I’ve lived in Cincinnati for all but 2 of my 35 years, and it’s rare that I’m truly surprised by anything. I’m talking about the kind of surprise where you visit a place and get lost, and wonder, Where am I? Am I still in my city? Visiting California Woods Nature Preserve truly surprised me.
California Woods Nature Preserve is a true Cincinnati treasure.
California Woods is one of Cincinnati Parks’ East Side parks. I’ve been putting together Cincinnati Parent’s calendars for years, and I’ve often included events at this park. Shamefully, I’d never been.
But it’s spring, and it’s beautiful outside, and, as long as my kids are all feeling well, there’s no reason not to go outside for some fresh air and exercise. Plus, Mother Nature is the best classroom.
California Woods is nestled in the city of (you guessed it) California. (Did you know there was a California, OH?!) California is one of the City of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods; it’s a small river town located at the confluence of the Little Miami and Ohio Rivers, nestled between Lunken Airport and Coney Island. The eponymous Nature Preserve is smack in the center of its city limits.
The Nature Preserve kind of sneaks up on you — one minute, you’re admiring planes and boats, and the next, you’re turning onto a one-lane, dirt road and into a whole other world.
California Woods is 133 acres of sprawling, sun-drenched woods, reminiscent of Hocking Hills. It’s hilly and full of wildlife. There are six hiking trails, ranging from .16-mile Twin Oaks Trail to the mile-long Junction Trail, so there’s something for families of all ages. My kids and I tackled the Trillium Trail, a half-mile long loop that took deep into the forest.
The Trillium Trail had a ton of steps, but my kids eagerly forged ahead. When we finally made it to the top, we were rewarded with a 360-degree view of California Woods. It was so quiet and peaceful, and such a special moment for us to share.
Of course, along the way, we swapped facts about nature, ambled over fallen logs, admired wildflowers and even found a tree with a large animal den in its trunk.
Right now, there is so much uncertainty, and it’s, frankly, terrifying. There is so much to feel anxious about, and so much on our plates as parents and people. But I’m trying, as best I can, to take things a day at a time and stay positive. With the extended break from school and stay-at-home order, I’ve had the opportunity to explore Cincinnati in a new and exciting way — with my kids. There is no downside to this. Our visit to California Woods was our first but most certainly not our last. I am grateful to have discovered this Cincinnati Park, regardless of the circumstances which brought me there.
California Woods Nature Preserve is located at 5400 Kellogg Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45230. Right now, trails are open, but be sure to check their Cincinnati Parks page for COVID-19 closures and updates before you go.