The Best Spots for Creeking in Cincinnati

Trails and creeks are some of the area’s most natural playgrounds and we are so lucky to have an abundance in Cincinnati! Kids of all ages (grown ups, too!) can stay busy for hours splashing in the water, checking out rocks, searching for fish, and exploring the ecosystems.

creeking at Miami Whitewater Forest in Cincinnati

Creeks are especially great for summer days when your kids are in the mood for water play but you’re just not in the mood for the pool. Most spots are at least partially shaded so you can enjoy your time in the great outdoors while still getting some relief from the hot summer sun.

Summit Park

Although this one is man-made, fun was truly at the center of this creek’s design. The landscape mimics rock so it still feels like you’re in a natural landscape, with the added bonus of some built-in seating so parents and caregivers have a clean place to sit.

Be sure to carve out a few hours for your visit beyond creek time. Summit Park also has walking trails (paved and dirt), two giant playgrounds, a Great Lawn, a dog park, the Observation Tower, and restaurants to grab a bite to eat.

To find the creek: Park in the lot closest to the Observation Tower. From the sidewalk, take the paved trail in front of or behind the observation tower. The creek area will be on your right. If you go over the bridge, you’ve gone too far (but you’ll be able to see the creek from there if you’re not sure where to go).

Creek snapshot:

  • Parking available
  • Paved path to the creek from the parking lot (stroller friendly)
  • Creek is in direct sunlight
  • Free
  • Restrooms available at the playground and the Observation Tower

Website


Sharon Woods

This creek stomping wonderland is in a centralized spot, which makes it easy to keep kids within eyesight. Kids will love splashing around at the base of a small waterfall and exploring the rocky formations surrounding it.

Bring a picnic lunch with you and take advantage of your close proximity to the picnic shelters, outdoor playgrounds, and the Adventure Station Indoor Playground.

To find the creek: Use the Lebanon Road entrance (11450 Lebanon Road), then take a left on Buckeye Falls Drive. Park in the area just past the restrooms. There is a paved trail/sidewalk that will lead you directly to the creek (follow the sounds of the waterfall to find it!).

Creek snapshot:

  • Parking available
  • Can access creek from parking lot
  • Creek is in direct sunlight (but wooded area surrounding offers some shade)
  • Free, if you have a Hamilton County Parks car sticker
  • Restrooms available at the parking lot, the playground, and at the Visitors Center

Website


Miami Whitewater Forest

creeking at Miami Whitewater Forest

Miami Whitewater Forest is a great park for all sorts of play – biking, canoeing, fishing, and so much more. We recently discovered that it’s also a great spot for creeking!

To Find the Creek: Park near the Visitors Center and walk the paved Shaker Trace Inner Trail. Find the map here (or they have one on the outside of the Visitors Center). About half way around you’ll see the creek.

Creek snapshot:

  • Parking available
  • Must take trail to the creek
  • Paved path that takes you close to the creek
  • Moderate shade
  • Free, if you have a Hamilton County Parks car sticker
  • Restrooms available at the Visitors Center

Website


Winton Woods, Kingfisher Trail

the creek at Winton Woods, Kingfisher Trail

There are quite a few areas where you can explore the creeks at Winton Woods, but our #1 favorite is Kingfisher Trail. Just a short hike from the parking lot (we’d estimate about half a mile at the most), you’ll find a creek area with plenty of sand and water to play in.

This creek is a bit deeper than the other ones, so be sure to pack a change of clothes or some towels. Some areas are shallow enough for little ones to play in, but older kids may like to venture into the deeper areas (usually about a foot deep).

To find the creek: Take the main trail from the Kingfisher Trail parking area. When the trail splits, go straight. A little ways down, there is an offshoot to the left which leads you to a trail that follows alongside the creek. You’ll eventually reach an area with a relatively flat sand area that you can reach from the trail.

Note: When you’re driving, make sure your map is taking you to the trail via Valley View Road.

Creek snapshot:

  • Parking available
  • Must take trail to the creek
  • Dirt paths, not stroller friendly
  • Moderate shade
  • Free, if you have a Hamilton County Parks car sticker
  • Restrooms available near the trail head

Website


Caldwell Nature Preserve

Packed with lush green trails, Caldwell Nature Preserve truly feels like you’ve stepped outside of the city and into the deep forest. A giant creek runs through the center of the park, and almost every trail has a bridge crossing over it at some point. Most bridges have a path or small stairway down to the creek.

the creek at Caldwell Nature Preserve

To find the creek: Begin at the main trail (a gravel pathway off the parking lot) and take the first right, which leads you down to a small bridge where you can reach the creek. Heading left in the creek is a rockier route and can be a bit slippery, so it is probably better suited for older kids who are a bit more steady on their feet. Heading right is a flatter route with some sand, but it still has some rocks to explore.

If you head over the bridge instead of straight to the creek, take the path on the right and take a short scenic hike through the woods. You will eventually reach another bridge with a stairway down to the creek. This spot has a lot more sand and more visibility than other areas of the creek, but still has plenty of areas to explore to keep the older kids entertained.

Park Tip: There are a lot of twists and turns on this trail, so talk to your kids beforehand about not running too far ahead of the group before you hit the trails.

Creek snapshot:

  • Parking available
  • Must take trail(s) to the creek
  • Dirt paths, not stroller friendly
  • Lots of shade (if not fully shaded in most parts)
  • Free
  • Restrooms are available at the Visitors Center (when open)

Website


Symmes Township Park

We’ve been doing some exploring at different parks this year and Symmes Township has some great parks! This particular park has three different playground structures, lots of covered shelters that are perfect for picnics, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, open fields, and creeking!

the creek at Symmes Township Park

This creek is very shallow and perfect for the younger ones (bigger kids will likely find this one a bit boring). The creek meanders right along the paved path and is easy to access. We saw tadpoles and baby fish and threw lots of rocks along the way.

To find the creek: There are multiple paths to the creek. We started at the basketball court and headed down the BIG hill (which the kids loved). Alternatively, you can walk along the paved path to get there. We found access at the bottom of the hill, close to the Shady Ridge Shelter. You will have to go down (and back up) a pretty big hill so be prepared!
The creek is located near the bottom of the path marked in blue on this map.

Creek snapshot:

  • Parking available, park near the Shady Ridge Shelter and playground (marked with a sign)
  • Paved trail next to creek (but it’s a bit of a walk to get there)
  • Lots of shade
  • Free
  • Restrooms are available near the parking lot

And if you want to extend your stay, Home of the Brave Park is right across the street and they have a sprayground.

Website


Rentschler Park

One of the MetroParks of Butler County, this park is located a bit north of of town but SO worth a mention if you’re interested in creeking. The park has over 400 acres and includes playgrounds, trails, and about 1/2 mile of footage along the Great Miami River.

The trail that leads to the creek is just about a mile long. The park district rates this trail a #3 / difficult. It has steps and some steep inclines. But if you enjoy the beauty of a woodland stream, this is a nice hike.

Rentschler Forest Preserve - MetroParks of Butler County

Let me throw this word of warning out there for you – personally, I would not want to take little kids on this trail. It’s a great hike but there are parts that simply would not be good for little ones. We had to climb over a big fallen tree, we found no real entry point for the stream, and the rocks IN the water are not at all stable. I would not recommend this for anyone who’s the least bit wobbly on his/her feet.

To find the creek: You want to hike the Cascade Trail in order to get to the creek. That trail is highlighted in blue on this map.

Creek snapshot:

  • Parking is available near the trailhead
  • It’s a hike to get there (see details above)
  • Lots of shade
  • You will need a Motor Vehicle Permit to enter the park. The permit is free for Butler County Residents. Non-Residents pay $5/daily or $10/annually (prices current for 2020).
  • Restrooms are available

Here are a few more we have on our list for the summer of 2020. We have not personally explored the following spots yet – but we’ve read about them and have them on our own list.


Armco Park

This one might be a bit of a stretch (depending where you’re coming from) but if you have some time to spare, this is a great park to add to your list of creeking spots.

Website


Cincinnati Nature Center (Rowe Woods)

Kids can spend all day searching for turtles and tadpoles, digging into the clay, and (of course) stomping in the creek. The creek at Cincinnati Nature Center’s Rowe Woods is SO fun to explore that they even have a whole week devoted to it in their summer camp series.

Note: this park requires a membership or purchase of daily admission to enter.

Website


Cincinnati Nature Center (Longbranch Farm)

Discover wildlife, clay, and scenic water landscapes in the O’Bannon Creek. These waters can get a bit deeper, so this creek may be better suited for older explorers.

Note: this park requires a membership or purchase of daily admission to enter.

Website


Gower Park

Gower Park is located just across the street from the Sharonville Library, and you’ll know you’re there when you see its giant (fenced!) playground. If you can get your kids past the play area, there’s a creek that’s great for some water fun.

Website

  • Wear water shoes or waterproof sandals. We’ve worn rain boots before, and more often than not water ends up inside the boots (which isn’t very comfortable). Waterproof sandals are our go-to because we can rinse them off with a hose as soon as we get home and they’re good to go for our next adventure!
  • Bring some extra sunscreen. We almost always stay longer than planned, and it’s nice not to have to head home too early because we’re worried about sunburn.
  • If you have to hike to get to the creek, make sure you have a change of clothes in your bag. If someone accidentally soaks their clothes, it can be a looong walk back to the car if their clothes are wet.
  • Pack some towels in the car. Old beach towels are handy to have to put on the car seats for the drive home.
  • Sand toys like shovels, sifters, and buckets are fun to bring along (if you don’t mind carrying them).
  • Don’t forget the bug spray!

On a practical note: be sure to read any signs or regulations at the creek before heading in, watch those water levels, and keep an eye on your little ones and your surroundings while you’re there.

2 thoughts on “The Best Spots for Creeking in Cincinnati”

  1. A word of note on the Kingfisher Trail Creek, that creek has old sewage pipes that run nearby from Greenhills that sometimes leak. After a heavy rain where the creek swells, it is not uncommon for it to wreak of sewage and have TP remnants strung through the undergrowth. We have stopped playing in the water there as a result of this.

  2. Surprised that you don’t warn people to check the pollution levels at each of these streams. The data is generally available. From the issue of sewage, to fertilizer run off, and just the issue of wading in untreated water, all pose health issues to children and adults. Creaking can be fun as long as you know it is safe.

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