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Hiking the Longest Trail System in Miami County 8+ Miles, 3 Beautiful Parks, 4 Seasons.png

Story & Photos by Matt Bayman

As long as you don’t mind crossing a shallow section of the Stillwater River and getting your feet a little wet, it is possible to hike continuously for 8.2 miles at three interconnected Miami County Parks, which are—Stillwater Prairie Reserve, Stillwater Prairie Rangeline and Maple Ridge Reserve. Combined, the trail system is the longest in the county and one of the longest in the region. 

   It’s also one of the most beautiful parts of Miami County during all four seasons of the year, inviting hikers to return again and again to watch the scenery, flowers and wildlife change. In fact, these three parks (located in the northwest corner of the county) offer some of the most spectacular scenery in western Ohio, some of which is hardly known to most people.

   For example, in mid-to-late summer, the prairies at Maple Ridge Reserve turn into a sea of yellow wildflowers (as seen above middle). Each field buzzes with bees, insects and birds, allowing hikers to immerse themselves in Nature. This brief but spectacular display is one of the largest and most vibrant in the region! (NOTE: A fourth park in the area—Goode Prairie Preserve—has an equally impressive wildflower display in late summer).   

   A feature that many people know about, but that is still special, is a pedestrian suspension bridge (the longest of its kind in Ohio) that connects Maple Ridge Reserve to Stillwater Prairie Reserve and crosses the peaceful Stillwater River, which cuts through the middle of all three parks. During certain times of the year, hundreds of fish (mostly suckers) congregate under the bridge and relax in the sun, which is a sight to see! Other wildlife includes geese, pheasants, and dozens of species of birds, plus deer, frogs, raccoons, snakes, crayfish and many other creatures.  

   The trail system is a great place to welcome spring. Hike the trails in April to experience a wide variety of white, purple and blue wildflowers, plus vibrant pink budding trees. Arrive even earlier (January through March) to watch maple sugar being processed at the sugar house at Maple Ridge Reserve. Come back in the late summer and early fall to see an entirely different set of wildflowers in bloom, and when the trees change colors from their summer greens to their fall yellows, reds and oranges. Even in the coldest of weather, or after a good snow, the trails are stunning to experience, as long as you’re prepared for the cold!

   Besides possibly Brukner Nature Center, Maple Ridge Reserve has one of the most wide-ranging displays of mushrooms in Miami County. A walk through the woods in mid-summer (especially after a good rain), or in the late spring and early fall will bring out dozens of different kinds, including some rarities.

   There are six ponds and one wetland within the three parks. Like everything mentioned here, the scenery around each pond changes with the seasons. There is no license needed to fish in three designated fishing ponds in the parks, but one is required to fish in the river.  

   The Miami County Park District does an amazing job at maintaining and expanding the trail system, as well as offering programs that utilize them. They also provide plenty of signage to help guide hikers along the path. There are benches to relax (often at the top of hills). There are viewing platforms to watch wildlife. There are long stretches of boardwalk trails and riverside paths. There are picnic areas and two picnic shelters at Stillwater Prairie Reserve. The list goes on.

   In short, an entire day can be spent exploring the more than 8 miles of hiking trails in these three parks, with plenty of time to stop and smell the flowers. 

   The Miami County parks are open daily from sunrise to sunset. More information, including trail maps (including the one seen below from the Miami County Park District), can be found on their website. They also encourage visitors to access trail maps via the OuterSpatial app, available to download free of charge.

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