Six Local Parks to Visit for a Much-Needed Brain Break

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant for The Graduate School. Updated by Erin Michel, graduate assistant for the Graduate School. 

Finals have ended and the summer has officially begun. For many students, this transition means a chance to regroup and recharge after a hectic and stressful semester. Summertime is a time to take things slow, have some fun, and reconnect with friends and the world outside the library. Even if you are taking summer coursework, it's still a great idea to get ouside, enjoy the weather and take advantage of all the beautiful outdoor spaces that Cincinnati has to offer. And they are beautiful-- in fact, a recent ranking by conservation nonprofit Trust for Public Land declared Cincinnati parks fourth best in the nation amongst the largest 100 cities. Read on for some ideas about which parks to visit this summer. 

Burnett Woods

A pair of benches sitting in front of the lake at Burnett Woods. There are trees surrounding the lake.

As an obvious first choice, Clifton’s Burnett Woods is a great place to go for a quick getaway without venturing too far from the campus area. Burnett Woods features plenty of trails for hiking, a large lake for fishing, a disc golf course, and a beautiful gazebo to take a break in. A favorite activity of many is to string up a hammock in the trails and post up with a good book.

Bellevue Hill Park

Bellevue Hill Park is another Clifton staple, boasting what is arguably the best view of the downtown area. Like its name suggests, the park sits atop one of Cincinnati’s many hills, with a great view of the city, Ohio River, the Cut-in-the-Hill, and the rest of the surrounding area. How many other hills can you spot from the park?

Fun fact: The band 3 Doors Down filmed a music video atop the roof at Bellevue–it's bad, but it exists.

Mt. Airy Forest

Those looking to get away from Clifton for nature will find Mt. Airy Forest to be a great choice. This is one of the largest parks in the Cincinnati area, with long, sprawling trails to can give you a full day of hiking if you so choose. The park also features mountain biking trails, a dog park, and Ohio’s only wheelchair accessible treehouse, making it a great place to visit for a full day of outdoor activities.

Fun fact: Mt. Airy Forest was at one point cleared for farmland before the farmers realized it was ill-equipped to grow crops. It has since been converted to a public park.

Ault Park

While Ault Park also offers great trails like the other choices on this list, its key features are the garden area with beautiful flowers and fauna, weeping cherry trees, and the historic pavilion that serves as a great overlook of the park. Ault Park is one of the prettiest areas in Cincinnati, which is likely why it is such a popular choice for newly-weds to have their wedding photos taken. Visit Ault Park for one of the best picnic spots in the city. 

The Riverfront Parks

Cincinnati has a number of riverfront parks that line the Ohio River, giving visitors a great view of both the downtown area, as well as northern Kentucky from across the river. For a riverfront tour of Cincinnati, visit all the parks in one trip by starting at Smale Riverfront Park and walking east along the Ohio River Trail through Yeatman’s Cove, Sawyer Point, and International Friendship park. This will take you past Paul Brown Stadium, Great America Ballpark, the Serpentine Wall, and a few other cool landmarks and destinations.

Miami Whitewater Forest Park

Cincinnati's largest park is Miami Whitewater Forest Park, spanning over 4,000 acres of land and featuring about 10 miles of trails. Miami Whitewater Forest Park also features a large lake for boating or fishing, so this is a great park to choose for a day full of long trails and other outdoor activities!

For more information on local parks and how they may have altered their policies in response on COVID-19, check out Cincinnati Parks’ updates webpage.