Ault Park: Ridge and Tree Trail
Key at-a-Glance Information
Length: 2.76 miles
Configuration: Two loops
Trail surface: Gravel and soil
Hiking time: 22.5 hours
Driving distance: 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati
Access: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Maps: USGS Cincinnati East; Cincinnati Parks Ault Park Map
Wheelchair accessible: No
Facilities: Picnic areas
For more information: Cincinnati Park’s visitor center, (513) 352-4080 or cincinnati-oh.gov/parks
Special comments: Ault Park offers a variety of events throughout the year. Visit the Web site to see what events you might like to attend
GPS Trailhead Coordinates (WGS84)
UTM Zone 16S
North 39° 08’ 3.41”
West 84° 24’ 42.75”
Located on Cincinnati's lower east side, Ault Park offers a variety events and festivities throughout the year, including a Fourth of July celebration. Several hiking trails in this urban park make it easy to accidentally take a side trail.
From Interstate 71, take exit 6/Smith Road (OH 561)/Edwards Road exit. Go 0.1 mile and turn right on Edmundson Road, then after 0.2 miles turn right onto Edward Road. Drive 0.6 miles, then turn left on Erie Avenue. After 0.9 miles, turn right onto Delta Avenue. In 0.1 mile, turn left onto Observatory Avenue and follow it 0.6 miles to Ault Park.
Ault Park, the fourth largest park in Cincinnati, was named after Ida May and Levi Addison Ault, who were active in the development of Cincinnati parks. In 1911, the Aults began giving land to Ault Park, donating a significant amount of the 223 acres that make up the park today. Observatory Road ends at Ault Park. Follow the curb around the observatory and park in the lot on the north side of the formal garden and pavilion area.
Look to your left for a small picnic area. The trail entrance is off to the right of the picnic area. The series of trails covered in this hike will take you through a good portion of the park’s 223 acres.
Once you enter the woods, the trail leads downhill. At 0.16 miles you’ll descend a series of large, stone steps that take you farther into the valley of sugar maple, American beech, white oaks, and Ohio buckeye trees. Within 0.2 miles, you will encounter a series of spur trails and be able to see several footbridges. Keep to your left and don’t leave the trail that you're on.
The trail intersects with the T Trail and a footbridge at 0.25 miles. Stay on the trail and take the stone steps down to a small bridge at 0.27 miles. Cross the bridgeand turn to your right to follow the gravel path through this lower area. There's a small creek to your right. This portion the trail is completely shaded by the dense canopy.
Cross another footbridge at 0.51 miles. You’ll come to another trail intersection at 0.56 miles; continue on the gravel and stone trail that you have been on.
At 0.69 miles, the trail joins with the Ridge Trail, which is marked with red paint. Take the Ridge Trail by heading to your left and uphill before you get to the railroad overpass.
The narrow, single-person path leads uphill. As you're walking up the ridge, be sure to look to your right and into the valley area. Multiple trails intersect with the trail that you're on, so be careful to stay on this main trail or you’ll wind up getting turned around.
The Ridge Trail intersects with the Orange Trail at 0.83 miles. At 1.1 miles, you'll encounter a tree that measures 17 feet in circumference. I won’t identify it for you, but if you're unable to figure it out, walk a little farther. A sign marker at 1.24 miles, in the open area near Observatory Road, will tell you.
Follow the trail around and look for the red post marking the Ridge Trail. Here, you’ll re-enter the forest. A bench at 1.33 miles provides a nice, shaded place to rest. The Ridge Trail and Valley Trail intersect at 1.36 miles. Stay on the trail to your left, then at 1.5 miles, take the steps down.
When you are in the valley again, follow the gravel path to your left, then turn right and take the footbridge over the creek. Turn left onto the T/Tree Trail at 1.69 miles. You'll immediately cross another footbridge. The trail meanders through the woods and crosses several footbridges. As you're walking along this lower portion of the trail in the springtime the edges of the trail are lined with trilliums and spring beauties. You’ll begin to head uphill and out of the valley at about 2.0 miles; at 2.12 miles, take the trail to your right and continue uphill.
You’ll notice a lot of trail erosion at about 2.3 miles, so watch your footing as you step over the top of the rocks and exposed roots. Soon (at 2.32 miles), you’ll come to a footbridge. Immediately after you cross, you’ll see an enormous red oak tree on the left side of the trail. Continue uphill and the trail will exit the woods at about 2.5 miles. Take the road to your right and walk along the road (watch for traffic). When the pavilion area sidewalk starts, cross the road to your left, and follow the sidewalk to the garden area entrance to the left.
To your left is the Ault Park Pavilion. This 1920s structure fell into disrepair with the passage of time, but the Ault Park Advisory Council and other civic groups carefully restored it to its previous grandeur. The Ohio Historical Society recognized the accomplishment in 1992.
The formal garden area in front of the pavilion is maintained by the Adopt-A-Plot volunteer gardening program. At the apex of the formal garden you’ll find a trellis area with benches. This is a very nice place to rest and watch for the Cooper’s hawks that use the open area of the formal garden for hunting small birds and mammals.
When you're done enjoying the unique plantings of the formal garden, head north and follow the sidewalk to your vehicle.
Want to walk some more? You’ll find several hikes nearby, including the hills of California Woods and Eden Park (home to the Cincinnati Art Museum and nationally recognized Krohn Conservatory). Shopping opportunities abound in the unique Hyde Park area.