Wahkeena Nature Preserve in Fairfield County Ohio is truly a hidden gem to be discovered in Ohio!
There are a lot of amazing state parks and nature preserves near Columbus, Ohio that get a lot of attention, but one that was flying under my radar was Wahkeena Nature Preserve in Fairfield County.
Don’t sleep on this beautiful park just because it might get overshadowed by it’s more popular neighbors. Wahkeena Nature Preserve is definitely worth a visit!
We visited in on a gorgeous October day when the leaves were at their peak, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. I’m sure those facts are what helps my memory of our exploration of the park hold such a warm and fuzzy feeling!
Okay, now that I’ve talked it up, let’s start out with some basic info on visiting and then we’ll finish up with some of the things you won’t want to miss at Wahkeena Nature Preserve!
Where is Wahkeena Nature Preserve?
Wahekeena Nature Preserve is in Fairfield County, about 40 miles southeast of downtown Columbus. The preserve is just south of Lancaster, Ohio and just a hop, skip and a jump from Clear Creek Metro Park.
What does “Wahkeena” mean?
The word “Wahkeena” means “most beautiful” and comes from the Yakama tribe. I promise, this nature preserve lives up to its name!
Dr. Frank Warner bought the property for his wife as a wedding gift and she (Carmen Hambleton) named it Wahkeena after a waterfall in Oregon. It was Carmen who developed the land, planting over 100,000 trees, establishing the trails and even adding the lake where there was once a cornfield!
Wahkeena Nature Preserve is now a part of Ohio History Connection!
What is there to do at Wahkeena Nature Preserve?
Before you go, take a look at this map of Wahkeena Nature Preserve to get an idea of how things are laid out. When you arrive, you can pick up an updated map at the Nature Center. The maps are updated seasonally to point out relevant features in the park.
From the parking lot, you will head north toward Lake Odonata. The first trail you will come to on your left is the Boardwalk Trail. This was one of my favorite things to do in the park!
There are 4 trails in the park that you can hike. There is also a Nature Center and a lot of wildlife to watch for! Read on for more specific information about things to do at Wahkeena!
Hiking Trails at Wahkeena Nature Preserve
The hiking trails at Wahkeena are short and very family-friendly. All of the trails are 1 mile or less which makes them very easy to do with kids, or even easy to do all of them in one visit!
Make sure to pick up a Trail Guide. As I mentioned above, these guides are updated seasonally and they include various points of interest to look for on the trails! The trails have letters and numbers on them that correspond to features on the map that will give you more information about what you are seeing!
As I mentioned above, the Boardwalk was one of my favorite trails! I love a good boardwalk trail (like the one at Slate Run Metro Park)! This trail is short, only 0.1 miles, so don’t skip it when you enter the park!
2. Shelter Trail
The Shelter Trail is a 0.5 mile hike through the woods. There are several small wooden bridges to go over. My kids liked those and kept count of how many there are (they are numbered)!
On the path (and through other places in the Nature Preserve) there are some great examples of exposed sandstone bedrock that are really beautiful! Other points of interest on the Shelter Trail are the original smokehouse and guest house.
This trail crosses over itself at its furthest end. Keep an eye on the map to make sure you don’t get onto the Casa Burro Trail (unless you want to) and after the crossover, make sure you take the opposite path back!
3. Pond Loop
From the Shelter Trail, you can take a brief detour on to the Pond Loop which is 0.1 mile. This is another short path that you won’t want to miss. Along the way there is a short little path to a bird blind along the lake.
On the Pond Loop, you can see a beaver lodge! The map told us that fall is the best time to see beaver activity. My kids had fun looking for chewed up trees and mud trails that are signs of beavers!
4. Casa Burro
The Casa Burro Trail is the longest trail at Wahkeena Nature Preserve and it’s just 1 mile long. We did not take this trail when we visited due to time constraints, but we hope to come back and do it sometime soon!
Nature Center at Wahkeena Nature Preserve
Make sure to stop in the Nature Center! Some highlights there are the stuffed and mounted bear, a bee hive and other interactive and educational elements for kids! There was a live snake and wildlife watching opportunities! There is also a restroom here if you need one!
To the east of the Nature Center and along Lake Odonata, you will find a two raptors who are housed at the preserve. There is a Red-Shouldered Hawk and an Eastern Screech Owl. These birds were hit by cars and are unable to live in the wild.
What else is there to do near Wahkeena Nature Preserve?
There are a lot of fun things to do in Lancaster, Ohio which is less than 15 minutes from Wahkeena! Some highlights include AHA! A Hands-on Adventure, A Children’s Museum, the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio and the Ohio Glass Museum.
We visited the nature preserve when we were following Pip’s Path Through Lancaster, Ohio, which is a trail inspired by a book by local author Erin M. Burchwell. You can visit the same sites as Pip, a shy squirrel who explores the city!
Wahkeena Nature Preserve is near Clear Creek Metro Park, Rockbridge State Nature Preserve and the entire Hocking Hills region (we love Old Man’s Cave).
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