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The Best Hiking near Cincinnati (20+ Trails)

January 30, 2024

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If you’re wondering about the best hikes near Cincinnati, you’re in the right place! From scenic vistas to lakes to forests, there are plenty of local Cincinnati parks where you can get your blood pumping. And if you’re willing to drive a bit further for a day trip from Cincinnati, you can enjoy some truly epic waterfalls, rock formations and gorges.

This list covers several of the best hiking trails in Cincinnati listed from the closest to the furthest away. Everything is within 2.5 hours of downtown Cincinnati.

Please make sure to leave no trace while you’re hiking and exploring the outdoors! The principles of leave no trace are:

  1. Pack out all of your trash (including food scraps)
  2. Do not feed or approach wildlife
  3. Travel on durable surfaces (for example - walk through the mud instead of around so not to widen the trail)
  4. Respect those around you (keep your volume down)
  5. Respect the local rules for building fires
  6. Leave what you find (please do not collect rocks or anything else)
  7. Do your research ahead of time and come prepared

Tips for Hiking near Cincinnati

  • Each destination I’m sharing has one or more links to a trail map on All Trails. This can be a great app to use for navigation (however, you cannot always rely on it to be accurate). If you do a lot of hiking, I highly recommend paying for All Trails Plus to access offline maps and the “Lifeline” feature, which allows you to send your location to a trusted friend or family member.

  • Many of the parks on this list are Hamilton County Great Parks. If you’re a resident of Hamilton County, it only costs $10 to purchase an annual pass, so it’s a great deal. It costs $16 if you don’t live in the county. If you don’t already have a pass, bring cash (exact change preferred), because most of the parks do not take credit cards at the entrance gates.

  • Make sure you bring sturdy hiking shoes, plenty of water and other hiking essentials such as a first aid kit, a multi-tool, snacks and extra layers. For a full list of what to bring on a day hike, check out my guide. While this might not be necessary for all of the hikes listed, it’s always better to be prepared.

The Best Hiking Trails near Cincinnati

Each park is listed in order from the closest to downtown Cincinnati to the furthest. The first half of the list is great if you’re looking to get some exercise locally, while the second half of the list has some destinations that would make incredible day trips or weekend getaways.

Devou Park

  • 10 minutes from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A view of the Cincinnati skyline seen from Devou Park
The Devou Park Overlook

Devou Park is a beautiful park in Northern Kentucky that covers 700 acres. I have been coming here for years to enjoy the fantastic view of the Cincinnati skyline - it’s easily one of the best views of Cincinnati! In addition to the incredible view, the park offers several miles of trails for both hikers and mountain bikers.

Many people go for the view, but skip the trails. However, the park offers trails for both hikers and cyclists!

The Incinerator and Train Surfer Loop is an interesting hike on the west side of the park. It’s a multi-use trail for mountain bikers and hikers. You’ll pass by a smokestack and a massive train bridge, and spend time walking through the forest. You may even get to see a train departing the Cincinnati rail terminal. The trail can be a bit loud due to train traffic, but it’s one of the best places to get a workout and enjoy nature in Greater Cincinnati.

Bender Mountain Nature Preserve

  • 17 minutes from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A view of the Ohio River through some trees from the top of Bender Mountain
Views from Bender Mountain

This short trail offers fantastic views and a nice workout. You’ll start by crossing a rocky creek, which is lovely to explore on its own. You will then enter into the forest and can hike a loop that will lead to views of the Ohio River. There is an option to take a shorter loop or longer loop depending on how much time you have.

The terrain involves some tree roots to climb over and some stone steps, creating a nice challenge. The trail also gets a bit steep at times.

At the peak of the hill, you’ll be able to take in views of the Ohio River in a couple different areas. It’s a beautiful trail that is well worth the effort!

Mount Airy Forest

  • 17 minutes from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash
Green vines covering a structure and some potted plants at Mount Airy Forest
Mount Airy Arboretum
A wooden path leading to a small treehouse in  Mount Airy Forest
Mount Airy Treehouse

Mount Airy Forest is a massive park that has a large forest area and miles of trails. It’s the largest City of Cincinnati park and also has mountain-biking trails, an arboretum, picnic areas and a disc golf course.

Along with a hike through the forest, I recommend checking out the treehouse. It’s the only wheelchair accessible public treehouse in Ohio! It’s a cool structure that is quick to visit. The arboretum is also worth visiting and includes a wide collection of flowers, trees and scrubs.

A 4.1-mile loop of the Beechwood, Furnas, Ponderosa and Red Oak trails is a great way to see a large portion of the park. The hike will lead you through the forest and you’ll have a great chance to see wildlife, mushrooms and lots of plantlife. You can also exit the trail onto the road at several points if you decide not to hike the whole thing. The trail is especially magical in the fall.

California Woods Nature Preserve

  • 17 minutes from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • No dogs allowed
A muddy trail surrounded by bare trees and fallen leavesA creek next to a hill covered in fallen leaves
California Woods Nature Preserve in the Winter

The California Woods Nature Preserve is a gem tucked away between residential areas. The 113-acre park has a few miles of trails and protects many plants, birds and fish species.

This 2.5-mile loop will give you a great taste of the park. You’ll climb up and down hills, cross over a stream and get to enjoy the peaceful forest. Even in the winter months, I was impressed by the bright green moss covering many fallen branches. On the other hand, be warned that there may be many small planes flying overhead as they come and to and from Lunken Airport. It can be a bit loud.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful local park that is beautiful for a walk in the woods.

Woodland Mound

  • 17 minutes from Cincinnati
  • $10 per in state car / $16 per out of state car
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A view of the Ohio River from Woodland Mound
Woodland Mound Overlook

Woodland Mound is a Hamilton County park known for its views overlooking the Ohio River, its family-friendly water play area, picnic grounds, disc golf and more. Personally, I went to the Parky’s Wetland Adventure playground many times as a kid growing up nearby. However, the hiking trails are a wonderful way to escape the crowds and enjoy the area.

The park offers a mix of paved shared-use trails for bikes along with hikers and nature trails. You can hike a loop around the park and enjoy a bit of variety. The Hedgeapple Trail is probably my favorite portion - it’s a shaded walk with small ponds, and lots of plant life. It also has a bit of elevation change. Keep in mind that there are new trails that are not shown on All Trails, so check the park map when you visit.

Whether you stick to the paved areas or the nature trail, don’t miss the overlook to catch a view of the Ohio River.

Ault Park

  • 18 minutes from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash
Looking down at the Otto Armleder Park from the Heekin Overlook in Ault Park
Heekin Overlook

Ault Park is a classic Cincinnati park located on a high point, so you can enjoy some great views looking down at Lunken Airport. It’s always nice to walk around their beautiful gardens in the spring and climb up on top of the Pavilion (built in 1930) as long as there isn’t a wedding or private event going on.

However, many visitors miss the hiking trails that criss-cross through the forest. The Ault Park Forest Loop is a nice way to explore beyond the paved areas. There are small hills, providing a change of elevation. The shaded path is great for kids or anyone looking for a more beginner-friendly hike in Cincinnati.

Make sure you don’t miss the Heekin Overlook, my favorite part of the park!

Sharon Woods

  • 25 minutes from Cincinnati
  • $10 per in state car / $16 per out of state car
  • Dog allowed on leash

Sharon Woods is a 730-acre park that features a lake, a gorge and even has a living history museum. It’s the oldest Hamilton County park.

A 4.3-mile loop around the park will lead you past Sharon Lake, a waterfall and plenty of creekside views along the way. A portion of the hike is paved, making this a great hike for all abilities.

Cincinnati Nature Center

  • 30 minutes from Cincinnati
  • $10 for adults
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A lake next to a snowy shore at the Cincinnati Nature CenterA snow covered trail surrounded by trees at the Cincinnati Nature Center
Winter at the Cincinnati Nature Center

The Cincinnati Nature Center protects a range of ecosystems, including forests, prairies, ponds, wetlands and more. Between their two locations, the nature center covers 1,800 acres. The trails are well maintained, peaceful and a nice way to spend time out in nature.

I don’t think you can go wrong with the various trails in the park, but I recommend this 4-mile loop to get a nice bit of variety and change in elevation. You’ll pass by streams and small waterfalls, and have a great chance to observe the various trees and birds that live in the area.

Miami Whitewater Forest

  • 30 minutes from Cincinnati
  • $10 per in state car / $16 per out of state car
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A path surrounded by fallen leaves. Sun peaks through the trees in the distance
The Timberlakes Trail at Miami Whitewater Forest

Miami Whitewater Forest is the largest park in Hamilton County with over 4,600 acres. It offers a variety of hiking trails, along with other activities. The park has disc golf, horseback riding trails and a dog park complete with a dog agility course.

For some variety, I recommend the Badlands, Oakleaf and Timberlake's Loop trails. This is essentially 3 loop trails that start from the same parking lot. You’ll get to explore peaceful lakes, hike through forested areas and have a bit of elevation changes throughout. This is a great area for hiking year-round.

Shawnee Lookout

  • 30 minutes from Cincinnati
  • $10 per in state car / $16 per out of state car
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A view of the Ohio River from Shawnee Lookout
Miami Fort Trail
Mushrooms covering a log at Shawnee Lookout
Little Turtle Trail

Shawnee Lookout is a Hamilton County Park on the West Side of Cincinnati that has some wonderful hiking trails. The park is perched up on a hill and is made up of over 2,000 acres. Plus, there are some interesting historic sights in the park, including Native American archaeological earthworks, and a log cabin and schoolhouse.

For the best views of the Ohio River and the river valley, I recommend the Miami Fort Trail and the Little Turtle Trail. The Miami Fort Trail will lead you through the Miami Fort earthwork, which was built by the Adena and Hopewell people around 3,000 years ago. Berms were built for water retention and agricultural irrigation, and there are also burial mounds nearby.

The end of the Miami Fort trail offers a beautiful view of where the Great Miami River and the Ohio River meet. You’ll also be able to see Indiana and Kentucky.

The Little Turtle Trail is a bit shorter and will also bring you to a couple wonderful overlooks of the Ohio River. You can once again see some burial mounds along the trail, including one dating between 1000 BC and 1000 AD.

Fun Fact: Out of the 10,000+ earthworks in Ohio, about 40 of them are in Shawnee Lookout.

Both trails are well maintained, relatively wide and have some small hills.

After hiking at Shawnee Run, it’s worth a stop at the Carriage House Farm Market. They sell farm goods including eggs, honey, cheese, maple syrup and more. They have been a single-family owned business since 1855.

East Fork State Park

  • 35 minutes from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash

East Fork State Park is one of the largest state parks in Ohio and a welcome escape for camping, kayaking, fishing, biking, hiking and more. In addition to the hiking opportunities, it’s one of the best places for camping near Cincinnati. But it also makes an easy day trip, as it’s only 25 miles from the city.

The park has many trails for both mountain biking and hiking (and even horseback riding). A peaceful and relatively easy loop that has some great views is the Beach Trail on the South Side of the lake. You’ll spend time hiking near the water and through the forest.

Depending on how much you want to hike, you can add on additional trails and connect several. You can even hike around the perimeter of the lake as a backpacking trip. The loop is about 30 miles with campsites along the way. There are 5 designated backcountry campsites and they are free but require a permit.

East Fork Lake is a lovely place to enjoy nature and escape the city without going very far.

Caesar’s Creek State Park

  • 45 minutes from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A bridge going over the water at Caesar's Creek State ParkA wall of rock and a roaring river at Caesar's Creek State Park
Flat Fork Ridge Trail in Caesar Creek

Caesar Creek is a large Ohio State Park located close to the small town of Waynesville. There are several hiking trails located in various areas surrounding the lake, including a 15-mile perimeter trail if you’re up for a challenge. In addition to hiking, you can visit the beach area, look for Geocaches, visit the Nature Center and explore the Pioneer Village.

I really enjoy the Flat Fork Ridge trail, which follows along Caesar Creek. The trail will lead you past Horseshoe Falls, which is a beautiful waterfall along the creek. Near the waterfall, you’ll also be able to admire layers in the rock that create a small gorge.

The trail also features a swinging bridge to cross the water and lots of forested area. The end of the trail leads you out to a Peninsula on the water where you’ll be able to admire views in many directions. The trail offers a great mix of scenery and is not too challenging - it’s one of my favorites!

Another nice, shorter trail is the Gorge Trail, which is a short loop trail right next to the dam. You’ll cross over the water and spend some time hiking through the forest. You’ll also get a nice workout climbing up the hill. The start of the trail is also a popular area for fishing.

After a few hikes in the park, stop in Waynesville and see if you can find any interesting antiques.

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

  • 1 hr, 18 min from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs not allowed
A waterfall flowing down a rock wall at Clifton GorgeLooking down into a narrow gorge at Clifton Gorge
Clifton Gorge

Clifton Gorge is a nature preserve located very close to Yellow Springs, Ohio. It’s also not far from Springfield, Ohio. The preserve features a picturesque and large limestone gorge.

On the 3-mile gorge trail, you’ll hike past caves, an impressive waterfall and giant boulders. The gorge was carved away by glacial meltwater 1,000’s of years ago.

It’s worth visiting both this park and Glen Helen Nature Preserve on a day trip to Yellow Springs! You should also stop by the Historic Clifton Mill, a water powered grist mill that was built in 1802 and is still in operation today. It is very close to Clifton Gorge.

Glen Helen Nature Preserve

  • 1 hr, 20 min from Cincinnati
  • $5 parking fee
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A small waterfall coming down over a small caveA spring flowing out of an area turned orange from iron
Glen Helen Nature Preserve

Glen Helen Nature Preserve is a beautiful place to hike in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The park is most famous for a small grotto with a waterfall and the “yellow spring,” which looks like water seeping out of a rockface. The rock is an orangish-yellow color from dissolved iron.

By hiking a loop around the park, you’ll see a few waterfalls. You’ll also hike on a boardwalk through a wetland area (look for a beaver dam!) and go up and down various hills.

After a hike, it’s also worth visiting the Glen Helen Raptor Center, a non-profit that focuses on the rehabilitation of injured raptors with the goal of releasing them back into the wild.

This park is stunning and combined with food and drink in downtown Yellow Springs, it makes for a fantastic day trip from Cincinnati.

Clifty Falls State Park

  • 1.5 hours from Cincinnati
  • $7 in-state day fee, $9 out-of-state day fee
  • Dogs allowed on leash
Looking down at a tall waterfall at Clifty Falls State ParkHiking under a rocky overhang at Clifty Falls State Park
Clifty Falls State Park

This Indiana state park is well worth visiting as a day trip from Cincinnati! The park is home to several waterfalls, the most famous being Clifty Falls, which is 60 feet tall.

If you have time, I recommend a 6-mile loop around the park. You’ll get to see several waterfalls and cross over the Big Clifty Creek. The trail offers a nice bit of challenge with lots of changes of elevation. After a day of hiking, grab food in the cute town of Madison which is right outside of the park.

Red River Gorge Geological Area

  • 2 hours from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash
Lydia sitting in front of Double Arch at Red River Gorge
Double Arch
Looking out at a valley and large rocks in the distance on the Chimney Top Trail
Chimney Top Trail

As long as you’re up for a longer drive, Red River Gorge is easily my favorite place to hike near Cincinnati. This region has some epic trails and is home to 150 natural arches. You’ll find hikes with gorge views, arches and natural bridges of various shapes and countless rocky bluffs.

The area also offers ziplining, rock climbing, camping, kayaking in an underground cave and more. While it can certainly make for a great day trip, I recommend it as a weekend getaway from Cincinnati.

A couple of my favorite trails are the Chimney Top Trail and the Double Arch and Auxier Ridge Loop. Chimney Top is a short and easy hike that is less than a mile. It offers a stunning view of the gorge in many directions and is a perfect hike for sunset.

The Double Arch and Auxier Ridge Loop is a 6-mile hike full of variety. You’ll get to walk on a ridge and enjoy the surrounding views, see unique rock formations, including Courthouse Rock, and climb right up to an arch. It offers a nice bit of challenge and you’ll always have something new to enjoy along the loop.

Other trails to check out include Skybridge, Gray’s Arch and Rockbridge. And when you get hungry, stop into Red River Rockhouse or Miguel’s Pizza.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

  • 2 hrs from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • No dogs allowed
A large, rounded seen from the trail at Natural Bridge State Resort ParkLooking up at a large natural rock bridge

The Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Kentucky is essentially an extension of Red River Gorge. This park includes a famous Natural Bridge and some fantastic hiking trails.

I love the Natural Bridge and Laurel Bridge Loop. You’ll be able to take some stone steps up and freely hike over the Natural Bridge. From there, there are various views along the ridge, including an unobstructed view of Battleship Rock.

In between the rock formations, you’ll hike through a forest full of life (we saw so many mushrooms!). This is a great park to include on your itinerary if you’re headed to Red River Gorge.

Brown County State Park

  • 2 hours from Cincinnati
  • Entry fee of $9 for out-of-state, $7 for in-state
  • Dogs allowed on leash
A lake at Brown County State Park
Ogle Lake

If you’re looking for a place for great fall foliage and scenic drives in Indiana, Brown County State Park is a beautiful place to visit. The park has several miles of trails and has even been nicknamed the “Little Smokies” due to its resemblance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

There are many trails to choose from when you visit. I recommend Trail 7 to see Ogle Lake and Trail 5 to see the rare and endangered Yellowwood tree. And don’t miss climbing to the top of the Fire Tower for extensive views of the area.

Fun Fact: Brown County is the largest state park in Indiana.

Stay for sunset and take in the beautiful vistas and the rolling hills. Nearby, it’s also worth visiting Little Nashville, a small town full of cute shops and restaurants. A trip to the area makes for a great weekend getaway from Cincinnati, or an action-packed day trip.

Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve

  • 2 hrs, 15 min from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • No dogs allowed
The inside of the grotto at Conkles Hollow State Nature PreserveHiking into a large grotto at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve
Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve

Conkle Hollow State Nature Preserve is right next to Hocking Hills State Park and offers some wonderful views of the surrounding valley. You can hike around the rim of the gorge and hike the Gorge trail to explore the grotto.

The gorge trail is an easy, partially paved trail that is 1.2 miles. The rim trail is a bit more challenging at 2.6 miles. It also has some steep drop off areas. But as long as you’re not afraid of heights, it’s very worth doing.

It’s a beautiful area and a great addition to a visit to Hocking Hills.

Rockbridge State Nature Preserve

  • 2 hrs, 15 min from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs not allowed
Looking up at the natural bridge at Rockbridge State Nature Preserve. There is a waterfall on the left

Rockbridge State Nature Preserve is another park very close to Hocking Hills that makes a great addition to a day trip from Cincinnati. As the name suggests, you can hike out to a natural bridge!

Fun Fact: Rockbridge is the largest natural bridge in Ohio!

The hike is 2.7 miles and involves hiking on the edge of a field, and hiking in the forest. It’s a mix of terrain and has a bit of elevation change. Seeing the bridge (and the waterfall underneath) is very unique and beautiful - especially for Ohio! It’s a beautiful hike.

Hocking Hills

  • 2 hrs, 20 min from Cincinnati
  • Free to visit
  • Dogs allowed on leash
Looking out from inside of the cave on the Rock House trailLooking down at a huge, rock overhang with a waterfall falling from the edge

In my opinion, Hocking Hills is the most beautiful place in Ohio! This gorgeous state park is home to famous waterfalls, interesting rock formations and miles of hiking trails. At a little over 2 hours from Cincinnati, it’s doable as a day trip. But you’ll probably want to spend at least one night in order to explore everything the area has to offer!

The most popular area of the park to visit is Old Man’s Cave. Here you’ll hike down into a gorge and get to explore rock shelters and waterfalls as you walk beneath cave-like walls. It’s definitely a place that should be on your Ohio bucket list.

In addition to Old Man’s Cave, it’s worth visiting Ash Cave, Rock House and Cedar Falls. Many of the trails connect, or you can drive between them. This makes it easy to plan a route that is as easy or as difficult as you’d like.

While this is one of the farthest places from Cincinnati on this list, it’s a park that is absolutely worth visiting.

Final Thoughts

I hope this list of hiking trails near Cincinnati helps you discover new trails, spend more time outside and enjoy the beauty of Southeast Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. As someone who grew up in Cincinnati, I was surprised to find so many beautiful gems in my backyard. Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll through the woods or an overlook to admire the Ohio River, these trails each have something different to offer.

For More Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Travel Guides, check out these guides:

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