If there’s one thing we can agree on post-quarantine, it’s that there’s nothing quite like the great outdoors, especially here in the Miami Valley. With wonderful parks, unique outdoor attractions and plenty of natural beauty, our cup runneth over with ways to enjoy being outside. We’ve found 10 that we think every Daytonian should enjoy. Have you done them all? Tag photos of you and your family enjoying the outdoors on social media using the hashtag #GetOutsideDayton so we can enjoy being outside together.
Step Back in Time
Just south of downtown Dayton, SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park helps visitors learn about Native American culture while enjoying the outdoors. The park is a National Historic Landmark and is home to reconstructed Fort Ancient structures, including five lath and daub structures and a native garden. After exploring the village, families can take advantage of the shelter and tables for a picnic with a unique atmosphere.
Walk or Bike a Trail
The Miami Valley has more than 340 miles of paved, multi-use trails for you to explore. And no matter where you live in the Miami Valley, there’s probably a trail close by. The Little Miami Scenic Trail connects Anderson Township in Cincinnati to Springfield and runs through cities like Xenia and Yellow Springs. The Great Miami River Trail starts in Franklin and ends in Piqua and connects cities along the river like West Carrolton and Troy. There’s even Fairborn’s Wright Brothers-Huffman Prairie Bikeway, part of the statewide Buckeye Trail, that passes by the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.
Visit a Farm
At Aullwood Audubon Center & Farm, families can learn more about farms and the animals that live there. The farm is home to many heritage breeds, such as Tunis sheep, Silver Fox rabbits and many breeds of chicken. Visitors can even buy eggs and meat directly from the farm. In addition, you can walk the center’s sanctuary trails, giving you the opportunity to see birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat. At press time, the education center was still closed and the farm and sanctuary were only open to members, but Aullwood says it hopes to open to the public this summer.
Take the MetroParks Trails Challenge
Have you explored the many parks and conservation areas that make up the Five Rivers MetroParks system? This summer is a perfect time to do so thanks to the MetroParks Trails Challenge. The parks system has identified 25 trails in the region that both outdoor recreation newbies and experienced adventurers can use to hike, bike or paddle their way through the Miami Valley. Those who would like to participate in the challenge should download the challenge brochure so they can check off trails as they complete them. Featured trails include segments of the Mad River Trail and part of the Stillwater River. Those who turn in their brochure by Oct. 4 will be entered into a raffle, with each completed trail worth one contest entry.
For a more rustic summer, head to John Bryan State Park for some camping. The park has more than 50 non-electric sites that are great for families looking to rough it. During the day campers can explore the limestone gorge that was cut by the Little Miami River, go fishing or canoeing on the river, or try rock climbing.
Hit the Water
Caesar Creek State Park gives park visitors plenty of opportunities to enjoy its large 2,830-acre lake. The lake has a 1,300-foot beach and five boat launches. The park allows both power boats and waterskiing, but it also has calmer areas for those would like to fish. Caesar Creek Lake also attracts many waterfowl to the area, making it ideal for birdwatchers as well.
Learn About Dayton’s History
While Carillon Historical Park does have indoor museums and an education center, there’s also plenty to do outside while exploring the park’s grounds. The park’s Deeds Carillon, the largest musical instrument in Ohio, plays four mini-concerts throughout the day at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. The instrument’s 57 bells play songs like “Over the Rainbow” and “Maria” that can be heard through the park. Many historical structures and buildings, like the Brethen Tower and Morrison Iron Bridge, can be viewed and explored in the park. And the Early Settlement Area lets you see how early Daytonians would have lived.
Go on a Surprising Tour
A cemetery may not sound like a go-to outdoor attraction, but Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum offers visitors many ways to explore its grounds. Those who download the cemetery’s app have access to nine free self-guided tours of Woodland. The tours take you to the gravesites of famous Daytonians while describing Dayton’s history. However, the cemetery is also a great place to enjoy nature thanks to its arboretum. Visitors can bring their dogs for a walk through the cemetery’s more than 3,000 trees. The cemetery is also home to the highest natural point in the city, giving it spectacular views of Dayton’s skyline.
Paddle the River
The region’s many waterways—such as the Great Miami River, Stillwater River and Mad River—make it a great place for those who love to kayak or canoe. One of only 21 national water trail systems in the country, the Great Miami River Watershed Water Trail has more than 291 miles of rivers and streams, three whitewater kayak parks and 117 public access points. Don’t worry if you’ve never paddled before—many local companies rent equipment and offer lessons.
Connect with Nature
The Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, located adjacent to John Bryan State Park, gives hikers 268 acres of natural land to explore. The preserve is most known for its dolomite and limestone gorges, but visitors will also have the opportunity to see waterfalls and wildflowers. Make sure to stop at one of the observation platforms for some awe-inspiring views of the gorge and river.