Pedal/Paddle Trips: A Unique Way to Explore Cincinnati’s Waterways

Pedal/Paddle trips are a great way to explore the parks, trails and rivers of Hamilton County.

Cincinnati is a city shaped by water. Carved out by glaciers millennia ago, its iconic hills overlook a vast network of streams, creeks, and rivers. Our region is bordered by the Great Miami River to the west, Little Miami River to the east, and Ohio River to the south, with the Mill Creek acting as a natural east/west divide down the middle. These waterways and their surrounding corridors allow for unique opportunities to get up close to nature in and along the water. 

Running 170 miles through southwestern Ohio before reaching the Ohio River, the Great Miami River flows past four Great Parks – Oak Glen Nature Preserve, Miami Whitewater Forest, Mitchell Memorial Forest, and Shawnee Lookout, which features the river’s southernmost launch site. The Great Miami Riverway is one of only 22 National Water Trails in the country and boasts 99 miles of shared-use trail along its northern stretch.

Great Parks of Hamilton County is currently studying how to extend the Great Miami River Trail another 25 miles into Hamilton County all the way to the Ohio River. The project, called the West Region Blueway & Trail System, will also improve or add four to five river access sites to the Great Miami and Whitewater rivers.

By studying both water and land-based trails simultaneously, Great Parks can plan for improvements and amenities comprehensively across the system. Trailheads and launch sites can coexist in communities throughout the river corridor, sharing parking lots, restrooms, and picnic areas that support unique recreational opportunities such as pedal/paddle trips.

This novel approach to exercise and nature observation consists of driving to a launch site, paddling downriver and then biking on the trail back your car.

How Pedal/Paddle Trips Work

River access point at Bass Island
Little Miami Conservancy at Bass Island

Pedal/paddle trips aren’t totally new in our region. The local nonprofit Mill Creek Alliance promoted these looped trips on the Mill Creek during the pandemic as a way to enjoy the outdoors together while maintaining social distance. Their approach consists of:

  1. Drive to your river take-out spot and use a bike lock to secure your bike and helmet
  2. Drive up to your river put-in location and launch your boat
  3. Paddle downstream, taking time to enjoy nature and local wildlife
  4. Pull your boat out at the take-out location, unlock your bike, and use the same lock to secure your boat
  5. Hop on your bike and cycle back to the put-in site where you left your car
  6. Put your bike on a bike rack on the car and drive down to your take-out location to pick up your boat

For this type of trip, you’ll need a bike and helmet, boat (canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard/SUP), life jacket and paddles, bike lock, and racks for your bike and boat. If you want to ditch driving entirely, one alternative is to carry an inflatable kayak or SUP behind your bike on a small trailer and inflate it at your put-in location. Keep equipment costs to a minimum by looking for used gear online or at local in-person gear swaps.

Great Parks is excited to help build trails, blueways, and connectivity across our region. The West Region Blueway & Trail System is still early in its development, but planning is estimated to wrap up later this year. In the meantime, you can practice planning pedal/paddle trips on other local waterways using interactive maps from our trail partners at Tri-State Trails and the Great Miami Riverway

To learn more about the West Region Blueway & Trail System project updates and find out about opportunities to provide your input, sign up on our project website: