Outdoors Worth Exploring: Southwestern Ohio

It may be a little too easy to scoff at Cincinnati, Ohio. We don’t have spectacular beaches or majestic mountains. But what you will find here are plenty of hills, acres of deciduous forest, lakes, rivers and ponds. Nature in the Midwest is beautiful during all four seasons, and if you are a true lover of the outdoors like I am, you won’t have a hard time appreciating the beauty here. This guide covers everything from exploring the untouched outskirts of Cincinnati to the downtown parks and bike trails. No matter what the season is, or how terrible the weather may seem, you’ll find something to do in this guide to satisfy the explorer in you. 

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Cincinnati Nature Center

4949 Tealtown Road, Milford, OH 45150-9737

Located in the Eastern outskirts of Cincinnati, Rowe Woods is a vast nature education center complete with several miles of hiking trails that pass through hilly woods, prairies, over creeks and small ponds, all teeming with wildlife. There are several options for trails once you park your car and get out, but you won’t go wrong with picking any random trail to trek on. The air is fresh, the old-growth forest is beautiful no matter the season, and the paths are wide and easy to walk on.

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Sharon Woods Park

11450 Lebanon Rd, Sharonville, OH 45241

If you’re a fan of exploring creeks, visit Sharon Woods and find the Parcours Trail. There’s a creek that runs parallel to the trail, and it’s pretty easy to maneuver down there and do some stone stepping, check out the fish or small waterfalls and find some cool fossils. There’s also a lake in which you can rent paddle boats during the warmer months or, if it’s cold enough the lake usually freezes in the shallower areas and visitors are allowed to go ice skating or play around on the ice. There’s also a path that runs around the lake that is great for bike walking or an easy stroll.

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The Cincinnati Observatory Centre

3489 Observatory Place, Cincinnati, OH, United States

Want to get lost in the stars? This is the place you want to be on a clear night. The Observatory has been around since the late 1800’s and is home to one of the oldest working telescopes in the country, so besides being a great place to star-gaze, it’s got great history and character as well. It’s located in Hyde Park, about 15 minutes from downtown, yet still far enough away from light pollution that you have a clear view of the sky. Bring blankets, something warm to sip on and find a spot in the vast grassy area that surrounds the Observatory building.

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Krohn Conservatory

1501 Eden Park Dr, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Is the weather looking a little too terrible for bike rides or nature hikes? Go to the Krohn Conservatory. It’s a giant greenhouse located in Eden Park, about ten minutes from downtown Cincinnati. This indoor wonder houses exotic plants from all over the world. Check out the rain forest exhibit where the air is wet and thick and the plants are lush and green, then switch over to the cacti exhibit where you’ll find cacti you didn’t know could exist in such bright colors or wild patterns. The world inside the greenhouse is always warm and fascinating whenever the outside world is just a little too harsh for enjoyment.

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Loveland Canoe & Kayak Inc

200 Crutchfield Pl, Loveland, OH 45140, United States

If you’re in town during the warmer months, rent a canoe or kayak from Loveland Canoe and take a trip down the Little Miami River. The current keeps you moving along so little to no upper body strength is really required; it’s a great opportunity relax and enjoy the water and outdoor air. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll notice the Loveland castle that will come up on the right side of the bank. It’s a great spot to dock your canoes and take a break at the picnic tables or visit the historic castle a local man built with rocks from the river.

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Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad

127 S Mechanic St, Lebanon, OH 45036, United States

This train begins in historic downtown Lebanon and winds through the rural countryside to the north east of the city, offering gorgeous views and educating patrons on the history of the railroad. Outdoor seating is available in the warmer months, and the views are especially beautiful during autumn. The LM&M Train offers different themed train rides depending on the time of year, just visit their website to find out which events are happening when you’re planning on going for a ride. It’s a great little adventure for families or for romantic excursions.

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Freedom Center REDBIKE Station

Walnut St, Cincinnati, OH 45202, United States

This bike sharing system is an amazingly convenient way to get some exercise and explore the city. You can find the red bikes parked in bike racks all over town, such as the Freedom Center Museum, Eden Park or around OTR. Simply walk up to the payment machine, select how much time you think you’ll need and take off. When you’re done, just return the bike to any of the nearest red bike racks. It’s a smart idea to map out your trip before you begin, especially if you’re new to the area. Just be safe and mindful on busy roads.

Sawyer Point Park

Cincinnati, OH

Sawyer Point & Smale Riverfront Park are side-by-side parks that wind right along the banks of the Ohio River. Sawyer point offers tennis courts, a playground and water fountains for the kids, and a wide pathway that is perfect for jogging or strolling along the river. Head west along the pathway through Sawyer Point and you will come to Smale Park, a new addition to the Cincinnati Riverfront. Stroll through the gardens or relax in one of the bench swings that offer a gorgeous view of the river, Northern Kentucky and our beautiful, historic landmark, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.

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Holy Cross Immaculata Church

30 Guido St, Cincinnati, OH 45202, United States

Mount Adams is a towering hill located just to the east of downtown. It’s not exactly a mountain as the name suggests, but you’ll get quite a workout climbing to the top of it. If you’re up for the challenge, head over to St. Gregory Street and find the entrance to the Mount Adams steps, put in place by the Holy Cross Immaculata Church. The 85 steps begin at the very bottom of the hill and ascend up to the historic neighborhood of Mount Adams. Once you reach the top of the steps, turn around and take in the fantastic view of the Ohio River, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

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East Fork State Park

3294 Elklick Rd, Bethel, OH 45106, United States

This state park isn’t exactly close to the heart of Cincinnati, but definitely worth the drive. It’s just far away enough that you’ll be able to appreciate the rural beauty of south western Ohio, but still get back downtown in about thirty minutes. The park includes a vast lake that is perfect for boating, paddle boarding, canoeing or swimming. Relax on one of the beaches or bring an inner tube and float on the water. There are also miles of hiking trails that wind through the hills and meadows, and campgrounds if you feel like spending the night outdoors.

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Incline Public House

2601 W Eighth St, Cincinnati, OH

This restaurant knows—sometimes you just want great food, an awesome view and fresh air all at once. Set on the ledge of a hill just to the west of the city, the deck offers a spectacular view of downtown, the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky. Lots of Cincinnatians will visit Incline House solely for the view and atmosphere. So if you feel like simply relaxing in the outdoors, this is a great spot to grab a drink or food and just chill.

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The Garage OTR - Home of Segway of Cincinnati

1150 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45202, United States

Want to take a guided tour of Cincinnati…on a Segway? Segway Tours Cincinnati offers two hour guided tours of either Eden Park, the riverfront or central downtown. The type of tour depends on which day of the week it is, so check out the website to see when your preferred tour is taking place. This is a great opportunity to zip around the city on a Segway and learn a little bit more about the history and culture of Cincinnati.

Last updated at Apr 29, 2017