Hiking in Ohio: Glen Helen Nature Preserve

Autumn finally arrived in Ohio a few weeks ago, so we took advantage of a free Sunday afternoon to visit Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs.

Like I outlined in a previous post about Yellow Springs, this region in Southwest Ohio is an outstanding choice for a day trip in Ohio. Ample hiking, quirky shops and restaurants in the town itself, and Young’s Jersey Dairy for simple pleasures (and ice cream) keep us coming back. While we mainly stuck to John Bryan State Park and Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve on our previous trip, this trip’s journey took us to Glen Helen Nature Preserve, a non-profit park within walking distance of the center of town.

Glen Helen Nature Preserve
The trail at the parking lot starts with a long set of stairs.

Since the park receives no state or federal funding, there is a $5 charge to park in the primary parking lot off Corry St. A small museum, still closed due to covid as of October 2021, marks the trailhead. Be prepared for a long set of stairs descending into the valley to start your journey. There is a popular loop called the Inman Trail that starts at this trailhead that passes many of the park’s highlights. You can easily add to the hike, but since we came with The Boy, only 3, we stuck to this easy loop.

Glen Helen Nature Preserve
Walking in the forest

Of course, The Boy is fond of forest adventures and was often pacing the group.

Yellow Springs in Glen Helen Nature Preserve
Yellow Springs

One of the earlier things on the hike to see are the springs themselves, from which the town of Yellow Springs receives its name. The water comes out more orange than yellow due to high amounts of iron.

The Cascades in Glen Helen Nature Preserve
The Cascades

After a few more minutes of hiking through the woods, the trail comes to the other highlight of this part of the park: the Cascades. We stayed in this spot for a while, watching a man operate his drone in this narrow gorge.

Inman Trail in Glen Helen Nature Preserve
Inman Trail in Glen Helen Nature Preserve

After the Cascades, the trail continues along the riverside back toward the parking lot. We collected our favorite leaves as we went on.

Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs
Sun-dappled creek crossing

Soon enough, the trail comes to an intersection. To go left, and to an extended hike through the woods, requires a creek crossing across stepping stones. It was a bit slick, and the water a bit high, so we decided against it with a 3-year-old. To go right takes you back to where you started at the trailhead of the Inman Trail and back up the stairs.

All told, without rushing and at the mercy of a toddler’s attention span and energy, we didn’t spend much more than an hour on the trail. It would take more dedicated hikers much less time to complete, though anyone would want to stop now and then and enjoy the springs and waterfalls along the way. The most difficult part of the trail are the initial stairs, which must be climbed to return to your car.

Not quite ready to return home, we decided to pay a visit to the Glen Helen Raptor Center. This non-profit center admits 150-200 birds of prey every year, rehabilitating and releasing as many as they can. Their programs aim to educate the public about raptors and conservation.

Glen Helen Raptor Center
Glen Helen Raptor Center

It’s free to visit the center, which includes a dozen or so enclosures of resident birds who are either in the midst of rehabilitation or are too injured to be released back into the wild. These remain as educational ambassadors for their raptor brethren. Species we saw that day included barred owls, great horned owls, bald eagles, and kestrels.

Barred owl

There’s a lot more to see in Glen Helen Nature Preserve, and more things to do in Yellow Springs, so we’ll be sure to visit again and hopefully extend our hikes as The Boy’s legs grow longer.