Just a short 15 minute drive outside of downtown Xenia heading towards Cedarville lies a rugged wilderness treasure with a raging waterfall, rocky cliffs, wooden bridges, a deep gorge, steep winding rugged hiking trails and an ominous ancient mound lurking the backwoods.
Once immersed into the thick of this outdoor’s wonderland one may seem confused. If you didn’t know any better you might think you were deep in the middle of some type of rugged and wild outback terrain.
And, in fact, you are! You are actually in the Great Ohio Outback Wilderness. More specifically, when you hike this trail you are in the Greene County Region of the Great Ohio Outback Regional Authority.
The Great Ohio Outback Wilderness Regional Authority is a relatively new Ohio non-profit organization and website that categorizes and designates some of the best “wilderness” areas and outdoor adventures in the state of Ohio under one umbrella. They also help promote and support wilderness areas throughout Ohio. And Greene County has made the list!
This Greene County “Outback Wilderness” trail is called the Cedar Cliff Trail (the Rim Trail) and it is located at Indian Mound Reserve Park. The trail traverses through essentially three connected Greene County parks: Indian Mound Reserve Park at the north end, Peterson Park at the west end and Cedar Cliff Falls on the east side. All are connected by a fantastic network of over 8 miles of hiking trails spanning over 169 acres of pure, wild wilderness. This is truly a Greene County gem and terrific hiking destination.
Start your hike at the Cedar Cliff Falls parking lot off Highway 42 just south of downtown Cedarville. You will first enter this outback wilderness by hiking over one of the longest and tallest wooden footbridges in Ohio with stunning views of Massie Creek Gorge and Cedar Cliff Falls. Follow the signs to the waterfall and the incredible new massive overlook, observation deck system. Before even arriving at the falls you will hear the pounding of the water raging over top to its descent. It sounds and looks like a little Niagara falls!
From there, hike the many side trails to explore this whole wilderness area. Be sure to trek both the upper rim trail and the lower gorge trail to discover breathtaking natural wonders, geological features, beautiful views, wildlife and incredible scenery. You will encounter a hidden rock shelter at the bottom of the gorge trail with postcard views of cascading waterfalls and the robust rapids of Massie Creek. Be sure to have your camera ready to take lots of photos. Travel over various wooden bridges and step systems traversing through rocky cliffs, and rugged terrain. Continue following the signs and hike to the hidden Indian Adena Mound called Williamson Mound.
The trail up to the base of the mound is an approximate 30 degree grade. It is a very scenic and very challenging hike to the base of the mound. Once at the base you will encounter a series of even steeper “steps” to reach the top of the mound. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with splendid panoramic views and may be overcome with a feeling of great accomplishment that you have conquered this wilderness and rugged wild outback. Standing at the pinnacle point at the crest of this mound you will not have a care in the world and it’s not even unheard of seeing a hiker or two beating their chest like Tarzan with a real sense of conquest and accomplishment. You will truly feel very far away yet be so close to home and “one-with-nature.”
There are many additional side trails and features to explore and discover in this wilderness wonderland. Be sure to also check out the pre-1825 restored log house just west of the mound parking lot.
The Greene County Parks & Trails has done a fantastic job with this hiking area, making it a premier wilderness destination in Ohio.
Be sure to check out this “mini” Outback Wilderness where past Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples once lived and roamed their ancestral lands that we now can discover, explore and enjoy thanks to the expertise and foresight of the Greene County Parks & Trails.
To get there, take State Route 42 out of Xenia traveling east toward Cedarville. Park at the Cedar Cliff Falls Trailhead parking lot just before entering downtown Cedarville.
Ron Brohm is an outdoors writer and regular contributor to this newspaper.