Thursday, January 4, 2018

Great Miami River Recreation Trail: First Steps


Stretching 75 miles through southwestern Ohio, the Great Miami River Recreation Trail offers outdoor recreation opportunities for trail users of all abilities. The trail extends from Fairfield through Hamilton and Dayton north to Piqua, paralleling its namesake river and Interstate 75. There are two gaps in the trail in Butler County, but plenty of enjoyment can be had while waiting for the final connections to be made.

For our first posts of 2018, we'll spotlight the GMRRT near Hamilton. With multiple trailheads and inviting parklands adjacent to the trail, everyone can find a great outdoor experience along the banks of the Great Miami River.


Our first trip on the Great Miami River Recreation Trail steps off from the trail’s current southern terminus in Fairfield’s Waterworks Park and heads north to Joyce Park in Hamilton.

Your walk begins at the northwest corner of the large parking lot at Waterworks Park. The trailhead is not well marked; the paved path begins between the Little League fields and the water treatment plant. A seasonal restroom building is located where the trail meets the parking lot. A nearby concession stand also offers restrooms, although availability may be limited to game days.

Waterworks Park spur trail on a sunny winter's day
Passing a statue of hometown hero Joe Nuxhall, the GMRRT bends northward to cross an arched pedestrian bridge into the City of Fairfield’s wellfield. The trail loops around the south and west edges of this open area. Although planted evergreens offer the promise of shade a decade from now, the pathway can be sunny and hot in the summer, blustery in winter.

A number of unpaved roads cross throughout the wellfield and provide access not only to the utility structures, but also to butterflies and blooms. This field is a riot of wildflower color in the summer and fall - I especially enjoy the persimmon-colored poppies in late autumn.

As you approach the northwest corner of the field, a paved spur trail branches off to your right. This short trail connects to another parking area accessed from Groh Lane and serving the Miracle League baseball fields and a youth football practice complex. You can cut across on the spur trail and return to Waterworks Park along the lightly-used road for a short loop walk of 1.6 miles.

Continuing northward on the main trail, a small rise marks the entrance to the riverside woods. The trail here is well-shaded and pleasant to traverse in any season, although the potential for shallow flooding of the trail does exist after a heavy rain. Glimpses of the Great Miami River and wetland areas can be seen through the trees to your left.

The path to the river's edge in Fairfield
Ahead, just past the treatment plant outfall, a well-worn dirt trail leads off toward the river. Take a few moments to detour off the main trail and across to a rocky riverside beach with long views up and down the Great Miami River. The river level is typically low enough to allow you to venture safely out onto the cobbles and explore. Be warned, however, that the water level may be high enough at times to completely obscure the rocks - use sound judgment when recreating near any river.

Returning to the paved trail, turn left to continue northward. The remainder of this section varies little - a reasonably wide paved path through mature woods along the east bank of the Great Miami River. The trail is flat, but has enough gentle turns to break up long sightlines when the trees are in leaf, providing a surprising sense of isolation.


A mile after entering the woods, you will arrive at the Joyce Park trailhead, located on the border between Fairfield and Hamilton. Water is available here, while toilet facilities are a short walk east. From this point, you can continue north along the GMRRT toward downtown Hamilton, or walk through the parking area to a paved path along the north side of the park drive. This second alternative will lead you past a skate park, water skiing and wakeboard facility, soccer fields, and playgrounds, ultimately ending near the intersection of River Road and Freeman Avenue in a residential area of Fairfield.

A rocky beach on the Great Miami River
The one-way distance from Waterworks Park to the Joyce Park trailhead is 1.75 miles; the eastward extension to River Road and Freeman Avenue adds another mile (again, one-way).

In our next installment, we’ll continue north along the Great Miami River, past the wonderful Riverside Natural Area to the doorstep of Miami University Hamilton. Until then, ramble on!


Trail Access:

Waterworks Park - 5133 Groh Lane, Fairfield, Ohio 45014

From I-275, take exit 36 (US 127) and follow Hamilton Avenue north for three miles. In downtown Fairfield (Village Green), turn left onto Nilles Road, which becomes River Road after a half-mile. Continue straight (west) for another mile to an unsignalized intersection with Chateau Way and Groh Lane. Turn right onto Groh Lane; Waterworks Park is ahead on your left. Park in the second (larger) parking lot for trail access.

Fairfield Youth Football Fields - 4875 Groh Lane, Fairfield, Ohio 45014

A secondary access to the Great Miami River Trail is located farther north along Groh Lane. Follow the road until it bends to the left, then use the parking lot on your left for trail access.

Joyce Park - 25 Joe Nuxhall Boulevard, Fairfield, Ohio 45014

From I-275, take exit 36 (US 127) and follow Hamilton Avenue north. In four miles, turn left onto Symmes Road. After a half-mile, turn right at the light onto River Road. At the next light, turn left onto Joe Nuxhall Way and enter Joyce Park (do not turn onto Joyce Park Drive!). Continue straight ahead for about a mile (past the skate park) for parking and trail access near the baseball fields.

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