Recently, the Great Parks unveiled our new acorn logo, and with that, a new slogan of “Find Your Wild.” The slogan asks for us to get out to the parks and discover what activities connect us to nature. It didn’t take me too long in reflection to acknowledge what binds me to the parks, and that would be taking my dogs out for a walk.
Born and raised in Hamilton County, I spent many of my younger years enjoying bike riding, the wet play areas and field trips to the parks. When I was in my early twenties, I moved out west where I adopted my two dogs. I had no idea how much energy I was getting into with two big puppies, and I quickly learned they needed a lot of exercise to stay out of trouble. We developed daily walks around our neighborhood and local parks.
When I moved back to Ohio in 2017, I was able to return to the parks with a whole new perspective for the trails. It was when the pandemic hit in 2020, that I really found myself leaning into the parks, and enjoyed visiting them so much, that I began to peruse my career with the Great Parks. Here are a few tips that I have picked up from my own park experience, which I hope can help others find a good place to bond with their furry friend.
Short & Sweet
We make our rounds to various parks to meet our circumstances of the day. We love taking advantage of Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve on a hot summer day, for the trail here is shaded and you can really vary your walk time. There are a variety of paths that intertwine, so it’s just as easy to take a quick 20-minute trip through the garden, or spend an hour there weaving through all the different paths. Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve also has the charm of regular workers and guests that visit; we have a few “friends” that we say hi to on our visit.
Triple Creek is also a smaller park with a shady 0.8-trail in the woods, where we can stop and reflect at the pond afterward (my dogs especially love watching the ducks and geese) or enjoy a softball game in the summer.
Work First, Play Later
Another popular park on our list is Miami Whitewater Forest. We love this park for the variety of trails it offers as well. A standard walk for us is the 1.4-mile Shaker Trace Inner Loop Trail, with maybe a bonus dip in the creek half way through to cool off. If we’re feeling more adventurous, we tackle the 7.8-mile Shaker Trace Outer Loop instead. The Outer Loop doesn’t provide as much shade, so we try to reserve that challenge for the spring or fall seasons, so that my dogs don’t get over heated and we can still utilize the water fountains provided. A bonus of being out to Miami Whitewater Forest, is that we can follow up our walk at Simmonds Family Dog Park for a little extra play time and socialization.
For those who live on the east side of town, Otto-Armleder Memorial Park has a similar feel. You can pick the 1.9-mile shared-use trail, or challenge your walk by taking the 1.2-mile Connector Trail to the 5-mile Lunken Airport trail. Otto-Armleder also has a dog park so you can let your buddy run off that extra steam.
Seeing Where the Day Takes Us
Nothing beats having a beautiful day off with an open agenda. Sometimes we like to pull up to a park and see where the trails take us. The most popular park for us personally is Winton Woods. We start with the plan of tackling the 2-mile Harbor Loop, passing over scenic bridges and keeping an eye out for eagle sightings. If we choose to take it a bit further, we can branch off to the 0.9-mile West Branch Trail, which can lead us to the woodsy and elevated Kingfisher Trail.
Out east, we venture to Sharon Woods, which can offer us a similar game plan if we start at the 0.7-mile shady Gorge Trail. We hike our way up the gravel path and stop to marvel at the creek from above. My dogs and I can choose to go out and back, or extend it up through the 2.6-mile Shared-Use Trail around the lake and through the woods.
Lastly, we will visit the beautiful Glenwood Gardens to admire the overlook of the grounds, before we head down the 1-mile Garden Loop Trail. The paved loop will walk us past meadows and a creek, but part way through path we like to journey off to the Wetland Loop, which offers us an additional 1.6 miles of graveled trails that takes us through prairies, wetlands and some shady woods.
While my dogs and I like to voyage around the different parks, we always respect their rules. I keep my dogs on a 4- or 6-foot leash, and always pick up after them to help keep our parks clean. While some locations do offer fountains for dogs to access, it’s always a good idea to bring your own supply of water for them. If you’re headed to one of Great Parks’ dog parks, make sure your dog is comfortable being social with other dogs and people, and is up to date on vaccines and not in heat.
Some days when I come to work I feel like I’m cheating on my dogs, because they love coming to the parks just as much as I do, but their energy keeps me motivated to get out and keep exploring what the Great Parks has to offer. Happy tails, and we will see you on the trails!
Central Region Nature Interpreter