Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fast Facts: Sharon Woods

11450 Lebanon Road
Sharonville, OH  45241

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Kids Will Like

  • Playground
  • Indoor Play Area and Nature Displays
  • Outdoor Water Playground
  • Boating on Sharon Lake
  • Hikes Along the Gorge and Around the Lake
  • 19th Century Village
  • Special Events for Kids
Good to Know
  • Admission: $3.00 daily or $10.00 for the year
  • Small fees for Indoor Play Area, Water Park, or Boat Rental
  • Heritage Village is Free for ages 4 and under (Small fees ages 5+)  
  • Picnic Shelters Available for Reserve
  • Snack Bar at Water Park
  • Gift Shop at Visitor's Center
  • Restrooms and Water Fountains Available
  • Golf Course on Site

Sharon Woods is one of the large Hamilton County Parks which offers something for everyone:  nature, history, art, sports, and relaxation, togetherness, or alone time.  Our hike on the Gorge Trail featured waterfalls and educational signs to enhance our experience.  The paved trail around the lake is perfect for a good stroller workout.  The water park is a must-do summer activity for kids and the 19th century Heritage Village is an added attraction not found in most local parks.  The convenient location also makes this a definite go-to park throughout the year.

Trail Tale: Sharon Woods, Gorge Trail

By the end of March in Cincinnati, the family is going stir crazy.  Not enough sun and very little signs that spring is around the corner.  To give Mother Nature a little encouragement, we all headed out for a hike on a gray, chilly Saturday at Sharon Woods in Sharonville.  We chose to take the Gorge Trail and walk along the creek.  Sharon Woods also has a multi-use paved trail which circles Sharon Lake.

We began at the trail's south entrance.  When arriving at the park from Route 42, take the first left.  There will be parking on your left near a picnic area.  To get to the trail head, cross the street and walk a few yards further down the road.  You will be greeted by a sign for the trail:

This end of the trail also closer to the visitor's center where you can find an indoor play area--a great place to go with pre-schoolers in the winter--a nature display area, restrooms, and a gift shop.  There is also a room which contains revolving nature-themed art exhibits.  Just outside the nature center is a play area and beyond that, the Heritage Village Living Museum.  Visit the park's website for more information.

Let's get to the trail!

The path is gravel and plenty wide.  Since it goes out and back, there are a lot of people and dogs to pass along the way.  Even on this chilly day, we encountered enough people and their pets to make it a friendly hike, but no so many that it felt crowded.  Shortly into the walk, you get a good look at the gorge on your right.  My younger son demonstrates the meaning of "gorge" as he gets a little too close to the edge!

In the beginning of the trail, it's important to keep an eye (and a hand) on small children.  Later, there are fences near the dangerous areas.  Just ahead, we encounter our first waterfall.

The boys and their Dad take some time to toss pebbles into the creek while I repeat "be careful, be careful" like a mantra.  There is a nice deck and bench for those who would rather contemplate the falls than to risk falling off the bank.

We venture on, further into the woods.  You can see the steep drop in the following picture:

Soon the trail moves away from the edge of the gorge and I find it's okay to exhale and start enjoying the hike.

There are several attractive informational signs created by the Hamilton County Park District along the way creating an added educational experience especially for older kids, like me.  Here is just one example, which discusses animals in the area during the Ice Age:

About half-way into the hike, the trail crosses the creek with a solid wooden bridge.

Here is a view of the creek from the middle of the bridge:

The next section of trail passes by a small portion of the 18-hole Sharon Woods Golf Course.  But my oldest, Marshall doesn't notice.  He is too busy balancing on logs from a fallen tree.

Next up is a neat-looking tree that contains three large trunks coming from the same root ball.

And, of course, it beckons to be climbed upon.

This would make a great spot to kick back and read a novel all day--in another lifetime, anyway... Just behind this tree, I spot my first sign that spring is indeed on it's way!  This may be the bud of a Buckeye tree, but I'm not a botanist, so I'd have to see it in bloom to know for sure.  What promise lies in this perfect little bud!  

Next, we come across another of the creek's Falls and Miles and I stop at the deck to admire them.

Marshall, however, is off and running through the woods!

The picture above is a good representation of how most of the trail appears.  If you look closely, you can see some green growing up from the matted brown leaves.  Most of the plants are wild onions.  

Only in the last leg of the trail do we find a slope with footholds to give us an extra workout.

Once at the top, we get a glimpse of Sharon Lake's waterfall as it empties into the creek beneath a pretty stone bridge.

The trail ends at the road across from the lake.  Watch for cars when crossing.  My kids had their eye on the lake and would have just run out into the road if we had not been aware!  

If you enter Sharon Woods from Kemper Road, you will be closer to the lake than the Visitor's Center and can reach the Gorge Trail by passing the large parking lot for the lake, then turning left.  There will be a small parking lot for the trail on your right.  You could also hop on the paved trail that circles the lake at this point.  A future post will be dedicated to the loop trail.  On this day, we gazed at the lake for a bit and then headed back the way we came.

We ended our day out at the park by driving over to Adventure Station, the indoor play area at Sharon Centre, where we also made use of the water fountains and restrooms and found warmth for our chilly bones. 

I look forward to returning to Sharon Woods to explore the Heritage Village.  In summer, this park has an outdoor water park for the kids near the lake.  It's also possible to rent pedal boats, rowboats, motor boats, pontoon boats, or canoes.  And if you like to fish, the boathouse offers supplies.  

Sharon Woods is one of the "Big Four" of the Hamilton County Parks, along with Miami Whitewater, Woodland Mound, and Winton Woods.  It's the kind of park that offers something for everyone.  It's big enough for family reunions, "stay"-cations, and day trips, yet close enough and small enough to visit often and spend just an hour or two at a time.  The two hours we spent hiking and playing inside was just the mini-break our family needed from long winter days spent indoors.