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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fast Facts: Withrow Nature Preserve

7075 Five Mile Road
Cincinnati, OH  45230

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Kids Will Like

  • Hiking the Trails
  • Climbing on Fallen Trees
  • Tossing Pebbles into Small Streams
  • Benches and Overlooks for Resting
  • Viewing Wildflowers in Spring
  • Spotting Deer Tracks

Good to Know

  • Hamilton County Vehicle Permit Required
  • Large Parking Lot
  • Restroom Rating:  Portable Toilets Available in Parking Lot
  • No Water Fountain
  • No Picnic Facilities--Nature Study Only
  • Stroller Friendly: Old Farm Loop 
  • Not Stroller Friendly:  Hepatica Loop
  • Large Wooden Staircases with Handrails on Hepatica Loop

Because Withrow is a Nature Preserve, the main activity here is the hiking and the chance to view wildflowers, wildlife, streams, and the Ohio River at an overlook point.  The Trout Lily Trail, with its different hiking loops offers both woods and open meadows to experience.  It proved to be just a bit too long for my boys to handle all the loops in one day, but I could have easily skipped a portion of the Old Farm Loop by taking one of the access trails to the parking lot.  The trails were empty in the morning, but toward the end of our hike, there were plenty of people walking, running, or following their dogs down the trails.  Be aware that wedding ceremonies are held at this park May through October.

More Information
The Nature Conservancy    

Trail Tale: Withrow Nature Preserve, Hepatica Hill Loop

On one of the first non-rainy days of early spring--which are few and far between--the boys and I took a little trip to a place I had visited a couple of times a few years ago and always wanted to return, Withrow Nature Preserve in Anderson Township.  This off-the-beaten-path green space is perfect for this blog, which aims to introduce readers to places they may not have heard about before.

The Preserve sits atop a wooded hillside along the Ohio River on the east side of town, near Coney Island.  It is somewhat secluded which is evident as you enter the park.  A long sloping driveway slowly takes you up into the woods and ends in a large paved parking lot.

Just beyond the lot, the Highwood Lodge resides on the grounds of the park.  This building and it's surrounding formal gardens is a popular spot for weddings and receptions.

To locate the Hepatica Hill Loop trail, look for a welcome sign and informational sign which also contains a small map just beyond the parking lot and before you reach the house:

The trail will begin on your left. [There are two trails at Withrow, Hepatic Hill Loop, which is covered in this post, and the Old Farm Loop, which will follow in a separate post]. 

The boys wasted no time getting on the trail.  Within just a few feet of our hike, we found some spring wildflowers in bloom and what a welcome sight!


I've spent most of our fall and winter hikes looking up with my camera at the stark tree branches pasted against the sky.  Today's spring time hike has me staring and pointing at the ground, saying, "Look boys, another flower!  This one is purple, my favorite color."

Of course, they are hard to convince, especially when there is a stump to climb up ahead!

The trail at this point is rounding the hillside, with the wildflower patch on our right and a ravine with a creek at it's bottom on our right.  Just ahead, a solid wooden stairwell descends toward the creek, making this particular trail unfriendly to strollers, but fine for walkers.

We take time to check out the fallen tree beside the stairs, one of many at the Preserve.  Droughts, high winds, and storms in recent years have sadly taken a toll on many Cincinnati trees.  At the bottom of the steps, the boys take advantage of a bench overlooking the creek:

From here, the trail works it's way back up the hill.  There are still plenty of wildflowers to be found along the way.

Another stairwell:

And another bench:

I love the huge Sycamore tree looming above the deck!

From here, the trail goes behind the Highwood Lodge and passes through the gardens where you can see the setting for outdoor weddings.  Not a bad place for renewing vows either...

This concludes the post about the Hepatica Hill Loop trail.  Since the boys were still in the mood to hike, we went back to the trail head and turned left to head toward the Old Farm Loop--read about it in the next post!

Trail Tale: Withrow Nature Preserve, Old Farm Loop

[Please read the previous post about the Hepatica Hill Loop trail first for more complete coverage of Withrow Nature Preserve].

The Old Farm Loop trail at Withrow can be reached from both ends of the Preserve's parking lot.  The boys and I began at the trail head at the end of the lot closest to the Highland Lodge.  From this point you may access the Hepatica Hill Loop as well.  To find Old Farm Loop, turn left at the fork just a few yards onto the trails and cross a wooden bridge.

The boys wasted no time and ran ahead on the trail in search of stumps and puddles and fallen trees.

Along the way, we found some informational signs about the flora and fauna of the woods.  

I've been noticing a pattern with the boys--Marshall always looks for something to climb on and Miles can't get enough of puddles.  Soon they found a perfect spot for their favorite activities.

And another:

The trail winds through a stand of trees.  The young tree in the foreground is a buckeye--one of the first to leaf out in early spring.  Withrow is full of these small trees.

By the time we've reached this part of the park, it's early afternoon and we start meeting more people and dogs on the trail.  Withrow is probably more well known to residents in nearby Anderson Township than people in other communitites since it is somewhat removed from the well-traveled routes to and from restaurants and shopping areas.  Our fellow hikers seemed to be frequent visitors--walkers, runners, and small groups walking together.

We came across a large fallen pine tree with a puddle occupying the place where the root ball once lived.  Marshall bravely climbed way up the trunk of the pine while I tried not to freak out!  Can you spot him?  

Miles got busy throwing twigs and small stones into the puddle.

I sat on one of the logs lining the trail and we all had some quiet time in this peaceful spot.  This should have been an indication that everyone was getting tired and I probably should have taken the path to the parking lot which we had just passed...

But, we forged on.  But not before checking an old log for creatures:

Soon we reached a fork in the trail.

To the left is a meadow and to the right, the path continues through the woods to an overlook.  We hiked to the right.  Although the boys and I were getting a little worn out, I'm glad we kept going because we came across something I've never seen in the wild before:

Morels!!  Well, maybe.  After doing a little research, it looks as though these could actually be False Morels, the kind that can cause a violent reaction if eaten.  Since I'm not a mycologist, I can only guess at which type these are.  Still, it was a very cool sight and good opportunity to talk to the boys about fungi and why we can look, but not touch.  Not only for the possibility of being poisoned, but also because we were in a nature preserve.

After the excitement over the fungi, we headed toward the overlook and were grateful to find a bench to rest, while gazing at the Ohio river.

After the rest, we continued back into the woods, again.

And finally, we came to the meadow!!

Both kids celebrated by leaping from the trail into the tallish grass, over and over and over again--delirium was setting in.

Another fork in the trail.  The view below shows the trail looping around another meadow.  To my back, the trail heads toward the parking lot.  

Going any further would have been plain ridiculous, so we did not take this final loop.  However, we will pay another visit in the summer when all the meadow will be in bloom.

Back to the car we go:

And finally, victory! (And a much needed Porta-potty).

Withrow Nature Preserve is much larger than I remember.  Of course, last time I visited, I had no children and was a few years younger.  Doing both trails in one day was almost too much for my pre-schoolers as we hiked for a solid two hours.  If you are here in the spring, the Hepatica Hill Loop is the way to go for  the spring wildflowers.  In summer, the meadows on the Old Farm Loop is a must-see.

All-in-all, this out of the way nature preserve is well worth the trip!