The benefit of embarking on Ohio. Find It Here.’s Scenic Route Road Trip is that the destinations aren’t the only places you’ll enjoy memorable views; the traveling itself provides beautiful scenery. But the star of the show on this trip was the natural beauty of two nature preserves.
Clifton Gorge spans more than 200 acres – and both newbie hikers and those far more experienced will enjoy it. Remember those “write your own adventure” books in elementary school? That’s the feeling you’ll get when you enter. Hikers can choose to navigate one of four trails, each one mile or less.
The centerpiece of Clifton Gorge is the river in the chasm, the result of meltwater. A visit in the spring means flowers blooming and lush greenery, while a fall trip means gorgeous seasonal color, plus an added bonus: just enough leaves have fallen to make photographing the river and the waterfalls much easier. It’s tough to describe the beauty to friends back home – you’ll need the photos as visual proof.
Navigating a set of stairs takes you closest to the river, though footing can be tough, there are plenty of railings to help. The payoff is a delight for the senses: the sound of the rushing water, the crunch of leaves underfoot, cool, clean air and a view overhead from the bottom of the gorge to the top.
Glen Helen Nature Preserve, or “The Glen,” as the kids call it, is adjacent to Antioch College, and covers more than 1000 acres. That space is evident, with a wide-open feel on the trails, full of “can’t miss” locations.
Antioch’s partnership with The Glen means a great deal of education for visitors. There are guided tours, activities, a museum, a gift shop and a restroom. Don’t overlook such a comfort, with more than 20 miles of trails ahead.
Steep stone stairs at the trailhead lead you to a small bridge across a creek, and the beginning of the trails. There are two main trails in Glen Helen, but many smaller, less marked ones that wind between the larger two. A map is helpful, so download it or buy one for 50 cents at the Nature Shop, since cell signals and Wi-Fi can be spotty in parts.
Within minutes on the shorter Inman Trail, hikers can climb the steep hill to Pompey’s Pillar, a rock formation resulting from thousands of years of glacial activity. It’s also the name of a Yellow Springs Brewery sour that sounds like a perfect reward after navigating your way back down the ridge.
The Grotto is just a few steps away. It’s a lovely little waterfall over a small cave, perfect for pictures, and for keeping the littlest hikers entertained along the way. The Old Dam and the Yellow Spring itself, for which the town is named, are also en route.
All this hiking likely worked up an appetite, and downtown Yellow Springs provides a great spot to stop off for a pizza lunch. You can also make the five minute drive north to Young’s Jersey Dairy in Xenia for an old-fashioned diner meal, homemade ice cream, miniature golf and some face time with goats.
About an hour away is Hueston Woods State Park, near Miami University. Name the outdoor activity and you can do it here. And once you’re done hiking, boating, fishing, golfing and camping, you can turn to another popular activity: relaxing. The Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center is the perfect place to do it, too.
The oversized A-frame building has a retro lodge feel, with overstuffed leather furniture, old-school arcade games and a gorgeous two-story stone fireplace. Guests can relax and watch a football game on the large TV, play cards, or enjoy a hot beverage in rocking chairs overlooking the water. There is a nice restaurant and bar downstairs, but tearing yourself away from the fire and the view could prove to be difficult on cool fall nights.
The Scenic Route Road Trip has 14 more stops, and if Glen Helen Nature Preserve and Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve are any indication, you’ll want to add the rest to your Ohio fall bucket list. Each could be a day trip on its own, or opt to make an overnight trip with a stay at one of the Ohio State Parks. With a variety of activities to entertain even the most finicky of families, the Scenic Route Road Trip makes making memories easy.