Straight from a Fairy Tale: Mt. Airy Forest

I’ve lived in Cincinnati nearly 30 years (I spent a few years living in Detroit while getting my Master’s degree… don’t do the math!), and, up until last weekend, had never visited Mt. Airy Forest.

What. A. Shame.

Mt. Airy Forest is a true Cincinnati treasure — as well as a shining example of reforestation and parks services. The originally forested land was cleared for agricultural use in the 19th century, and years of poor grazing and improper agricultural practices led to severe erosion and poor soil composition. The barren land was restored to a park in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, in the first urban reforestation project in the U.S.

The park now includes 700 acres of reforested hardwoods, 200 acres of forested evergreens, 269 acres of wetlands, 170 acres of meadows, and a 120-acre arboretum. It’s 1,459 acres of lush, picturesque, from-a-postcard, forest.

Mt. Airy is the largest park in the Cincinnati Parks system, tucked away just minutes from the busyness of 1-75, 1-74 and Colerain Avenue. There are 14 miles of hiking trails, 16 miles of horseback riding trails, a highly sought-after Arboretum, a modern adventure playground, a dog park, disc golf course — and, the pièce de ré·sis·tance: a tree house.

This tree house is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been! It’s 14 feet tall and connected to 12 trees within Mt. Airy Forest. It has whimsical, fairy-tale features, such as a winding (and wheel-chair accessible) ramp, a swirly, shingled roof, and windows with crooked branches as windowpanes.

When you’re in the tree house, you feel like you’re deep in an enchanted forest. So, naturally, my kids wanted to eat lunch there.

Being interested in construction, Julian wanted to examine the tree house from below, so we hiked the trail down and got a good look.

Then, we crossed the road and played at the playground. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from a playground in a park that’s known for its tree house and arboretum — but this playground was really cool!

My kids loved the rope bridge and giant ropes course — plus the many other climb-able features!

Sadly, we ran out of time to visit the Arboretum (Harvey’s afternoon nap called us home) — but I definitely plan on returning to Mt. Airy Forest this fall as the leaves change and this park takes on a hauntingly beautiful quality.

Mt. Airy Forest is located at 5083 Colerain Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45223.

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