While Ohio isn’t known for its tall mountains, deadly-hot deserts or expansive saltwater beaches, the natural gems it possess offer visitors a variety of the unexpected – and that’s what makes Ohio’s natural wonders all the more exciting.Photo by: @ethan.f_
For instance, just a few weeks ago I visited Oak Openings at Metroparks Toledo that features about 50 miles of hiking, biking, walking and bridle trails – the perfect site for outdoor adventures in Ohio. The park has thousands of acres of evergreen and deciduous forest including marshy pools interspersed with open meadows and prairies. Once in the park, it feels like you’re in wilderness country. In Oak Openings, I saw Ohio’s only “moving” sand dunes, miles from Lake Erie. The wind-blown dunes were left by glaciers thousands of years ago when Lake Erie’s water level dropped. Now they’re in the park hosting dozens of rare plants, birds, insects and other creatures, including Ohio’s only native cactus, the eastern prickly pear.
Glacial Grooves at Kelley’s Island
Just a hop and a skip northeast out across the lake, there’s Kelley’s Island, home to more outdoor adventures in Ohio. There, those darned glaciers really tore the place up – gouging some amazing “grooves” into the limestone, which is what the island’s made of. At Glacial Grooves Geological Preserve, you can get up close and personal with the Ice Age’s remarkable vandalism.
In Greene County, more evidence of glacial activity at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. There canyon-cutting glaciers left steep cliffs and a deep gorge strewn with massive boulders toppled from above by time and nature. The site offers visitors to southwest Ohio a decidedly different landscape than typical rolling hills. And the Little Miami River’s persistent waters helped finish off the glaciers’ work, carving some really sweet sites into the heart of Ohio.
Brandywine Falls: Ohio’s best waterfall, hands down. Maybe because it’s big, or maybe because it’s so easy to access. For Ohio outdoor activities, don’t miss it. The 65-foot waterfall, part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Parks system, is just a two-minute walk from the parking lot – and getting there is half the fun. A wooden walkway takes visitors along a cliff strewn both above and below with cool-looking trees, amazing colored mosses and a variety of mushrooms and other fungi.
The Ledges Overlook
And while at Cuyahoga, why not take advantage of The Ledges Overlook – perhaps the most breathtaking overlook in the state. The site offers an unobstructed view across the valley and is super-easy to access. The site offers a heart-racing vantage point that reminds folks that even way up here, we still get to experience a little bit of the Appalachian magic.
Champaign County’s Ohio Caverns is Ohio’s largest known cave system, ranging from 30 feet deep to more than 100 feet. It’s Ohio’s very own Mammoth Cave – concealed beneath rolling farm fields and woods. Open year-round, the cave offers an amazing glimpse into underground Ohio, including one crystal that’s estimated to be 250,000 years old.
Rock House, Hocking Hills
While one of Ohio State Parks’ great attractions is Hocking Hills State Park, one of its most unique sites is Rock House. In fact, it’s Ohio’s longest natural arch and longest natural tunnel. The passage is nearly 200 feet long, 40 feet high and 20 feet wide, created by a small tributary of Laurel Run over millions of years.