Thursday, July 4, 2013

Winton Woods County Park: Great Oaks Trail (Blog Hike #424)

Trail: Great Oaks Trail
Hike Location: Winton Woods County Park
Geographic Location: south of Greenhills, OH
Length: 0.75 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: June 2013
Overview: A short streamside and ridge loop featuring large oak and other trees.

Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Cincinnati, take I-275 to Winton Road (exit 39).  Exit and go south on Winton Rd.  Take Winton Rd. 3 miles to Valley View Drive, the main park road; there is a traffic light at this intersection.  Turn right on Valley View Dr.  Pay the park entrance fee, then drive 1.1 miles to the perpendicular parking area on the left that serves this trailhead.

The hike: For my general comments on Winton Woods County Park, see the Kingfisher Trail blog entry.  In the early 2000’s, the Hamilton County Park District allowed the construction of a sewer line through the forest on the Kingfisher Trail, effectively ripping a scar through the nice mature forest that existed there.  Thus, whereas Winton Woods used to have 2 excellent nature trails, it now has 1 excellent and 1 mediocre nature trail.
The Great Oaks Trail on the west side of Kingfisher Creek is the park’s one nature trail that escaped the sewer line.  Though shorter than the Kingfisher Trail, this trail passes through some beautiful forest in a combination of hillside and streamside habitats.  Thus, the Great Oaks Trail has become my favorite of the two trails.  I have hiked this trail several times, and it never seems to get old.
Trail sign at park road
The trail starts across the park road from the parking lot at a wooden sign that says “Great Oaks Trail.”  The gravel trail descends slightly as it enters the forest and quickly forks to form its loop.  For no particular reason, I chose to turn right here and use the left trail as the return route.
The trail undulates slightly as it heads south with Kingfisher Creek ravine falling away to the left.  The trail map shows the trail going through a meadow here, but the meadow sits uphill to the right near the park road.  Soon the trail curves left and begins the descent into the big woods.  The largest trees in this forest are indeed oak trees, but some good sized maples and beeches live down here as well.
A great oak tree
At 0.3 miles, you reach creek level, and the trail curves sharply left to begin paralleling Kingfisher Creek, which lies to your right.  You might see some kingfishers, ducks, geese, turtles, frogs, or other wildlife down here, but all was quiet and still on the late summer evening that I visited this area.  The people you see across the creek are hiking the Kingfisher Trail, and they are probably unaware of the nicer, older forest that lives over here on the Great Oaks Trail.
Kingfisher Creek

Old trailbed
After paralleling the creek for 0.25 miles, the trail curves sharply left and begins the ascent back to the trailhead.  Immediately after this turn, look for the trail to cross an old trailbed, a predecessor of the trail you are hiking today.  A moderate climb through more nice forest closes the loop.  A right turn will quickly return you to the park road to complete the hike.

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