These trails are for Cincinnati Nature Center members only, so there usually aren't a large number of people on the trails. There are a couple short climbs and several creek crossings. The trails are buff, except when wet, so you can get a good pace going.
They have the nicest composting toilets around (seriously). A water fountain is available next to the restrooms. Entry to the park requires a swipe card. The flies can become relentless along the trails that run beside the fields; you may want to consider insect repellent.
If you are looking for a short hike, this is your place. There is nothing really technical to deal with, aside from some rooty and rocky spots, and the water crossings. Most of the trail is through the woods, but there are some open sections around fields when going from one trail to the next. There are several creek crossings, but you must remain on the stepping stones as much as possible. The Barred Owl Trail
can get very muddy when it's been rainy.
The easiest place to start is from the Firefly Trail
behind the kiosk near the big white barn. You'll follow this grassy path to an intersection. Going left keeps you on the Firefly Trail
, but to remain on the perimeter trail, you should turn right. This path is briefly shared by the Salamander Trail
and Barred Owl Trail
, until the Barred Owl Trail
cuts to the right. For this overview, we will go straight and follow the Salamander Trail
The trail becomes gravel until you reach the wood-platform creek overlook, which has a nice view in the winter. The trail veers left and becomes dirt singletrack, which you'll follow down into the creek valley. You'll cross the creek four times before climbing out. Once at the top, you'll again intersect with the Firefly Trail
; go right.
Follow the Firefly Trail
until you reach the gravel road, and hang right to follow the road. You'll only be on the road briefly before turning left onto the Woodpecker Trail
. This trail is the longest at Long Branch, and follows along a prairie for a while before turning into the woods for the remainder. This is a nice, buff path with occasional bridge crossings and stepping stones. At its other end, you'll be dumped back onto the Firefly Trail
Swing right to enter the Barred Owl Trail
. You'll take this trail down to the gravel driveway. At this point, you'll leave the Barred Owl Trail
to go right on the driveway and cross the concrete bridge to the Blue Stem Trail
on the left. The Blue Stem Trail
is a grass-trail loop around a prairie; take it either direction before returning to the driveway. Cross the concrete bridge again, then go right to rejoin the Barred Owl Trail
. This section can get mushy after a rain.
Follow the Barred Owl Trail
up the hill, where it meets up with the Salamander Trail
, before quickly branching back off to the left. After this stretch, you'll rejoin the combined Salamander Trail
and Barred Owl Trail
from which you started your hike. Turn left back onto the Firefly Trail
to the trailhead behind the barn, and you're done.