Explore Rugged Territory in Urban Cincinnati

Most outdoor recreation areas in urban and suburban Cincinnati are highly developed recreational parks, often crowded and lacking in the feeling of true outdoor remoteness. Constructed with bulldozers, concrete trucks, and cranes, they have their advantages in terms of ease of accessibility, but can sometimes leave one with the feeling that they never really left the city lifestyle at all.

There is one area just 10 minutes' drive from downtown that offers few of these "city life conveniences". For many people, that is just what they've been looking for after a hard day of work, or for a weekend day trip. Mt. Airy Forest is the ideal hide-away for urban dwellers who dream of rugged mountain trails and the solitude that only a truly wild area can offer.

Mount Airy Forest

You are very close to downtown Cincinnati, so expect the city to intrude a little. The Colerain Avenue area, where the main entrance to the park is located, is not exactly the most prosperous part of town, and I tend to avoid that section of the park and the main park entrance for that reason. Interstate 74 passes right through the park, and one trail even hikes somewhat along it (although out of site of the Interstate most of the time), but after hiking this trail in the fall you won't mind the sound of the trucks a bit. The beauty of this part of the park with it's rolling hills and lush forest will block out all else. I've traveled 2 hours to hike trails that were not as scenic as this one that's right in my back yard.

A quick look at how the park came to be will help to explain the nature of the hiking here. In Cincinnati's early days, farmers took ownership of the land that is now Mt. Airy Forest and cleared the trees from the rolling hills to gain valuable acreage to grow produce and allow cattle to graze. Without the root structure of the trees, the soil eroded quickly into the many streams and washes that crisscross the area. The result was land that was pretty much unfit for anything but the creation of a park and a reforestation effort. Over time, over 1,400 acres have been set aside as the current Mt. Airy Forest, characterized by it's lack of flat ground and its myriad of streams and washes, all 10 minutes from downtown Cincinnati.

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