Enjoy a beautiful nature walk at the Johnson Nature Preserve tucked away in the city of Montgomery near Blue Ash. The .35 mile long paver walkway makes this the ideal spot to bring little ones to explore nature. The preserve is full of flower beds, native plants, wildlife, and cedar log benches to enjoy a quiet moment among the forest.
1999 Blue Ash Tornado
The Johnson Nature Preserve was deeply affected by the 1999 tornado that hit Cincinnati. The violent storm wreaked havoc, leaving four dead and damaging over 200 homes. In that storm, my husband vividly remembers the roof blowing off their home while huddled in their bathtub for safely. The preserve was another area that was hit by the catastrophic tornado.
In the pre-dawn hours of April 9, 1999, the storm toppled 90% of the mature trees that had thrived in the preserve. Many were over 100 years old. The City of Montgomery decided to let the forest recover with very little intervention. Logs were cleared from the walking trail, and some trees were replanted. In addition, many trees are regenerated naturally from stumps or seeds. The first to thrive were the quick-growing plants and trees such as the tulip poplar, black cherry, maple, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose.
Parking At The Johnson Nature Preserve
There is a tiny parking lot at the Johnson Nature Preserve. For instance, only three, maybe four cars can park in it. It is my only complaint as there is no nearby street parking if the lot is full. I have witnessed vehicles parking in the grass, but there is not that much space once again.
Address: 10840 Deerfield Rd, Montgomery, OH 45242
Is the parking lot full? Check out these other great Nature Preserves In Cincinnati.
Hiking At The Johnson Nature Preserve
The trail at the Johnson Nature Preserve is a .35 mile loop that is within the 7-acre preserve. It is easy to navigate with a small wooden bridge to cross over the tiny creek. Throughout the trail, some plaques highlight typical flora and fauna found in the area along with a little history about the area.
A lovely pergola with a picnic table greets you at the entrance of the trail. We found it to be the perfect spot for a post-hike snack or a good spot to lay out all your nature treasures from your hike.
Harris M. Benedict Botanical Preserve
The more adventurous hikers can venture into the Harris M. Benedict Botanical Preserve, which is connected by a small pathway off the Johnson Nature Preserve Loop. The University of Cincinnati manages this 65-acre preserve.
The University purchased the property in the 1920s with the site’s name honoring Harris Miller Benedict, chair of the University’s Botany Department at the time of his death in 1928. The former name of the preserve was Hazelwood Botanical Preserve. The University as been carrying out botanical studies here for nearly a decade since there is a diverse collection of rare species here.
The botanical trail located in the Harris M. Benedict Botanical Preserve is a 1.2 mile out and back trail. I recommend downloading the All Trails Map, as there are a few private trails throughout the preserve. This trail is suitable for all levels; if taking little ones, watch for fallen trees and lots of tree roots.
In short, this has been one of my favorite preserves to bring my toddler. It is very manageable, however, there are a few little slopey areas to keep your eye out for. If you haven’t visited this suburban nature preserve, add it to your Cincinnati bucket list.