All over Hamilton County, hidden nature gems are waiting for you to explore. Massive parks, lakes, and nature preserves provide green sanctuary from suburban life. Most of the parks offer boring general hiking trails as you would find in any park, but there is a little-mentioned additive at Shawnee Lookout Park that I find very captivating. If you’re at all like me, you’re already intrigued just by the implication of the park’s name.
I first saw the directional signs while driving by on my way to other destinations in Indiana. One sunny day, I finally made a point of driving out there specifically to find out what this park was really about. The drive from the main road (Rt. 50/ River Road) to the park takes you through the scenery of the Great Miami River Valley—already I felt miles away from suburbia.
All Hamilton County Parks have a $2/day entry fee per vehicle (or $5 for a yearly pass). I am always weary of park entry fees unless I know the park is worth the price, but I had a curiosity that needed satisfying! I paid, drove up a hill, and was surprised to see a very hilly golf course with a club house/park visitor center. Inside the visitor center, I was further surprised to see a mini history museum detailing archaeology digs conducted in the park during the 1970s.
A drive throughout the park with stops in each parking lot will explain and sometimes even show you the park’s long and rich Indian history and the way of life of the area’s early pioneers. An old schoolhouse and one-man handmade log cabin feature costumed volunteers who act out early pioneer life (open holidays and Sundays, May through September). Still-intact remains and visual clues of Indian burial mounds, a fort, and living areas are scattered throughout the park. A walk along the last hiking trail confirmed my initial intrigue—the Shawnee lookout is worthy of an oil painting, it’s a truly breathtaking view of the Ohio River.
Aside from its history, Shawnee Lookout Park also features a boat-launch ramp into the Great Miami River to the Ohio River (fishing allowed), a nine-hole hilly golf course, a visitors center with snacks, a golf pro shop, restrooms, archaeological exhibits, and about 10 miles of moderately difficult hiking trails. Views from the three hiking trails include wetlands, rivers, valleys, and forests. Some trail lookouts have benches to rest and enjoy the views. Several picnic areas, shelters, and play areas are perfect for family cookouts.
Shawnee Lookout is about 30 minutes away from downtown Cincinnati. To get here, just take Rt. 50 W. (River Road) from downtown until you see the brown park signs for Shawnee Lookout. If you miss the first sign, don't worry—there is a second sign about a mile down the road.
January 20, 2005
From journal Cincinnati: An Insider/Outsider's Perspective