Trails: Pinelands, Trillium Valley, Buckeye Valley, and Hickory Ridge Trails
Hike Location: Brukner Nature CenterGeographic Location: west of Troy, OH (40.01645, -84.31713)Length: 2.3 milesDifficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)Last Hiked: June 2019Overview: A double loop through numerous ravines and along numerous ridges.Center Information: http://www.bruknernaturecenter.com/Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=754843Photo Highlight:
Directions to the trailhead: North of Dayton, take I-75 to SR 55 (exit 73). Exit and go west on SR 55. Drive SR 55 west 2.4 miles to Horseshoe Bend Road and take a soft right on Horseshoe Bend Rd. Drive Horseshoe Bend Rd. 2.1 miles to the signed Center entrance on the right. Turn right to enter the Center, and drive the entrance road to the Center’s main parking lot in front of the Interpretive Building. You need to pay a small entrance fee in the Interpretive Building before starting the hike.
The hike: Private not-for-profit Brukner Nature Center protects 165 acres of ridges and ravines along the east bank of the Stillwater River. The Center is named for Clayton J. Brukner, who owned the WACO Aircraft Company of nearby Troy, OH. WACO was one of the most successful pre-World War II civil aircraft manufacturers. A lover of nature, Brukner purchased this land for its scenic value in 1933, and in 1967 he unveiled plans to build the Nature Center that now bears his name. The Center opened in 1974. Brukner Nature Center features an excellent Interpretive Building that offers several bird and wildlife viewing areas. 6 miles of hiker-only trails wind through the grounds. Unfortunately, when I came here just after the area had received large amounts of rainfall, several of the trails were impassable due to flooding. Thus, the route described here traverses most of the trails that were passable on my visit, and it features a nice mixture of ravines, ridges, woods, and meadows.
|Trailhead: Pinelands Trail|
From the front door of the Interpretive Building, walk across the parking lot to find the trailhead for the single-track dirt Pinelands Trail, which immediately heads into the woods on an eastward course. Three separate trailheads are located on this side of the parking lot. The Pinelands trailhead is the one on the left; it is marked by a wooden post with a green stripe. After only a few hundred feet on the Pinelands Trail, you reach a trail intersection marked as post #14. Major trail intersections are numbered on the park map and marked on the ground with numbered wooden posts. Turn left here to begin the Trillium Valley Trail.
|Bridge over eroded watercourse|
The Trillium Valley Trail crosses the park entrance road before crossing an eroded watercourse on a high steel bridge with wooden deck. Next comes a short but fairly steep descent as the trail begins following the watercourse downstream. The Interpretive Building is visible atop the hill to the left here. After crossing the stream 5 times via bridges, you reach post #12, where the Buckeye Valley Loop exits right. The Buckeye Valley Loop is a 1.1 mile add-on lollipop loop that explores a very pleasant ravine, so turn right to begin the Buckeye Valley Loop. The Buckeye Valley Loop climbs gradually along the small but steep-sided creek. I saw many deer prints in the soft dirt along this creek, and further up the ravine I saw some of the deer that made these prints, including a doe and two fawns.
|Hiking up Buckeye Valley|
Ignore the steep Wren Run Trail that exits left, and at 0.5 miles reach post #10, which marks the intersection that forms the loop portion of the Buckeye Valley Loop. To make the climbing easier, this description continues straight and uses the trail going right as its return route, thus hiking the loop clockwise. The gradual climb up the ravine continues, and the Center’s northwest boundary comes close on the left. At 0.9 miles, the trail curves right for the final short but steep climb out of the ravine. Now on a drier ridgetop course, the land drops off steeply to the left as you head out a narrow finger ridge. Hickory, oak, and maple trees dominate this ridge. 1.2 miles into the hike, you reach a ravine overlook where the trail switches back to the right. A primitive but effective wooden staircase is descended just before the loop is closed. Turn left to head back to the Trillium Valley Trail, then turn right to continue the Trillium Valley Trail.
|Wooden staircase at end of Buckeye Valley Loop|
Soon you reach post #8 and the start of the Swamp Boardwalk, which exits right. The Swamp Boardwalk offers a short 0.5 mile loop on wooden boardwalk through a wetland, but recent rains had the boardwalk underwater on my visit. Thus, I continued straight to reach post #7 and a major trail intersection with options going left and right. The option going right is the 0.8 mile Stillwater Loop that traverses bottomland forest along its namesake river, but it like the Swamp Boardwalk was underwater. Therefore, my only option was to turn left and begin the Hickory Ridge Trail. The trail climbs moderately to reach post #6, which marks the intersection that forms the Hickory Ridge Trail’s loop. This hike turns right to start hiking the loop counterclockwise. A little more climbing brings you to the edge of the Stillwater River valley, which drops to your right. The elevation change puts the treetops from the valley at eyelevel, thus making this trail an excellent venue for bird watching.
|Stillwater River valley overlook|
Ignore a short-cut trail that exits left. Reach an overlook of the Stillwater River valley at 1.9 miles. Trees block any view of the river, but a bench makes a good place to rest and observe birds and wildlife. Next the trail briefly joins what appears to be an old road before reaching post #1, where you need to turn left to continue the Hickory Ridge Trail’s loop.
Pass two more numbered trail intersections to reach a small prairie and post #5. Turn right at post #5 to begin the Pond Trail, the final leg of this hike. The short Pond Trail passes two ponds: Catface Pond and Cattail Pond. Both ponds featured a lot of algae, but Cattail Pond also contained a large number of bullfrogs that were sounding off on my visit. The Interpretive Building parking lot lies just past Cattail Pond.
Before you leave, there is one other place near the Interpretive Building that is worth a visit. Just left (south) of the Interpretive Building stands the Iddings Log House. Built by Benjamin Iddings in 1804, the Iddings Log House is the oldest structure on its original site in Miami County. The log house adds an historical gem to the natural treasures you have already seen at Brukner Nature Center.