It is rare to find a complete escape to an outdoors wilderness in a suburban-like setting. But that’s what you will find if you visit Greene County Parks & Trails’ Narrows Reserve in Beavercreek.
If you’re not from the immediate area it’s easy to miss this place. Many in the surrounding Miami Valley have never even heard of the “Narrows.” It’s just really not on most folks’ radar for an outdoors destination.
But it should be because once you discover it you will definitely keep coming back to this outdoors playground. It’s the real deal, the complete package all bundled up in one nice area. This hidden gem falls in the “Great Ohio Outback Wilderness” of the Greene County region and really has something for everyone.
Wide open spaces
For starters, there are five incredible, diverse and scenic hiking trails spread over a beautiful 162-acre reserve. Let’s add some water, even maybe some white water for kayaking and canoeing. Oh, and yes, add some fishing for you anglers and then throw in a pinch of camping to top off this rustic compound. When you put all this together what you have is a smorgasbord of outdoor adventures that one would be tempted to call a “Mini Outback Wilderness.” So we will!
The day I hiked this place earlier this month I ran into hikers, kayakers, anglers, dog walkers and trail runners. It was a bustling rugged center for outdoor activity all tucked away in this little hidden wilderness oasis. It is truly a Greene County and Beavercreek gem.
In total, there are about six miles of trails here.
These trails are above average, well-maintained and have qualities and features you would expect to find at a state or even a national park.
The main trail is the River Loop Trail (2.3 miles), which runs along the Little Miami River, a National Scenic River. The terrain on this trail is fairly flat with beautiful views of the river.
The Vista Loop Trail (0.8 miles) heads toward the Nature Center, a bird rehabilitation shelter and an apiary. One section of the trail has signs with various tree names.
On the scenic Old Road Loop Trail (0.5 miles) you will encounter an old homestead and remnants of an old spring and pond.
The Sugar Bush Loop Trail (0.7 miles) runs through a sugar bush where the sap is harvested and made into maple sugar at the park’s very own sugar shack for the annual GCP&T pancake breakfast. The trail also features a humongous step system of steep stairs built right into the hillside.
The Big Woods Loop Trail (1.1 miles) features big standing old growth trees and challenging terrain.
The Meadow trail is a short and easy trail with nice scenery.
Within this whole trail system you will encounter five loops, steep stairs, step systems, vistas, lookouts, winding boardwalks and bridges. The Vista, Sugar Bush and Big Woods Trail are the most rugged and challenging of the five trails.
Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and camping
Launch deep into a primal wilderness down the Little Miami River right from the Narrows’ own launching area. Put-in at this recently restored river launch for a wild ride with some challenging twists and turns, fast water, beautiful scenery and breathtaking views.
“We just love the Narrows,” Sarah Nicholson, of Bellbrook, told me. “We kayak and paddle here quite often. The hiking trails are great and we enjoy birding while hiking and viewing owl nests.”
The river features 86 miles’ worth of top notch kayaking and canoeing all the way to the Ohio River, with local public stops and put-ins at Constitution Park, Glenn Thompson Reserve, Jacoby Road Launch, and Mill Bridge Launch. There are also primitive camping opportunities along the way.
Fishing and birding
The river and reserve host more than 85 species of fish, mussels and breeding birds. The Narrows features 300-foot-high cliffs, more than 300 species of wildflowers, and abundant wildlife including deer and woodpeckers. Try your hand at camping at one of the reserve’s primitive campsites.
Trail running and more
The reserve hosts a popular and challenging 5 mile trail race every November put on by the Ohio River Road Runners Club, based out of Dayton. Many local area trail runners regularly train on these trails.
Other offerings include beekeeping, making honey, picnicking, dog walking, a nature center, nature photography, a raptor rehab center and a bee apiary.
Ron Brohm is an outdoors writer and regular contributor to this newspaper.