Top Trail Picks from Stewardship Staff

Nature Academy

The Stewardship Department really knows the parks inside and out. They’re almost always out in the field collecting water samples, conducting plant surveys, tracking native species or any number of behind-the-scenes conservation activities. As the days get longer and there’s more time for exploring outdoors, a few members of the Stewardship team shared their favorite Great Parks’ places to connect with nature.


Tim Osborne, Shaker Trace Nursery Manager:
I have two favorite trails: Oakleaf and Badlands at Miami Whitewater Forest. The trail heads are within 20 yards of each other, so this hike often seems like a continuous one. The Oakleaf Trail is great for viewing native plants such as maple leaf viburnum, wild blue phlox and horse-balm. There is also a lake at the bottom of the trail that is great for sitting in the woods and viewing wood duck, kingfisher and great blue heron. The Badlands Trail gives one the feeling of being in the deep woods as the trial cuts its way through the rough terrain. Having been to the “real” Badlands in South Dakota I can almost see, with great imagination, why this trail was given that name.

Olivia Espinoza, Stewardship Technician:
One of my favorite places in the Great Parks is Trout Lily Trail at Withrow Nature Preserve. I enjoy hiking this trail especially in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. Like the trails name suggests you will see trout lily along with other species, such as trillium, Dutchman’s breeches and Jack-in-the-Pulpit. It is a wonderful place to learn wildflower identification. I have also seen interesting woodland bird species like the Baltimore oriole and Northern Parula.

Jack in the Pulpit


Doug Stevenson, Stewardship Technician:
One of my favorite trails in the Great Parks is the Trout Lily Trail at Withrow Nature Preserve due to the plethora of wildflowers present there. This trail in the early spring is one of the first places an abundance of native plants like Dutchman’s breeches, wild ginger, Virginia bluebells, trout lily, various trilliums, blood root, and harbinger of spring appear. It is usually an indicator of what you will soon see along other Great Parks trails. There are even some striking non-native plants there such as Siberian squill and winter aconite. It is also a great place to see various snakes and birds.

Tom Borgman, Natural Resource Manager:
My favorite place is the Badlands Trail at Miami Whitewater Forest. It goes through an impressive mature forest and has wonderful wildflower and the feel of the wilderness.

Ben Braeutigam, Aquatic Resource Specialist:
I always enjoy checking out Dry Fork Creek at Miami Whitewater Forest, so my favorite trail is probably the Shaker Trace Trail. There are numerous places where the trail crosses Dry Fork Creek and give great vantage points for watching the wide variety of creatures that call it home. It isn’t unusual to spot spiny softshell turtle basking in the sun or a belted kingfisher diving down to catch a meal in Dry Fork Creek. The creek is historically home to a very diverse fish community with past surveys finding more than 40 different species and hybrids.

Dry Fork Creek

Dry Fork Creek

Emily Roth, Aquatic Resource Technician:
Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve is my favorite park, so that makes the Pin Oak Trail my favorite. It’s a tiny forest sanctuary amongst the busyness of the urban life that surrounds it, and the walking path is very peaceful and quiet. There are many great opportunities to encounter wildlife while walking on the path, either in the forest or in the section of field. Being there is an all-around unique and jovial experience.

Pin Oak Trail

Pin Oak Trail