.6-mile red trail to peek at the many feathered friends that call the area home.
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/cox-arboretum/
* Sugarcreek MetroPark, 4178 Conference Road, Bellbrook
From the sun-loving prairie flowers to the towering Three Sisters, Sugarcreek MetroPark offers a variety of habitats. Visitors can take it all in as they hike the orange trail to the Osage Orange Tunnel – with its distinctive arching trees planted in rows in the late 1800s to serve as farm fence – and continue on to the Three Sisters, 550-year-old white oak trees. For those with mobility challenges, Sugarcreek has a level, paved path that makes a quarter-mile loop around the prairie.
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/sugarcreek/
* Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton
From colorful formal gardens to a swamp forest, Wegerzyn offers a wide variety of views. Stroll the ADA-accessible paths that winds through the picture-perfect formal gardens or let the kids express their inner gardener in the interactive Children’s Discovery Garden. The scenic one-mile Marie Aull Nature Trail and Swamp Forest showcase the natural beauty of the park, complete with wildflowers and even Fairy Shrimp.
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/wegerzyn-gardens/
*Bill Yeck Park, 2230 E. Centerville Station Road (Smith House Entrance)
The 194-acre park is a hot spot for hikers, bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike. From rare plant species to fossils from the Ordovician period, treasures are plentiful.
“I would recommend the Bill Yeck Park orange trail,” said Carrie Dittman, Centerville-Washington Park District marketing and communications supervisor. “The orange trail was completed at the end of last summer and we have seen quite a bit of spring ephemeral activity on it this year.”
The orange trail can be accessed from the Smith House or the Rooks Mill park entrance. And the 2-mile trail can be shortened with a cut-through path for those looking for a shorter hike.
More info: www.cwpd.org/parks/bill-yeck/
* Possum Creek MetroPark, 4790 Frytown Road, Dayton
The Jean V. Woodhull Prairie is home to a variety of distinctive plants including wildflowers such as coneflower, dense blazing star and sawtooth sunflower. More than just visually stunning, prairies provide a habitat for birds, butterflies, insects and other small wildlife. Hiking the 3.5-mile orange trail provides hikers views of the prairie, Argonne Lake and ponds.
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/possum-creek/
FAMILY FUN HIKES
A family hike doesn’t have to be an uphill battle as several parks offer fun for adventurers of all ages.
* Hills & Dales MetroPark, 2740 S. Patterson Blvd. (Dogwood Pond)
The Adirondack Trail loop is less than a mile and starts at Dogwood Pond where young hikers may spot ducks, fish or a sunbathing turtle or two. To make the walk a bit longer, start at the Paw Paw shelter and cross the wetlands boardwalk. The Hills & Dales White Oak Camp offers both a traditional play area – with swings and monkey bars – as well as a nature play area where kids can let their creativity take a walk on the wild side.
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/hills-dales/
* Englewood MetroPark, 4361 W. National Road, Vandalia (East Park)
Even the littlest of hikers can manage the 0.5-mile blue trail along the scenic boardwalk. Ready for a longer hike, with not one or two but three waterfalls? Hike the 3.8-mile green trail to visit the Martindale, Patty and Oaks waterfalls as well as the pumpkin ash and swamp forest. The swamp has been designated as a State Natural Landmark. If you’re ready for more fun, head to the nature play area.
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/englewood/
* Carriage Hill MetroPark, 7800 E. Shell Road, Dayton (Visitor center)
Visitors are transported back in time to the 1880s as they encounter life on a 19th century family farm where they can meet resident animals and chat with a blacksmith. Enjoy fishing at Cedar Lake, with its accessible boardwalk, or stroll along the 0.5-mile red trail loop around the lake. The orange trail takes hikers around the lake, past the prairie and North Woods Pond.
More info: www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/carriage-hill/
* Stillwater Prairie Reserve, 7790 N. Rangeline Road, Covington
Wildflowers bloom and the redbud trees sport vibrant pink flowers at the Miami County park situated near the scenic Stillwater River. With more than 300 acres and five miles of trails there are plenty of spots for hiking, fishing and bird watching. The park hosts a naturalist-led butterfly walk that highlights the species and the types of flowering plants these insects love. A nature play area rounds out the family fun.
More info: www.miamicountyparks.com/park/stillwater
LEAVE NO TRACE – SPRINGTIME EDITION
“As always we encourage people to consider the seven principles of Leave No Trace when getting outside hiking or camping,” said Angela York, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation special events coordinator.
Especially in the spring it is important to remember to:
Plan and prepare. You should expect to get muddy when spring hiking, as many trails will have muddy sections days after our last rain. Please resist the temptation to walk off trail to avoid the mud. Instead, embrace your inner child and stomp right through it! Plan for this with your choice of footwear and bringing a tarp and change of shoes with you. When you get back to your car, you can change shoes and keep the mud out of your car with the tarp or plastic.
Leave what you find. The wildflowers are beautiful but picking them can disrupt the ecosystem. Birds, bees and other pollinators rely on the wildflowers for food and shelter.
Be considerate of others. Leaving the wildflowers allows others to also enjoy their beauty. Take pictures and make memories.
Travel on durable surfaces. It might be tempting to go off trail to get a better photo of wildflower or spring migrant but remember that you might be trampling yet to bloom wildflowers and vegetation that may be just emerging and is very fragile. This is all habitat for our wild forest friends – respect wildlife.