Trails at Wahkeena Nature Preserve
Wahkeena is comprised of 150 acres of forested hills in southern Fairfield County. There are three parcels of land that make up the 150 acres with 94 acres open to the public for hiking, bird watching, nature photography, and environmental education. For those of you who like to hike with your four-legged friends, we’re sorry to say that we do not allow pets at Wahkeena. There are several nice places nearby that do allow pets: Alley Park near Lancaster, the Hocking Hills State Parks, and Clear Creek Metro Park to the south has a one mile pet trail.
Our trail system is comprised of two self-guided interpretive trails, a smaller loop trail that connects to the interpretive trail and a floating boardwalk loop which winds through the wetland area. Our trails are what are called “rugged and unimproved”. This means that they are paths though the woods. They are not paved nor do they have wood chips or anything similar. Fortunately, due to the sandy nature of the soil, the trails are rarely muddy.
Our two self-guided interpretive trails have lettered and numbered posts which when combined with the seasonal trail guide, will give you a little tidbit of natural history for that spot. In the spring it may be about a wildflower and the summer and fall trail guides each have unique surprises as well.
The first of these interpretive trails is the Shelter Trail. It is a half mile loop that takes you from the two original farm buildings past the native rhododendron and into the woods. This trail is fairly level with steps to aid you in a couple of slight elevation changes. As you continue down this trail you’ll find yourself under cool shady Hemlock trees, flanked by young Beech trees, and in a grove of towering white pines planted by Carmen Warner. After stopping to check out the big Yellow Buckeye tree in the middle of the Old Garden, you can take a quick detour on the Pond Loop. Once back on the Shelter Trail, the last interpretive stop is at the Quiet Area. Two captive Birds of Prey can be found here and your trail guide will give you more information.
The other interpretive trail is the Casa Burro. This one mile loop includes part of the Shelter trail. The Casa Burro trail is named for the small cabin that housed Carmen Warner’s pet Burros. This trail starts by taking you past a sandstone cliff that was quarried for the foundation of the farm house now the Nature Center (for more info on the progression of farm house to Nature Center, check out the history exhibits inside the Nature Center). Taking you along the edge of a forest of white pines the trail then begins it’s ascent to the top of the ridge. Don’t worry, there are some nice benches at the top so you can sit and catch your breath! Descending back down from the ridge you will enter into a Tulip tree/Black Birch dominated forest. Spring wildflowers abound here in the spring. After curving around through a tunnel of Spicebush, the trail will lead you through mature deciduous forest before meeting up with the Shelter Trail.
The Boardwalk Trail seems to be the most popular, perhaps because it can be seen from the parking lot. This short loop through the wetland is packed with neat things to see. Depending on the season and time of day, you might sneak up on a muskrat, observe butterflies at the buttonbush, see a painted turtle basking in the sun, or watch tons of colorful dragonflies racing around. At the start of the boardwalk is the wet meadow. This area is planted with native grasses, sedges, and wildflowers that like a moist sunny habitat. The end of July through the beginning of September is the peak bloom time for the meadow.