About this Itinerary
In the heart of Ohio’s Miami Valley lies the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a 78-mile paved path linking Newtown to Springfield while passing through a dozen small towns, beautiful countryside and Southwestern Ohio’s Little Miami Scenic Park. The highlights of this trail include access to John Bryan and Caesar Creek State Parks as well as the Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve. The Little Miami Scenic Trail is generally described as having a southern and northern section with distinct personalities that change as the trail shifts from meandering alongside the Little Miami River (a designated federal and state scenic river) to following the rail corridor of the old Little Miami Railroad.
The Little Miami Scenic Trail (LMST) is part of a larger 330-mile network of paved, off-road trails. The hub of this network is in Xenia, where four trails radiate out like sunbeams, giving this town a reputation as the crossroads of Ohio trails. Those interested in a shorter trip can make Xenia or nearby Yellow Springs home-base to explore day rides beginning at the Xenia Station.
We offer an itinerary for a three-day, round-trip ride of the entire length of the LMST trail—beginning and ending in Newtown, near Cincinnati —with plenty of time to stop and enjoy the attractions along the way. Long-distance cyclists may want to take in the Little Miami in one fell swoop but should be forewarned that the trail is enjoyed by a variety of users, including equestrian riders, photographers and walkers; it is not, therefore, an appropriate trail for very fast riding and it can be particularly congested on weekends or during holidays.
Some trip-planning details: the Miami Valley Bike Trails’ website is chock-full of helping information about the trail, including trail closure and maintenance updates. Air travelers can fly through Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, 13 miles south of downtown Cincinnati, or Dayton International Airport, 26 miles west of Springfield. Wheel Fun Rentals and Cincinnati Bike Center in Cincinnati will get you set-up with rental bikes and gear for the adventure. Finally, when you are on the trail, note that the mile markers indicate distance from Xenia (the official start of the trail).
One of the advantages of beginning the Little Miami Scenic Trail from Newtown is that the trailhead is just minutes away from downtown Cincinnati where one could spend countless hours enjoying any number of the city’s myriad offerings, from its Smale Riverfront Park or the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Once you choose how you want to spend your time, finding a hotel and restaurant will be a piece of cake as there are many located near all the major attractions and neighborhoods. If you prefer to be closer to the Little Miami trailhead (11.5 miles east of Cincinnati), consider staying overnight in Mariemont, a delightful village about 2.5 miles from Newtown that is itself a National Historic Landmark. Check-in at the Mariemont Inn and consider your evening’s options: the Mariemont Theatre, Dilly’s Café, Quarter Bistro and Graeter’s Ice Cream are all a stone’s throw away. Stroll and enjoy the village’s parks and Tudor-style buildings while reminding yourself that you are in Ohio, not in a quaint English village.
Day 1: Newtown–Xenia (55 miles)
After a good breakfast at the Mariemont Inn’s National Exemplar Restaurant, follow the now familiar Wooster Pike/Highway 50 east toward Terrace Park to the well-marked trailhead at Avoca Park. There is a Kroger’s Market en route if you need to stock up on water and snack supplies. The scenic southern section of the LMST runs along the Little Miami River and through a wooded corridor much of the way. The shaded trail makes summer riding pleasant. There is a gentle climb to the trail heading north, so if you notice it, you can anticipate an easier return ride. Keep a look-out for remains of old grist and textile mills that once lined this river corridor.
Be prepared for numerous road crossings and some suburban interface on your way north to Loveland. Leaving Terrace Park, a bridge takes you over US 50 and you skirt around the edge of Milford to follow the meandering river along its western banks. Soon after, you pass through Camp Dennison, once the site of a military base during the American Civil War. The Grand Valley Preserve, a large reclamation project, is to the east of the trail and Highway 126; birders may want to have binoculars handy for a chance encounter with the birds and waterfowl that now make the lake area their home. Just north of here a lovely 2,500-foot-long bridge carries you across to the eastern side of the river. You have several road crossings as you enter the greater Loveland area, one of which takes you a half mile off the trail to the Kelley Nature Preserve, a beautiful place to view the river, watch for wildlife and enjoy summer-time meadows full of wild flowers (soon after crossing the river, take a left on Perry Lane and right on Glendale Milford Rd.).
Loveland (mile 13) is worth a stop even though it is still early on in your ride. The quaint older section of town, "Old Loveland," is jam-packed with stores and cafes and usually full of bustle and plenty of fellow cyclists. If your bike needs servicing, go to Montgomery Cyclery on Karl Brown Way (take a left on W. Loveland Avenue for one block to Karl Brown Way). Down a block is Loveland Canoe & Kayak, which offers boat rentals and river trip excursions. The trail is busy here, and traffic remains constant all the way to the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, though you won’t encounter much off-trail traffic. An occasional home or cornfield dots the otherwise wooded landscape.
In the quiet stretches, let your imagination wander to a time when the Little Miami River Valley was home to early mound-building cultures. It is believed that the Adena group may have been here as early as 1000 BC, followed by the Hopewell and Fort Ancient peoples. Many mounds still dot the landscape today, such as the Landen Mounds (not open to the public) which are west of the river as you pass under State Route 3. In another three miles, you will be opposite the river from King Mills. Here the historic ammunitions complex of Peters Cartridge Company, which began making cannonballs and bullets for the Union Army in the 1860s, overlooks the bike trail.
Following the easterly curve of the river, the trail takes you toward South Lebanon (mile 26). About half-way there, look for the Lebanon Countryside Trail which heads eight miles north to Lebanon (LC trail-users cross the river on an old railroad bridge). Here the Little Miami Railroad once joined with the Middletown and Cincinnati Railroad. Near the town of Morrow (mile 27), with its railroad depot and an ancient (but safe) iron trestle, the trail congestion ebbs. There is a lot of ground to cover between Morrow and Xenia, but you might be tempted to stop for a taste of local libations at The Valley Vineyards Winery and Brewery, about a half mile off the trail before you reach Morrow (take a right on Stubbs Mill Road). Downtown you’ll find Little Miranda’s Ice Cream Shop that serves up sandwiches and wraps as well as ice cream and gelato. Fuel up your energy reserve as you won’t want to miss Fort Ancient State Memorial, home to a large museum and 3.5 miles of mounds built by the Fort Ancient tribe. The park entrance is 5.5 miles from Morrow (ride a half mile off-trail east on Highway 350).
Beyond Fort Ancient, the pathway runs under the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, a twin-deck, arch-truss bridge looming 239 feet above the river. Farther north is Oregonia (mile 34) and the Little River Café, conveniently located next to the trail with sandwiches, pizza and beer on offer and outdoor seating and occasional live music to boot (open for dinner hours Tuesday through Sunday, as well as lunch hours on the weekend). In another eight miles, at the trailhead in Corwin, there are water fountains and restrooms. Stop and recharge, particularly if you are considering a side-trip to Caesar Creek State Park to access more than 70 miles of great hiking and bridle trails as well as canoe rentals and campgrounds. The park is 3.5 miles west of the Corwin trailhead (take a right on Corwin Avenue and a left on Maple Street). Don’t forget that if your energy is lagging you can wait and take this in on your return trip.
In the remaining 14 miles to Xenia, more and more farmland flanks the trail. You ride through the Spring Valley Wilderness Area and the town of Spring Valley (mile 48). If you didn’t stop for ice cream earlier and need a pick-me-up, try one or two (or three?) scoops of ice cream at the Two Scoops Ice Cream Parlor on Spring Valley’s Main Street.
As you enter Xenia, you come to Xenia Station Park, where the LMST meets with the Xenia-Jamestown Connector, Prairie Grass and Creekside Trails. Here the Xenia Station, built on the former site of the Baltimore & Ohio freight yards as a replica of the original 1880s Xenia Railroad Station, greets you. There are restroom facilities, a railroad museum and an original train caboose on display. The trail then crosses and runs alongside Detroit Street. Take a right on E. 2nd Street to get to Victoria’s B&B, an inn built in 1881 by a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. You can rent a room or the whole house. Another option is the Ramada Inn; stay on Detroit Street for another block then travel west on Main Street for three blocks. Those who are set-up for camping can find primitive camping sites, sponsored by Greene County Parks and Trails, at Old Town Reserve, 2.8 miles north of Xenia right along the Little Miami Scenic Trail.
Xenia, besides its renowned as the “Bike Capital of the Midwest,” has an interesting historical legacy which is displayed by the Greene County Historical Society on markers that you can see along the trail and in the town; the society’s visitor’s center is on W. Church Street. Xenia was founded the year Ohio was admitted into the Union, 1803, on the homeland of the Shawnee Nation (their tribal village was just north at Old Town). Xenia means “hospitality” in Greek and apparently the early settlers voted that this name accurately represented their growing, friendly community.
After the Little Miami Railroad arrived in 1845, things changed rapidly for this small town; Xenia became connected to markets in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, and trains began shuttling Civil War recruits, ammunition, farm goods and passengers. Even Abraham Lincoln made a brief appearance here as his inaugural train traveled from Cincinnati to Columbus in 1861. On a map, Xenia looked like the hub of a great bicycle wheel with rail spokes shooting out in from almost every direction that today have become paved, multi-use recreational trails. Come to Xenia during September if you can to celebrate this amazing rail-to-trail effort as the town honors this heritage during the annual Xenia Community Festival.
Day 2: Xenia-Springfield and back to Xenia (38 miles)
The northern segment of the Little Miami Scenic Trail has a more urban feel to it as hardwood forests give way to neighborhoods and farmland, though opportunities to enjoy parks and nature reserves are still plentiful, particularly in the 10.25-mile journey between Xenia Station and Yellow Springs. The trail in Xenia begins to see more traffic but remains wide to avoid overcrowding. Heading out of town, Shawnee Park provides a water fountain, playgrounds, benches and restrooms. Old Town Reserve, a couple miles farther, also has water and a portable restroom as well as a historical marker denoting the birthplace of Tecumseh, the great Native American leader of the Shawnee Tribe.
About five miles north of Xenia, keep an eye out for remains of another wartime relic, the old Goes Station gunpowder factory (thankfully today you don’t have to worry about unexpected explosions). There is also another historical marker that tells about American abolitionist Moncure Daniel Conway, who briefly spent time in the Cincinnati area. You know you are nearing Yellow Springs (mile 65) when the forests of Glen Helen Nature Preserve line the eastern edge of the trail.
In downtown Yellow Springs, before crossing US 68, notice two converted train cabooses functioning as storefronts; north of the highway, Yellow Springs Railroad Station now houses the chamber of commerce. Plan on spending time in this happening town (many LMST users turn around in Yellow Springs or opt to stay overnight here rather than in Xenia). For one thing, Yellow Springs has a thriving arts community and the public work of local sculptors, muralists, tile makers, potters and more can be seen around the village and even along the trail. The chamber offers a historical walking (or cycling) tour and there are plenty of shops and galleries to explore. When ready for food and refreshments, there is no shortage of options, whether you are in the mood for coffee, baked goods, lunch or spirits. Keep in mind, however, that the popular Young’s Jersey Dairy is just one mile north of town (Springfield-Xenia Road) and a fun place to stop for homemade ice cream. Also, the trail passes right by the Yellow Springs Brewery, which has a tasting room and deck overlooking the trail (and mobile food trucks are there on the weekend).
If you are missing the Little Miami River, consider a 3.5-mile detour to the beautiful John Bryan State Park where the Little Miami has carved an impressive limestone gorge. According to the park’s website, more than 100 different trees and shrubs and 340 species of wildflowers grow here. Off Xenia Avenue, take Highway 343 east to Highway 370 south.
In the seven miles between Yellow Springs and the northern trail terminus you can anticipate street crossings and some road riding as you near Springfield, so take your time and watch for traffic. After you cross Possum Road, the trail curves to the left and turns north next to Springfield-Xenia Road. The road crossing for southbound trail travelers is unmarked. Bike lanes on the road start just across Leffel Lane, though the official bike lanes start at the Springfield city limit. After the bike lanes take you right on John Street, cross the street and pick up the rail-trail again. At Johnny Lytle Avenue, turn right onto a bike route. Continue traveling east to South Plum Street. At this point, go north until you get to Fair Street then turn left. Shortly turn right and go back to the trail. Pass through several underpasses to the corner of Center and Jefferson streets. Here the trail goes north to downtown Springfield's Heritage Center, which houses a library, museum store and the Springfield Arts Society. The Heritage Center marks the end of the Little Miami Scenic Trail and the beginning of the Simon Kenton Trail which continues north 18 miles to Urbana.
With so many miles under your belt, get off the bike for a while and feel your feet on the ground again. Springfield’s Museum of Art is a few blocks north in Cliff Park and the Westcott House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only prairie-style home in Ohio, is 1.5 miles east of the Heritage Center and open for public tours. In between, you might find yourself celebrating the completion of the Little Miami over lunch at the Seasons Bistro and Grille. Take your time to explore Springfield and leisurely return to Yellow Springs or Xenia for the evening to rest up and prepare for the final leg of your journey, your return to Newtown on day 3.
Day 3: Xenia–Newtown (55 miles)
Return the same way you came…happy last day!