Get the dirt

An insider’s guide to exploring your MetroParks

By Kristen Wicker

Photo: The tucked-away Sunderland Falls is located at the edge of a Vandalia neighborhood

With nearly 16,000 acres of land, 160 miles of managed trails for the likes of hiking and mountain biking and 270 miles of river corridor, there’s plenty to discover in your Five Rivers MetroParks. But some things are more easily found than others. We asked our staff for their favorite hidden gems to help guide your outdoor adventuring.

The 1.6-mile silver trail at Germantown MetroPark takes you by Twin Creek and through a variety of habitats, including prairie, wetland and old-growth forest—meaning you can see a wide range of wildlife, such as warblers, hawks and other birds. A recently constructed wildlife viewing station allows a peek into a wetland and is a nice place to stop and catch your breath, as the hike is a good workout. In spring, the wildflowers are stunning and include rare blooms like trillium.

Get there: Park in the trailhead lot at 7501 Conservancy Rd.

Hike the green trail to the tall grass prairie at Carriage Hill MetroPark from mid-July through August for spectacular displays of grasses, wildflowers and butterflies. Standing in the middle of the endless sea of prairie, you can almost imagine what it was like in the pioneer days.

Get there: Park in the lot at 7891 E. Shull Rd.

Paddle the Stillwater River from Englewood MetroPark to Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, both of which have easy locations to take in and out. The river corridor is wooded, which makes for shade on hot days and lots of wildlife sightings, and fishing is good for smallmouth bass and catfish.

Get there: Look up directions to the river from the parking lot at 955 Aullwood Rd. Take the short and leisurely walk to Aullwood Garden MetroPark before you put in for dazzling floral displays.

Follow the purple trail at Possum Creek MetroPark to see remnants of a swimming pool, dance floor and street car sleeping cabins from the 1930s-era Argonne Forest Park, a once-thriving amusement park built after World War I to honor the men who lost their lives in the Battle of Argonne. Visit in mid- to late August to enjoy the rare and beautiful fringed gentians blooming near the entrance to the park.

Get there: Pick up the purple trail from the first parking lot off the park entrance at 4790 Frytown Rd.

For more historic remnants, visit Tadmor at Taylorsville MetroPark. In the 1800s, this village was Montgomery County’s busiest crossroad, standing at the intersection of the Miami-Erie Canal, National Road, Dayton-Michigan Railroad and the Great Miami River.

Get there: Park in the lot at 2005 U.S. 40. Cycle or walk along the Great Miami River Bikeway north of the dam about 1.25 miles.

Just north of Taylorsville MetroPark, discover Sunderland Falls at the edge of a Vandalia neighborhood.

Get there: From East National Road, turn onto Clubhouse Way, then take a left onto Old Falls Trail. Park at the rock on the right immediately before you enter the neighborhood.

At Twin Creek MetroPark, visit the 2,000-year-old Carlisle Fort Hopewell Indian Earthwork, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Get there: Follow the green trail loop from the Hopewell parking lot trailhead at 8502 Chamberlain Rd.

Take in a beautiful view of Wolf Creek and the train trestle that spans it at Wesleyan MetroPark, particularly in the fall.

Get there: Access the trail from Adventure Central, 2222 N. James H. McGee Blvd. or the parking lot at 1440 Wesleyan Rd. Hike past the wooden split-rail fence. Just before entering the woods, turn around and look back toward the creek for an incredible panorama reflected in the water below.

In July, jewel weed flowers will be blooming at Woodman Fen Conservation Area, a 33-acre wetland restoration area and the best place in MetroParks to see hummingbirds. And the best time to observe them is early in the morning or later in the evening. Each one has its own patch of flowers they protect from the others, and you can hear the hummingbirds’ chattering and buzzing as they go from flower to flower. Get there: The fen is located at 2490 Newcastle Dr.

The Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark is a great place to see birds and butterflies—and it’s one of the best blooming prairies in the area. The 112-acre site that combines history and conservation is located near Huffman MetroPark and is adjacent to the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright brothers tested their planes. Since 1988, Five Rivers MetroParks has partnered with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to restore and manage the Huffman Prairie. In July, new interpretive signs and plant identification markers, as well as brochures, will be available to help visitors learn about this significant conservation site. Many rare plants, birds and insects make the prairie their home, including a moth found only in this prairie. A short, easy-to-hike trail winds through the prairie, which is one of the largest prairie remnants in Ohio. For bird watching, June is the best time to visit, and for the most spectacular display of wildflowers, visit in mid- to late July.

Get there: To visit the site by car, enter through WPAFB gate 16A and follow the signs to Huffman Prairie. Or ride your bike from Huffman MetroPark via the Wright Brothers-Huffman Prairie Bike Trail.

For more info, visit or call 937.275.PARK(7275).

Reach DCP freelance writer Kristen Wicker at

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  1. Dayton Sunday Reading List – July 26 | Girl About Town - July 26, 2015

    […] Get the Dirt by Kristen Wicker (Dayton City Paper) – I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this insider’s guide to the MetroParks! I lived in Vandalia for a good chunk of my life and had never heard of, let alone seen, Sunderland Falls! […]

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