SPRING HIKING: The best spots to explore as the weather warms

Spring hiking is synonymous with birds singing, colorful flowers poking through the earth and warm rays of sun welcoming nature lovers back outside.

Dayton is rich in beautiful green spaces. Year-round, there are parks that can accommodate any kind of adventure, but springtime is one of the most exciting times to explore our parks as they wake up after the winter season.

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We asked local experts about the best spots to explore as the weather warms. Here’s what they had to say:

🌼 Take advantage of Dayton’s “garden parks”

Lauren Lemons, Five Rivers’ MetroParks marketing specialist and outdoors aficionado, said parkgoers can get wonderful inspiration for their at-home gardens once they see what’s in bloom. The garden parks are also great for springtime conditions, when traditional trails might be too muddy to trek because of paved paths through the garden areas.

MetroParks with featured garden areas:

Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave. in Dayton

Take the Marie Aull Trail at Wegerzyn for a breathtaking and peaceful walk through spring blooms, then venture onto the Swamp Forest Boardwalk to catch a glimpse of an otter wading by.

Wegerzyn Gardens is landscaped with native plants — a perfect model for home gardeners looking for design ideas, plan combination examples and cultivation techniques. The park also features an interactive Children’s Discovery Garden that’s unlike any other in the area.

Aullwood Gardens MetroPark, 955 Aullwood Road in Dayton

The park has a narrow, mile-long garden path that weaves through the gardens, woods and prairie. Along the path, visitors can wonder at the spring wildflowers and, most famously, Virginia bluebells, which peak around early to mid-April.

Aullwood was the home of conservationists Marie and John Aull, where they spent much of their marriage gardening in the woods in the early to mid 1900s. After John’s death in 1955, Marie donated their property to the National Audubon Society, and it would eventually be dedicated to the Dayton community for generations of resident naturalists to enjoy.

Cox Arboretum MetroPark, 6733 Springboro Pike in Dayton

Cox offers the best of both worlds in the spring. Paved footpaths weave through beautifully landscaped gardens, trees and ponds. For those who want to get some miles in, the park also has three longer trails that extend into the Ruth Cummings Mead Woodland.

The greatest spectacle at Cox Arboretum has to be the Tree Tower. Towering 65-feet above the conifer trees, the Tree Tower provides a spectacular, panoramic view of the grounds coming back to life in the spring.

🌼 Best parks for scenic spring trails

Taylorsville MetroPark, 2000 U.S. 40 in Vandalia

Wildflowers accompany hikers along the entirety of the Taylorsville bike path route, going north from the Tadmor parking lot. The trilliums, a genus of perennial flowering plant native to temperate regions, is what makes the trail a must in the spring.

The park is also great in the springtime because the Great Miami River Trail bisects Taylorsville MetroPark from north to south. As bikers begin to kick the rust off their wheels for the season, Taylorsville is a wonderful stop-over when taking a spin on the region’s largest bike trail network.

Click here for park map.

-Germantown MetroPark’s Bob Seibenthaler Natural Area, 7101 Conservancy Rd., Germantown

As soon as those first days of spring consistently show up, the trees in the Bob Seibenthaler Natural Area begin to wildly bloom.

Careful to avoid the muddiest of spots — Germantown MetroPark has miles and miles of wooded trails that are beautiful and buzzing in the spring, though some areas can become difficult to navigate in wetter conditions.

Click here for park map.

-Pearl’s Fen, 4535 Byron Road in Fairborn

One of the area’s newer wetlands, Pearl’s Fen opened in August 2020 and it’s a springtime haven. The wetland is flourishing with native plants that begin springing back to life this time of year.

In addition to the aesthetic qualities it offers, Pearl’s Fen, named for the late owner of the land, extends the distance hikers can explore when visiting the nearby Oakes Quarry Park at 1267 E Xenia Drive in Fairborn. When walking Pearl’s boardwalk, people will find another trail that leads to the back portion of the fen and eventually connects to a trail leading to Oakes Quarry. Visitors can now enter at either Oakes or Pearl’s, and hike the entirety of both parks.

Credit: Sarah Franks

Credit: Sarah Franks

For more information, visit metroparks.org.

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