One of the most interesting aspects of the area is the arboretum. I love walking through the arboretum because you can experience so much outdoor beauty in such a short time, almost every step offers something new! It is very close to the Colerain Avenue entrance, but you won't notice, this place is a world away from the big city. Because of the wide variety of scenery packed into such a short walk, I recommend you begin your exploration of Mt. Airy Forest with a short trip through the arboretum. Proceed forward on Blue Spruce Road almost to Colerain Ave., and take a left at the sign for the arboretum. Park in the lot at the loop at the end of the road.
In the arboretum you can find tremendous varieties of plants and trees from around the world. Unfortunately, you won't find many Palms or other tropical plant life living in this climate (if that is what you are looking for, visit the warm greenhouses of the Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park instead), but the selection of evergreens and broad-leaved trees is awesome. The following short walk should take about an hour and will acquaint you with what the arboretum and Mt. Airy Forest has to offer. Deer are present everywhere here, so be prepared to stumble across them behind trees and bushes, occasionally at uncomfortably close distances.
Once you reach the wood chip trail, turned around and look behind you toward the direction you came out of the woods from, you should see some tall needle-leaved trees. This is one of the best views I know of within 2 hours of Cincinnati, it reminds me of the view from a campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trees are European Larches. Larches are among the only needle-bearing trees that shed their needles in the fall. During the fall, their sparse nature adds to the alpine-like appearance of this view.
Now get on the wood chip trail and walk to the gazebo. At the gazebo go off the trail to the south (toward the forest) and you will see a sign for the Wilson Wildflower Trail. It is difficult to follow in places, but there are marked wildflowers throughout this area. Proceed along the trail toward a large white-trunked tree, which has been vandalized by countless name-carvers. Now go off trail and descend almost to the valley floor before taking a left and crossing over a huge fallen tree. You walk parallel to the valley floor for a short distance and soon you will see a bridge that crosses over the stream at the floor of the valley. Trail "E" comes through here; we will now follow Trail "E" back to a clearing in the arboretum. Do not cross the bridge, but walk straight ahead, you will soon come to a second bridge which you will cross.
Go a little further and look to your right and you will see an old fire pit, lined with bricks on the inside and rocks on the outside, on the valley floor. I do not know the purpose of this creation, it seems out of place in the middle of a forest, but one can assume that the layout of this area may have been very different in years past, and this was probably a place to gather and have lunch or tell ghost stories as evening approached.
This concludes the overview hike of the Mt. Airy Forest area. For your next adventure I advise you to plan to take the following long day hike. The best day hike within a half-hour of Cincinnati, you will completely forget about the urban sprawl that surrounds you on this hike.