The Best Outdoor, Budget-Friendly Day Trip From Cincy

Need to get out of the house and find something that’s both COVID-safe and cheap? Look no further! This beautiful day trip is exactly what you need.

COVID has kept many of us cooped up for the past year. The weather is getting warmer and we could all use a day out of the house! No better way to do that than by getting outside. This also means that you won’t need to spend much money to have a nice day with your family, friends, partner, or just yourself!

Enter: Yellow Springs, Ohio. In just under an hour and a half northeast of Cincy, you can find yourself in the magical town of Yellow Springs. This town is known for its good beer, open-mindedness, and Dave Chapelle. One of the best parts about Yellow Springs, though, is its local state park and nature preserve! John Bryan State Park and the adjoining Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve are arguably some of the most beautiful areas in the state. They are centered around a gorge that the Little Miami River flows through. In the spring and summer the water is a beautiful blue-green, and spring is the perfect time to see blooming wildflowers. An entire day can be spent hiking around here and then stopping in to town for some ice cream to cool off!

Some important notes before you head out: pack a lunch and water! You’ll probably get hungry while hiking and this is a perfect place to have a picnic. Also, dogs are not allowed at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve (and all state nature preserves) but are allowed in John Bryan State Park. So plan accordingly if you’d like to bring your furry friend! Please respect the rules of these places and remember to pack everything you bring in, out!

The lush beauty of Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in spring.

If you’re up for a hike, this is the place to be. In 5.3 relatively easy miles, you can see all of the beauty these parks have to offer. I recommend making a loop, starting and ending at the edge of Clifton Gorge. Here you will start on the Narrows Trail where you get some. dare I say, GORGEous views of the gorge 😉 Then you can continue on until you reach a fork. Here you must make a decision: river or rim. If you choose rim, you will take the North Rim Trail. (If you choose river, these instructions will be in reverse for you). This will take you into John Bryan State Park, where you’ll continue along the trail. See if you can spot this waterfall!

A somewhat hidden waterfall near the trail at John Bryan State Park.

At the end of the North Rim Trail, you’ll be about halfway, and you’ll hike down to the river (but don’t cross it unless you’d like to take a different trail) and follow the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stagecoach Trail back towards Clifton Gorge. Somewhere along this trail would be a nice place to stop for a snack or lunch! Be sure to spend some time admiring that beautiful water!

Me, admiring that beautiful water.
Small waterfalls can be seen across the river from the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stagecoach Trail.

Once you get back to Clifton Gorge, take the John L. Rich trail back to the Narrows Trail to end up where you started! It probably sounds a bit confusing, and I’ve included a map where I highlighted the trails below, but even that doesn’t label the trails. The best app for the trails in this particular area is the new ODNR DETOUR trail app. More info and downloading links here. Just search “Clifton Gorge” or “John Bryan” and you’ll be able to find an interactive trail map.

Trail map from ODNR’s website for John Bryan State Park and Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. The trails you can take to make a loop of the two places are highlighted. I recommend parking in that last parking lot at the end of the nature preserve, or the visitor center if that fills up.

After a few hours of hiking, it’s always best to reward yourself with a cold treat. Luckily, you have a few options! Young’s Jersey Dairy is a popular place to go where you can get homemade ice cream. Be sure to check what the flavor of the week is! Another option in the heart of Yellow Springs is Corner Cone. This little shop has tons of soft serve flavors and some other eats if you are still hungry. Plenty of outdoor seating is available, or take your ice cream for a stroll around town. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Good ice cream is good ice cream, and it tastes even better after a hike.

Soft serve blueberry cone from Corner Cone in Yellow Springs.

After your adventures, feel free to stick around the area, head back home, or whatever you may please! Not much can beat a day spent out in the fresh spring air. I promise your mind will thank you. If you manage to get out there, have fun! I hope you find your own little surprises along the way ☺️

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