14 Scenic Hikes Near Cincinnati, Ohio for All Levels - Urban Outdoors
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Cincinnati may not be known as an outdoor adventure capital, but with the Queen City’s rolling hills and scenic rivers, there’s a lot of nature to explore if you look for it. With tons of urban parks offering lovely forested areas and stunning city views, as well as access to some of the best trails in the crossroads between Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, locals are spoiled with a number of beautiful spots for hiking near Cincinnati. We created this guide to the best hikes near Cincinnati so you can plan your next outdoor adventure ASAP!

Photo Credit: Cathy (Flickr CC)

Easy Hiking Near Cincinnati

Sharon Woods Gorge Trail

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 0 miles (Located in the city)
  • Trail Length: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 131 feet

Among the most beautiful and beloved hikes in Cincinnati is the Sharon Woods Gorge Trail, which runs along Sharon Creek. This trail has a little bit of everything, from historic bridges and buildings to scenic waterfalls, as well as plenty of peaceful, forested creek views. Needless to say, the Sharon Woods Gorge Trail (and its namesake park) are a popular place for local photographers to capture some of the quintessential history and scenery of the Cincinnati area.

Another huge plus is that the park is located in the city, meaning you won’t have to go far to experience the beauty and serenity of the gorge area. With that said, there are lots of people (especially groups and families) that frequent this park on weekends, so it’s best to head over early to avoid the crowds.

Photo Credit: Angelskiss31 (Flickr CC)

Cincinnati Nature Center

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 0 miles (Located in the city)
  • Trail Length: 4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 357 feet

Another lovely urban park with trails galore is the Cincinnati Nature Center, a forested escape located in the city. The trails here are wide and well-maintained, and the park gets far less people than some of the other, more popular viewpoints and pathways in the city. This means you’ll get to feel the beauty of seclusion in nature a lot more here than in other green spaces around Cincy.

Featuring forested paths that lead to a lake, small waterfalls, and across quaint wooden bridges, there’s a surprising amount of diversity in this urban park. The 4-mile Cincinnati Nature Center Loop trail is one of the best easy hikes in Cincinnati, especially for families with children and beginners.

Photo Credit: Warren LeMay (Flickr CC)

Devou Park (Kentucky)

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 4 miles/10 minutes (Located just across the river from Cincinnati)
  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Elevation Gain: Varies

If it’s city views you’re seeking, look no further than Devou Park. Located across the Ohio River from Cincinnati in Covington, KY, the various trails around Devou Park offer some of the most exceptional skyline views of the city. You can drive directly to the lookout, but we’d recommend walking around some of the park’s paved and backcountry pathways while you’re there.

Because it’s on a hill, Devou Park is a great place to do some easy and moderate hiking that will feel a bit more like exercise than some of the other trails on this list, with varied inclines and descents that aren’t too strenuous. The Incinerator Trail is one of the more popular moderate-difficulty hikes in Cincinnati, which winds through the forest and around the hilly areas surrounding Devou Park’s lookout.

Glenwood Gardens

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 16 miles/20 minutes (Glenwood Gardens County Park)
  • Trail Length: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 160 feet

For an easy, leisurely nature walk through some beautifully groomed gardens, Glenwood Gardens is a wonderful spot for hiking near Cincinnati. It’s just a 20 minute drive from the city, and the gardens offer 2.6 miles of trails that will bring you to the various trees, flowers, and plants scattered throughout the grounds. Glenwood Gardens also features a small pond and plenty of forested spots, and the trails are quite easy, meaning it’s very kid-friendly and family-friendly! Go in the spring to see some of the beautiful blooms around the property, or in the fall to admire the foliage in the area.

Photo Credit: Cathy (Flickr CC)

Shawnee Lookout

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 22 miles/35 minutes (Shawnee Lookout County Park)
  • Trail Length: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 190 feet

The Shawnee Lookout Trail (also known as the Miami Fort Trail) is one of the best easy hikes near Cincinnati if you’re looking for a trail that feels like an adventure. Although the trail is easy and accessible to all experience levels, the small changes in terrain make it feel a lot more rugged and “backcountry” than some of the other trails on our list. From the top, you can see down to the Ohio River and a few steel bridges below. For immersing yourself in nature and some historical landmarks in the Cincinnati area, this short and sweet forest hike is a great way to stretch your legs and explore the outdoors.

Photo Credit: Cathy (Flickr CC)

Moderate & Difficult Hikes Near Cincinnati

Mt. Airy Explorer’s Trail

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 0 miles (Located in the city)
  • Trail Length: 13.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,873 feet

Many hikers enjoy the pleasure and adventure of a long, rugged trail, and the Mt. Airy Explorer’s Trail is exactly that. Locals enjoy tackling this trail because of its length and because it provides a feeling of being secluded in nature for several parts of its 13.9-mile length. Other parts, however, run close to roads – a blessing and a curse to some, but also a reminder that you’re still very much in the city of Cincinnati! Along the way, you’ll see the famous Mt. Airy treehouse and lots of lush, forested areas.

The trail doesn’t have many views, but it does offer moderately challenging inclines and terrain changes that will make it feel like a true adventure. There’s a reason why they call it the Explorer’s Trail!

French Park

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 0 miles (Located in the city)
  • Trail Length: 2.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 423 feet

One of the shorter, moderately challenging hikes in Cincinnati is at French Park. If you’re looking for a hike that feels secluded and provides great scenery, the French Park trail is a fantastic option. With creeks, waterfalls, and lots of opportunities to see local wildlife, it’s super easy to forget you’re in the middle of a large city while here! One of the most fun aspects of this trail is that there are lots of terrain changes and a bit of elevation gain over a short distance, meaning you’ll get some good exercise and a fun hiking challenge without tackling anything too strenuous.

Photo Credit: Joana Roja (Flickr CC)

Badlands Trail

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 22 miles/25 minutes (Miami Whitewater Forest)
  • Trail Length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 183 feet

As the shortest moderate trail on our list, the Badlands Trail at Miami Whitewater Forest is one of the most beloved quick hikes near Cincinnati. This is perfect for a weekend morning where you want to get some fresh air and a bit of exercise without spending too much time (since it’s less than half an hour from the city center). There’s not much here in the way of overlooks or views, but the forest here is quite scenic and peaceful and the trails are well-maintained and easy to follow. Locals especially love this trail in the fall, because the foliage here is spectacular when the leaves start to change.

East Fork Beach Trail

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 26 miles/35 minutes (East Fork State Park)
  • Trail Length: 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 321 feet

Okay, okay, the word “beach” here is a bit of a misnomer, but the East Fork Beach Trail is a lovely waterside trail that offers beautiful views of the Little Miami River. This 5-mile loop, which is also open to mountain bikers, offers gorgeous views of the riverfront and the forest areas. Pack a picnic and sit on the “beach” for a full day of outdoor adventuring, or simply wander through the five miler and enjoy the peaceful views of the river peeking through the trees.

Bender Mountain Loop Trail

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 0 miles (Located in the city)
  • Trail Length: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 469 feet

The Bender Mountain Loop trail is among the most adored local hikes in Cincinnati. With some elevation gain and great views of the Ohio River from the top, this trail strikes a great balance between challenge and reward. Locals cite this trail as a “hidden gem” for hiking in the city, with many who do it several times because they love it so much! It’s also one of the few trails that’s great for winter hiking, as the views are even more spectacular when the leaves on the trees have fallen and there are more gaps to look out from.

Photo Credit: Roger Gerbig (Flickr CC)

Clifty Falls (Indiana)

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 78 miles/1.5 hours
  • Trail Length: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,164 feet

Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana is just an hour and a half from Cincinnati and offers wonderful, long trails for those looking for a moderate challenge. For a solid, 7-mile loop, the Clifty Falls, Hoffman Falls, and Tunnel Falls trail is a great starting point. On this trail, you’ll climb wooden stairs through the forest, passing by several waterfalls and creeks along the way. You’ll also pass next to (and underneath) gorgeous stone cliffsides that jut out from the earth. The Clifty Falls area is a magnificent landscape to explore with tons of variety!

Pittsburg-Cincinnati Stage Coach and South Gorge Loop

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 73 miles/1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Trail Length: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 275 feet

One of the most beautiful hikes near Cincinnati for those looking for an escape from the city is the Pittsburg-Cincinnati Stage Coach and South Gorge Loop in Yellow Springs, OH. This beautiful loop trail takes you through the area of South Gorge and the Little Miami River – yup, that means rivers, bridges, and rock formations galore. If you’re looking for a thrilling, moderate place to go hiking near Cincinnati that isn’t too long, we’d strongly recommend taking a day trip to the Yellow Springs area for an adventure.

Photo Credit: The Cut (Flickr CC)

Gray’s Arch (Kentucky)

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 135 miles/2 hours (Daniel Boone National Forest)
  • Trail Length: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 580 feet

Perhaps one of the most stunning natural landmarks within driving distance of Cincinnati is Gray’s Arch in Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky. A 2-hour drive from the city, the Gray’s Arch Trail loop is one of the most jaw-dropping hikes near Cincinnati, taking intrepid hikers to a natural bridge formation called Gray’s Arch. Along the way, you’ll find wooden stairs, dirt paths, and lots of terrain changes as you make your way to the arch – a fun challenge that’s accessible to most hikers who are willing to put in the effort!

Photo Credit: See1,Do1,Teach1 (Flickr CC)

Old Man’s Cave & Ash Cave

  • Distance from Cincinnati: 137 miles/2 hours, 20 minutes (Hocking Hills State Park)
  • Trail Length: 9.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 843 feet

Nearly everyone in Ohio has heard of Hocking Hills State Park, and the Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave trail are the perfect combination of challenge, scenery, and tranquility that make the park as popular as it is. The rock formations around the park are absolutely incredible and picturesque and look like something out of Jurassic Park.

While you can technically do Old Man’s Cave on its own as a very short trail, we’d recommend combining it with the hike to Ash Cave to get a bit more exercise and enjoy parts of the park that are less crowded than the famed landmark. By hiking this longer stretch of the Buckeye Trail, you’ll get to experience more of this famous trail and state park.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Cincinnati

What to Pack

  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women. And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks in the world! For more information, check out our guides to hiking shorts for men and women and our top tips and gear for hiking in winter.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

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Kay Rodriguez is the founder of Urban Outdoors. She's also the writer and photographer behind Jetfarer. When she's not writing furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, surfing, or playing in the snow.

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