Wilderness Trail at The Edge of Appalachia Preserve
in southern Ohio makes for an excellent day hike. It
is a 2.5-mile loop through a wild tract near West
Union, Ohio, and attracts surprisingly few visitors.
The trail was named in 1961 when a hiker described
walking through "a howling wilderness."
UNION, Ohio — The Edge of Appalachia Preserve may be
Ohio’s greatest natural treasure.
16,000-acre private preserve in southern Ohio is known for
its beauty, its wildness and its biodiversity.
preserve stretches 12 miles north from the Ohio River
through Adams County on the east bank of Ohio Brush Creek
and up to six miles east-to-west. It is home to the most
rare and endangered plants in the state.
gets surprisingly few visitors.
preserve, known simply as The Edge, features woodlands,
prairie openings, rocky outcroppings, giant promontories,
clear streams, mountain coves, rocky hollows, cedar glades
official name is the Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of
Appalachia Preserve. It lies 80 miles east of Cincinnati
and 120 miles south of Columbus.
Durrells, both professors at the University of Cincinnati,
led the push to protect the botanical mixing zone that
created the area’s incredible biodiversity. It is home
to more than 1,200 plant species and is known for its
stands of oaks, tulips, American beeches, yellow buckeyes
and sugar maples.
is one of the largest protected landscapes in Ohio, a
partnership between the Nature Conservancy and the
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal.
Edge is not a park. Three trails and a small educational
center are open to the public, but that’s all. There is
a still-developing picnic area with displays off Wagoner
Edge features 30 ecological communities, eight of which
are considered rare, and more than 135 rare plants and
animals. The rarest plant in the preserve may be Canby’s
mountain lover or cliff green, a plant found in only one
other Ohio location. The northern white cedar is also
rare. Its unusual animals include the green salamander and
the Allegheny woodrat, the rarest Ohio mammal.
of the 11 main tracts are listed as National Natural
Landmarks: The Wilderness, Lynx Prairie, Buzzardroost Rock
and Red Rock.
name The Edge comes from the preserve being at the western
end of the Appalachian plateau. My most recent visit was a
chance to again hike the Wilderness Trail, one of the best
day hikes in Ohio.
is a 2.5-mile loop through the deep woods. The trail goes
through cedar glades, along gray limestone cliffs and into
got its name in 1961 when Dr. Edward Thomas of the Ohio
Archaeological and Historical Society participated in a
hike. He later described it in his column in the Columbus
Dispatch as a wild hike through "a howling
wilderness." The name stuck.
yellow-blazed trail opened to the public in 2000. It winds
through the 1,200 acres of the Charles A. Eulett
Wilderness Preserve. Eulett was a popular Adams County
teacher who brought classes to the area and worked with
local landowners to protect it.
mostly woodland trail is lightly traveled; I ran into just
two other hikers. It is not always easy to follow. You
take an old logging road from the early 1900s into the
south-facing forest is chestnut oak, black gum and tulip
trees. The moist north-facing forest is beech, sugar maple
and tulip trees.
trail leaves Saw Mill Branch and rises above Cliff Run. It
is a 60-foot drop to the stream flowing through a deep,
shaded gorge. You will see 500-year-old white cedars along
the cliffs. Boulders have fallen from the cliffs and are
strewn in the bowl-shaped valley.
is a globally rare plant community. The trees moved south
in advance of the last glaciers and adapted to drier
trail moves onto what was once an old wagon road in the
early 1900s. The forest is dominated by two shrubs:
spicebush and paw paws. It then runs northeast along the
base of the dolomite cliffs, where springs emerge. It is a
prime wildflower spot in the spring.
cross a small footbridge and enter a white oak forest.
Follow the trail downhill to Bread Pan Run for views of
Ohio Brush Creek in the distance. Bread Pan Run features
several pretty waterfalls.
trail leaves the run and ascends into a young scrubby
forest of eastern red cedar, Virginia pine and tulip tree.
you enter an impressive forest of sugar maples and
Chinquapin oak growing around fallen boulders from the
cliffs above. Ferns and wildflowers abound.
trail ends at what was once farmer Floyd Shivener’s
cornfield, now a restored prairie.
date, 172 species of birds have been found in The
Wilderness. That includes 107 breeding species plus 11
species of high concern.
get to The Wilderness, head east from West Union on state
Route 125 for 7.2 miles. Turn left on Lynx Road in the
hamlet of Lynx. Turn left on gravel Shivener Road and head
north 0.7 miles. The road ends at the trailhead.
can find the trail in a fence opening about 20 paces from
the parking lot. Head back up the entrance road and look
to your right. You will be hiking the trail clockwise.
Visitors are asked to stay on trails to avoid damaging
can also visit the two other spots at The Edge that are
open to the public: Lynx Prairie and Buzzardroost Rock.
500-acre prairie is known for its cedar glades or eastern
alkaline barrens with its thin, rocky soils. There are
dolomite and shale outcroppings. Three short loop trails
lead through Lynx Prairie, the first tract in The Edge to
be acquired in 1959.
are 10 small short-grass prairies surrounded by forests of
Virginia pines and red cedar. They are mostly flat, narrow
and wet. Each is filled with different plant species.
Prairie is a tribute to Dr. E. Lucy Braun (1889-1971), a
University of Cincinnati botany professor who studied
plants in the area and led the push to preserve what
became The Edge. Braun had studied Adams County for its
rare plants in the 1920s. The Durrells were Braun’s
proteges and fought the fight.
115 prairie patches survive at The Edge. Studies show that
the prairies have shrunk by two thirds since 1938.
trail into Lynx Prairie begins at the rear of a cemetery
behind the East Liberty Community Church. Look in the
cemetery’s southeast corner for a fence opening. It is
at its colorful best from late July through September.
get to Lynx Prairie, take state Route 125 east from West
Union. In the hamlet of Lynx, turn right and head south on
Tulip Road. After 0.3 miles, turn left on Prairie Road
into the church parking lot.
Rock, a one-time Indian lookout, is 75 feet high, topped
with a wood-and-steel observation deck.
rises 500 feet above Ohio Brush Creek and offers some of
the best up-high views in Ohio. You can see five miles
north and south along the creek.
is a three-mile round-trip hike from the trailhead off
Weaver Road off state Route 125 to Buzzardroost Rock.
trail is unmarked but easy to follow. You cross Easter
Run, a small stream. It gets steeper as you climb higher
on the 465-acre tract between West Union and Lynx.
hike will take you through the woods and past shale
barrens and giant boulders that have fallen from the
cliffs above. There is a 50-foot-deep cleft atop the rock
on the ridgetop, where vultures once nested.
Cincinnati museum built the education facility. It is west
of Lynx Prairie on a bluff overlooking Ohio Brush Creek.
more information, contact the Cincinnati Museum Center at
Union Terminal, 513-287-7041,