Nature enthusiasts hiking along the beautiful Johnson Nature Preserve quickly realize what a hidden gem this small nature trail can be. On the edge of Montgomery, Ohio, near Blue Ash, is one of the best nature trails for kids in Cincinnati. A quick .35-mile-long paver walkway makes Johnson Nature Preserve the ideal spot to take a nature hike, a quick stroll through the woods, or enjoy the peaceful sounds of mother nature.
Spend the morning admiring the red maples, large oak trees, and colorful flowers and native plants. Cedar log benches throughout the preserve offer a quiet spot for reflection, rest, or a quick snack.
Where Do I Park 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. My only complaint is that there is no nearby street parking if the lot is full. I have witnessed vehicles parking in the grass, but there is little space.
Address: 10840 Deerfield Rd, Montgomery, OH 45242
Is the parking lot full? Check out these other great Nature Preserves In Cincinnati.
Learn About The 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 they huddled in their bathtub for safety. The preserve was another area that was hit by a catastrophic tornado with storm damage still being felt today.
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 let the forest recover with 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.
As you make your way along the nature trail panels, help tell the story of the tornado, its trajectory, and how it has impacted wildlife in the preserve.
Go For A Hike 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 over the tiny creek. Throughout the trail, some plaques highlight typical flora and fauna found in the area and a little history about the area.
A lovely pergola with a picnic table greets you at the trail’s entrance. We found it to be the perfect spot for a post-hike snack or an excellent spot to lay out all your nature treasures from your hike.
Our favorite time of year to visit Johnson Nature Preserve is when the fall colors are vibrant.
Venture Into The Harris M. Benedict Botanical Preserve
The more adventurous hikers can venture into the Harris M. Benedict Botanical Preserve, connected by a small pathway off the Johnson Nature Preserve Loop. The University of Cincinnati manages this 65-acre preserve for environmental education.
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 has been carrying out botanical studies here for nearly a decade since there is a diverse collection of rare species here. Since the tornado, the University has been studying how the self-supporting ecosystem regenerates itself and focuses on ecological conservation.
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 several 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 kids, especially toddlers. It is easy to do with little legs and 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.
Did you enjoy our post on the Johnson Nature Preserve in Montgomery? Be sure to check out these related articles.