Trails: Garden and Wetland Loops
Hike Location: Glenwood Gardens County ParkGeographic Location: Woodlawn, OH (39.25755, -84.47172)Length: 2.8 milesDifficulty: 2/10 (Easy)Last Hiked: June 2019Overview: A semiloop through wet forest and prairie.Park Information: https://www.greatparks.org/parks/glenwood-gardensHike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=754838Photo Highlight:
Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Cincinnati, take I-75 to Glendale-Milford Road (exit 14). Exit and go west on Glendale-Milford Rd. Drive Glendale-Milford Rd. west 1.8 miles to SR 4. Continue straight through the SR 4 traffic light, then angle left to enter Glenwood Gardens. Park in the main and only parking lot.
The hike: Consisting of 335 acres of former farmland near the border of Glendale and Woodlawn, Glenwood Gardens is the newest park in the Great Parks of Hamilton County (formerly known as the Hamilton County Park District). The park was established in 1993 when the Burchenal family donated their farm to the Park District, but it did not open to the public until 2001. I lived in Cincinnati for the first 28 years of my life, and when I moved I had hiked every trail in the Hamilton County Park District that existed at that time. I returned 14 years later to hike these new trails, and I found Glenwood Gardens to be an excellent addition to the Great Parks of Hamilton County. Nature takes center stage at Glenwood Gardens, as the park features only some formal gardens for amenities. The Cotswold Visitor Centre is the old Burchenal residence, and the historic stone building is worth a stop if it is open on your visit. Unfortunately, the Visitor Centre was closed when I came here on a humid Monday morning in late June. The Gardens feature two interconnecting loop trails, the asphalt Garden Loop and the gravel Wetlands Loop. This hike uses both of these loops to form a 2.8 mile grand tour of the gardens.

View from Cotswold Overlook

Walk through the information kiosk beside the Visitor Centre to reach the Cotswold Overlook, a northwest-facing viewpoint that provides a nice overview of the park’s meadows and woodlands. Next you pass the Legacy Garden, a small formal garden that featured many colorful flowering plants on my visit. Past the Legacy Garden, the asphalt trail descends on a gradual grade to reach the intersection that forms the Garden Loop. Turn right to start hiking the Garden Loop counterclockwise. The Garden Loop heads west through sunny prairie, and it features distance marker plaques embedded in the pavement every 0.1 miles. Just past the 0.3 mile marker, the Wetland Loop exits right. To see all the gardens have to offer, turn right to start the Wetland Loop.

Hiking the Wetland Loop

The asphalt turns to gravel just before a side trail exits right to reach the park’s service road, which sits just a couple hundred feet to the right. At 0.9 miles, the trail curves left as it crosses the West Fork of Mill Creek on a nice footbridge. Sunny prairie has now been replaced by wet lowland forest, which is dominated by sycamore and basswood trees.

West Fork of Mill Creek

Next comes a gradual climb, and at 1.2 miles you reach another trail intersection. The Wetland “Loop” is actually a figure-eight route that consists of two loops, and this intersection is the pinch of the figure-eight. We will return to this intersection and continue straight on the larger lobe of the figure-eight in a few minutes, but first turn right to hike the shorter lobe. When the trail splits a few hundred feet later, turn left to hike the shorter lobe clockwise. An oddly-placed garbage can sits at this intersection. The gradual climb continues as you enter young forest with a dense understory and pass a small pond. 1.5 miles into the hike, you reach the highest point in Glenwood Gardens and another overlook. This viewpoint looks southwest into Trillium Trails Wildflower Preserve, a forested tract of land that has been under public stewardship for much longer than Glenwood Gardens. A bench here provides a nice place to sit and rest near the midpoint of this hike.

Looking into Trillium Trails

Past the bench, a gradual descent takes you above a larger pond that sits downhill to the left before closing the shorter lobe. Retrace your steps to the longer lobe, then turn right to continue the longer lobe. The gradual descent continues until you reach the lowest point on this hike, where the Wetlands Loop crosses the West Fork of Mill Creek on another excellent footbridge.

Cotswold Visitor Centre

Just after crossing the bridge, you reach the end of the Wetlands Loop at another intersection with the asphalt Garden Loop. Turn right to continue a counterclockwise journey around the Garden Loop. An excellent view of the Cotswold Visitor Centre appears uphill and to the right as you round the final curve of the Garden Loop. After closing the Garden Loop at 2.6 miles, turn right and retrace your steps uphill to reach the parking lot and complete the hike.