Go Play Outside: Red River Gorge

Hiking and camping are two of my favorite outdoor activities and, in my opinion, fall is the best season for both.

If you live in Southern Ohio, both hiking and camping are available at multiple locations within just a few hours’ drive. This summer, our family took a quick three-day trip down to one of our favorite places in the region–the Red River Gorge. It’s technically a “geological area” with an impressive collection of canyons and natural arches located within the Daniel Boone National Forest. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive from Cincinnati, in Central Kentucky, which is the perfect distance to get outta town and go play outside.

On this trip, with our three kids in tow, we rented a cabin inside the Gorge (we used the rental company Red River Gorgeous), so we were only a short drive away from all of the trailheads. We also ended up with a cabin on a creek with bunk beds (!), which was the perfect place for the kids.

Campfire. Creek-dipping. Bunk beds. Perfect.

During our long day of hiking, we took a short hike up to Whistling Arch (which is where I almost had a mild heart attack watching my son climb in the arch with my husband). And then we hiked the 1.5 mile Rock Bridge loop. The kids got a little tired toward the end of the loop, but it was well worth the work and gave me a good idea of how resilient they would be on a longer-distance hike. (And gave me more experience carrying a 20lb baby on a descent/ascent.) We do a lot of rugged hiking locally, but new terrain is always good practice.

If you live in the area or feel like driving down to Kentucky for a new adventure, check out the Red River Gorge. Do it alone, or with kids, or with your favorite hiking buddy. Rent a cabin or bring a tent. (Backcountry camping will cost you a small overnight fee.) Bring a kayak for the river or your climbing gear for the canyons or your bicycle for the scenic roads. However you do it, find some time this fall to do it.

Go play outside!

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Where We Play: Eden Park

photo from historylines.net

photo from historylines.net

Eden Park– Walnut Hills

* This a guest post by Steve Carr, a husband, father, and pastor in Walnut Hills. Visit him online here.

Overview: Eden Park, located in Walnut Hills and bordering Mt Adams, is one of Cincinnati’s most popular parks. Yet those who visit often miss out on the wide range of opportunities hidden throughout the park. It occupies a strip of land between two hills overlooking the Ohio River Valley and boasts ample open spaces, trails, and numerous water features.

A system of paths connect the divisions of the park. Starting at the south end of the park (at Mt Adams Drive) is the Playhouse in the Park. Behind the theater is a “mini-park” area with a CRC pool. Descending the hill, you encounter the Art Museum and (down the hill) the Seasongood Pavilion. Behind the pavilion is a path to Mirror Lake, a popular walking destination. From here you could descend down the hill toward basketball courts and the remnants of the old reservoir wall (bigger kids love climbing up the incline of the wall since they’re practically steps). Usually, people opt to ascend the hill toward Krohn Conservatory. While the conservatory now charges an admission fee, it’s still an incredibly popular Cincinnati destination.

At the northern end of the park, up the hill from the conservatory, is the Twin Lakes—a place where children can feed the ducks and play on the playground. Yet this isn’t the end of the park, as you can ascend even farther up the hill toward the Eden Park Water Tower and scenic Author’s/President’s Grove. From there, you can cross the Arch Bridge to the Overlook, one of the park’s many scenic vistas.

General Cleanliness: Despite the high-traffic throughout the park, it is often very clean. The Twin Lakes area is a popular Sunday picnic location so it’s most chaotic then.

Parking: Parking is available throughout the park. If you decide to explore areas up the hill and don’t want to walk, you can move your car. If you decide to visit the Art Museum, you can save money by parking on Mt Adams Drive and taking the short walk to the museum.

Bathroom Facilities: Yes, in two locations: next to the parking at Mirror Lake and by the Twin Lakes at the top of the hill.

Picnic Areas: There are designated areas throughout the park. Still, the Twin Lakes tables are the most popular destination.

Playground: There are two playgrounds in the park. The most popular one is located at the Twin Lakes and was recently renovated. The lesser known playground is by the pool by Playhouse in the Park and is a great place to let smaller children explore a play set without getting trampled by older children.

Other Amenities: The Gazebo by Mirror Lake is very popular. There’s now a paved walking path leading from there up to the Magnolia Grove which is another hidden gem. You could visit this park over and over again and have a new experience on every trip.

 

Look for a separate review of Eden Park’s Hinkle Garden in a future post!

*This is the fifth in the “Where We Play” series. If you’d like to contribute a park review as a guest blogger, send me a note at ejmcewan@gmail.com.*

Where We Play: Burnet Woods

 

Burnet Woods– Clifton

Overview: My introduction to Burnet Woods was through leading field trips as an educator with a local nonprofit. During the field trips, we stopped for lunch and a program at the Burnet Woods’ Trailside Nature Center, which is positively one of the hidden gems of our city. The park itself is 90 acres and includes multiple amentities, including the nature center which is (as far as I can tell, and am sorry to report) rarely open to the public. It’s the perfect stop for a quick hike near to downtown and is easily accesible by foot or by car from the Uptown neighborhoods of Corryville, CUF, Avondale, and Clifton.  We’re there a few times a year and the last time we went–as evidenced by the photos–was prime season for wildflowers and mulberries!

General Cleanliness: A few littered spots in the high foot-traffic areas. The trails are not super well-maintained, but it only adds to the “wild” feel, which I actually prefer. Some areas could use updating. (There has been a lot of talk about proposed improvements to the park.)

Bathroom Facilities: Yes, though I’m not certain of the open hours. According to the park map, there are three separate facilities.

Picnic Area: Multiple picnic areas, including covered shelters and a gazebo.

Parking: Street parking is available along the edges of the park and on a few access roads. There is no central parking lot.

Playground: There are two playground areas that I know of: one, near the nature center, with an older set of swings and a fantastic concrete slide; one near the Clifton Ave. access point with a more modern play structure. (Our usual hiking route takes us from one to the other and back again.)

Other Amenities: Our favorite parts of the park are definitely the concrete slide and the hiking trails. The nature center, as I mentioned, is worth the trip if you can figure out when it’s actually open. There is also a Stonehenge-style sculpture that we’ve never seen in person, though it’s visible from the road. And the pond is a very popular place for visitors.

 

*This is the fourth in the “Where We Play” series. If you’d like to contribute a park review as a guest blogger, send me a note at ejmcewan@gmail.com.*

Where We Play: Queensgate Playground

Queensgate Playground – West End, on Court St

 

* This is a guest post by Emily Benhase.

Overview: This is our neighborhood playground, less than a block from our house, so we frequent it often when the weather is nice. The city recently finished putting in two new (and very nice) play structures, as well as a set of swings. Plus there is enough open green space that I feel comfortable letting my children run free without having to worry about traffic. There are almost always other neighborhood children there, so it’s a great place to interact with the community and meet new people. It’s also close to the Lincoln CRC Pool as well as the Museum Center and would make a great place to have a picnic before or after a visit to either of those places.

General Cleanliness: overall fairly neat, especially the newer section. There is sometimes a little trash on the ground.

Bathroom Facilities: no bathrooms on site, although there is one portable restroom.

Picnic Area: There is one picnic table near the older playground and one near the new playground, as well as a lot of grass (some under trees for shade) for picnics

Parking: street parking, free

Playground: There is a small, older play structure on one end of the park. The other end has a new, fairly large playground, with swings. There is also a smaller structure for younger children, as well as baby swings. In between the playgrounds is a baseball diamond and an open, grassy field, perfect for kicking around a soccer ball or tossing a football.

Other Amenities: Located near the new play structure is a charcoal grill, which I’ve often seen groups using on the weekends. And it seems to be a popular spot for cookouts and birthday parties this time of year. There is also a line of trees that look perfect for climbing!

 

Thanks, Emily!

*This is the third in the “Where We Play” series. If you’d like to contribute a park review as a guest blogger, send me a note at ejmcewan@gmail.com.*

Where We Play: Mount Echo Forest

Mt Echo Park– Price Hill

Overview: Mount Echo is one of Cincinnati’s lesser-known parks and is located just west of downtown, in Price Hill. Back when I worked in East Price Hill, I often stopped at this park for some solitude. But, to be honest, I don’t think I ever got very far out of my car. The view of downtown isn’t always the best from the westside–due to the industrial areas in Queensgate and Camp Washington. But, even if it’s not the BEST view of the city, this parks hosts a spectacular view of the Ohio river and Kentucky, as well. It seems like this park is easily accessible to a few subdivisions in East Price Hill and there were a few basketball and tennis courts and a baseball field that I can imagine are frequently used. We walked most of the park, but didn’t venture onto any of the wooded trails. Maybe next time!

General Cleanliness: Most of the park was clean and well maintained, but the main playground area was a total disaster. (I’m thinking–hoping–we just happened to be there the morning after a messy fast food picnic, before Parks staff could get to it.)

Parking: A few parking lots.

Bathroom Facilities: Yes, though we didn’t check to see if they were unlocked.

Picnic Area: A few picnic areas, including a really nice covered shelter, plus a few benches and lots of open grass.

Playground: One older plastic playground and a smaller area on the other end of the park with swings.

Other Amenities: The Pavilion is really neat, as is the shelter. There are ball fields and playgrounds, as well as hiking trails. The open greenspace and overlook views are the strength of the park.

 

*This is the second in the “Where We Play” series. If you’d like to contribute a park review as a guest blogger, send me a note at ejmcewan@gmail.com.*

 

Related Posts:

Go Play Outside!
Go Play Outside: Alone?
Go Play Outside: In The Cold
Urban Families: How To Get Them & How To Keep Them
Where We Play: Lytle Park

 

Where We Play: Lytle Park


Lytle Park Central Business District (CBD)

Overview: Lytle Park is located in a historic district of downtown, just over a mile walk from our home. It’s next to the Taft Museum and just a few blocks from the Purple People Bridge (which leads to Newport, KY) and Sawyer Point. The park is neat, well-maintained, and has a fantastic view of the skyline. It feels like a truly “urban oasis.” The playground itself is a bit small and outdated and doesn’t keep my kids occupied for very long, but there is a large open field to run in and a few trees to climb. The park is used (mostly, it seems) by downtown workers on their lunch break and older, CBD residents walking their dogs. In the half-dozen times we’ve been to Lytle Park, we’ve never seen another child. The hallmark of this park is the historic bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln and the large, landscaped field. Even though it’s a small park, this would be a great side-trip for families exploring downtown or visiting the Taft Museum.

General Cleanliness: Very neat and tidy.

Parking: Street parking, metered.

Bathroom Facilities: Yes, though we didn’t check to see if they were unlocked.

Picnic Area: No tables that I remember, but many benches and lots of open grass.

Playground: Small, with no swings.

Other Amenities: The seasonal flowers are great. There is a large amphitheater-type paved area that we’ve never seen used. We also spotted a bocce pit and there is a small firefighters’ memorial in addition to the awesome Lincoln statue. There is a water fountain, too.

 

*This is the first in the “Where We Play” series. If you’d like to contribute a park review as a guest blogger, send me a note at ejmcewan@gmail.com.*

Hey, Cincinnati Families!

I’m looking for a few Cincinnati families to contribute to a blog series this summer called “Where We Play.”

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You’d be responsible for reviewing a Cincinnati-area park or playground and allowing me to post your review on the blog. I’ll give you a list of questions to answer. You’d also take a few photos to post with the review.

It would be credited to you as a “guest blogger” and I’ll gladly link to your blog, if you’d like.

Preference will be given to bloggers and playspaces near the city center, especially lesser-known and off-the-beaten-path spots. (Including Northern Kentucky.)

Email me if you’re interested and let me know where YOU play!