Hiking Tipp City’s Big Loop
12+ Miles of Hiking Trails, 1 Little Town
DISCLAIMER: “The Big Loop,” as I’ll refer to it in this article, is not an official hiking trail and is not associated with the City of Tipp City or the Miami County Park District. It contains no signage, no designated blazes, and it passes through several undeveloped areas where no clear path is visible. At several points along the route, hikers are required to cross a small stream to continue. In the summer, many of the wooded areas are filled with nettles and pests. After a lot of rain, the trails are very muddy. Sometimes, they’re under water. The point is, “The Big Loop” is more like a rugged hiking adventure than a nature trail. It’s something that you’ll want to be prepared for. Click HERE to see the above area in Google Maps.
Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
By connecting a series of unrelated trails on the east side of Tipp City, and blazing a few new trails of your own, it is possible to hike more than 12 miles through mostly wooded areas along the Great Miami River, without backtracking more than a few hundred feet, and all on public land.
On the second day of spring this year, my children and I hiked this set of trails, which I’ll refer to as the Big Loop. It turned out to be a fun day filled with beautiful scenery, a lot of wildlife sightings, a little adventure and plenty of fresh air.
Located within the flood plain of the Great Miami River, the Big Loop consists mostly of trails in Kyle Park, Lost Creek Prairie Preserve, Honey Creek Preserve and Freeman Prairie, as well as the full length of the Roger Presley Trail and the Col. Rouzer War Horse Trail, and a section of the Great Miami Recreational Trail. Optional side loops include trails in Eichman Prairie and at the Tipp City gravel pit. There are also a few “creative” areas where you’ll need to make up your own path, or follow deer paths. And, just a warning, you will most likely have to cross one or two small streams, depending on how much rain there’s been. The entire loop takes about 5 or 6 hours to hike, depending on how often you stop and whether or not you do the side trails.
There are a few other things to remember when hiking the Big Loop. Most importantly, no dogs are allowed on the horse trails. They can spook the horses and cause injuries to their riders. Secondly, make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks and anything else you might need, as there are few amenities on the trails. Finally, don’t worry too much, but make sure to be aware of ticks. Preferably, even if it’s warm, wear pants with long socks, and check yourself when you get back to your vehicle. Other than that, pick a beautiful sunny day, any time of year, and explore this hidden treasure in Tipp City.
Here’s a look at the hike and what you’ll see, starting at the Col. Rouzer War Horse Trail at Kyle Park. I have tried to place most of the pictures in the order you would see them on the trail...
Kyle Park and
Col. Rouzer War Horse Trail
Kyle Park consists of nearly 300 acres of land and several miles of hiking and bridle trails that pass through lush prairies and along the wooded corridor of the Great Miami River. As stated, bridle trails are off limits to dogs, as well as to mountain bikes.
Starting at the entrance of the Col. Rouzer War Horse Trail (pictured above), the Big Loop makes a beeline to the river by way of a large prairie on your left and an agricultural field on your right. This prairie is one of the most beautiful places in the region in the fall, and the area is loaded with a variety of wildflowers that bloom at different times during the year. The prairie has its own network of trails to explore.
Before reaching the river, hikers will see a sign on their right that reads “Deer Trail.” Take this trail (marked by yellow blazes) south through the woods for about a half-mile. It will dead-end at a clearing in the woods, next to the river. Here, someone has built a bird blind and bird houses to enjoy, as well as a place to hitch up your horse. It’s an ideal place to take a break and enjoy the open view of the river and the peaceful setting.
After this, use the River Trail (named so because it closely follows the river) to hike back to the north, until you reach the State Route 571 Bridge, which is a little over a mile. This is a mostly wooded section of the trail that is bordered by Eichman Prairie.
A Split in the Road &
a Fun Detour to the Gravel Pit
When trail users on horseback reach the State Route 571 Bridge, they are directed to cross the river and enter Honey Creek Preserve on the other side of the water, where the bridle trails continue. Hikers, however, would get very wet doing this.
Instead, continue beneath the bridge, walk through a small patch of woods, and enter the newly created Tipp City Off-Channel Wetland. Although it looks like nothing more than a pond surrounded by dirt now, over time this area will return to its natural state, attracting important flora and fauna.
There are no trails here yet, but you can simply follow the land between the wetlands and the river until you reach the Roger Presley Trail on the other side.
If the path below the bridge is flooded or blocked (see below), simply turn left (west) at the bridge and follow the northern border of Eichman Prairie, which hugs St. Rt. 571, until you reach the Tipp City gravel pit. Eichman Prairie contains its own set of trails that can be explored and that loop back to Kyle Park.
A fun detour can be enjoyed by entering the gravel pit and hiking around the perimeter of several ponds on the property. You’ll use mostly fishing trails that lead past several nice vantage points on the water. It’s an interesting area to explore, and fish.
To return to the Big Loop, safely cross over St. Rt. 571 and enter the Roger Presley Trail.
The Roger Presley Trail
The Roger Presley Trail spans nearly 1.5 miles from the edge of the Tipp City Off-Channel Wetland to the Great Miami Recreational Trail. A garden at the trailhead contains colorful flowers, rock formations and artwork. It changes often.
The Roger Presley Trail is a highlight of the 12-mile Big Loop trek. It follows the Great Miami River through wooded areas and is very well-maintained. Look for Roger’s added touches to the trail, such as stone bridges and walkways, painted rocks and other interesting decorations, some of which could be missed if you weren’t looking closely. You might even see Roger himself (pictured below right with members of the Tipp City Foundation), still trailblazing along the river. (NOTE: These pictures are not in order they appear on the trail)
Over the River, Through the Woods and Across a Creek
From the Roger Presley Trail, turn right (north) on the Great Miami Recreational Trail. After crossing a small bridge on the bike path, you will immediately come to Parkwood Drive. Instead of crossing the road and continuing north on the trail, take the sidewalk to the right (east) and then carefully cross over the Great Miami River on the Tipp-Elizabeth Road Bridge. The entrance to Lost Creek Prairie Preserve is located on the other side of the bridge directly on your right.
Lost Creek Prairie Preserve is a highlight of the Big Loop. Just like the new wetland on St. Rt. 571, the prairie was once a cornfield. However, in the early 2000s, the City of Tipp City planted trees and let the area return to its natural state. After almost 20 years, the cornfield is now a mix of dense prairies and woods, which are growing thicker each year and attracting an abundance of wildlife.
Like other prairies on this hike, Lost Creek Prairie Preserve has several different trails to choose from. However, for the purpose of the Big Loop, follow the wide grassy trail on the southern edge of the park (next to the river) until you reach a 90 degree turn in the trail.
Now comes the tricky part.
At this point, you will need to enter the woods (a small unmarked path is visible) and find a way to cross over Lost Creek. There is no clear or marked path to reach the creek, but the closer you can get to the confluence of Lost Creek and the Great Miami River, the easier it will be to cross the water. This is because further upstream the edges of the creek are fairly steep, while closer to the confluence they’re flat. The creek is also not very wide here.
Luckily, Lost Creek often lives up to its name and is completely dry. Even if there’s been rain, the water is usually only ankle deep (see bottom pictures below). On the day of our hike, we were able to keep completely dry by walking over a tree that had fallen across the water (see bottom right photo). We used it again on our way back.
If you are totally against the idea of crossing a stream, another option exists. The City of Tipp City also owns the land on the east side of Lost Creek. From the Lost Creek Prairie parking lot, cross the bridge on Tipp Elizabeth Road and follow the stream to the woods.
Tipp City’s ‘Back Country’
A large patch of woods owned by the City of Tipp City separates Lost Creek Prairie Preserve from Honey Creek Preserve, which is operated by the Miami County Park District. It is completely undeveloped and contains no trail system.
Luckily, although wooded, there is very little underbrush in the area, making it easy to navigate. On top of this, the local deer population has made several clear paths between the two parks. Simply follow one of them until you reach a wide open space (pictured below this video of the backcountry), which is Honey Creek Preserve.
The Bridle Trails
at Honey Creek Preserve
& an Old Steel Bridge in the Woods
You will know you’ve reached Honey Creek Preserve when you come to a series of tall pylon towers that cross the river at this location.
Just like Lost Creek Prairie Preserve, this part of the county is being allowed to return to its natural state, which now includes a young forest, lush prairies and lots of deer (we counted more than 50 in one small area).
Follow the southern edge of the prairie until you reach a trail in the woods. It’s marked with red ribbons. The trail meanders through the woods and by the river before exiting near the remains of an old steel bridge that crosses over Honey Creek. Do not try to walk or climb on the bridge, as it is not safe and the water below is deep.
In order to get to the other side of Honey Creek, follow the creek north from the bridge until you reach a shallow crossing area. After crossing a small creek, enjoy a one-mile hike around this lesser-known Miami County Park. You’ll pass through a large prairie on the Bergamont Pass trail and a wooded section along Honey Creek on the Honey Creek Trail, both of which make a loop through the eastern section of the park.
Pictured at the bottom, below - watch for these frozen wonderlands in the winter at Honey Creek Preserve.
Back to Tipp City
After finishing the loop at Honey Creek Preserve, cross back over Honey Creek and follow the trail along the northern edge of the park until you reach the Tipp City Back Country. Enter the woods and follow the deer trails back to your crossing point at Lost Creek and then back into Lost Creek Prairie Preserve.
However, this time, take the wooded trails in the preserve (seen below after video) to get back to the bridge on Tipp Elizabeth Road and cross back into Tipp City Park.
To Fossil Beach and the Tipp City Nature Center
After crossing back over the bridge, take a walk north along Wagon Wheel Road in City Park until the road dead-ends into hole #2 of the disc golf course and a wooded area that contains nature trails. The road follows the Great Miami River and is not used very much. The nature trails are part of the disc golf course, so be alert and courteous to players.
Upon entering the woods from Wagon Wheel Road, look for Fossil Beach. There are no signs pointing to it and you have to cross a small side stream to reach it. The cobble beach contains fossilized sea creatures that date back a half-billion years when Ohio was covered by a warm shallow ocean. LEARN MORE ABOUT FOSSIL BEACH
Continue north on the nature trail. Pass two ponds and then come to a clearing where a shelter sits next to the bike path. This is the furthest point north on the Big Loop trail.
The Great Miami
Recreational Trail & Freeman Prairie to
Canal Lock Park + Downtown Tipp City
From the Tipp City Nature Center, follow the Great Miami Recreational Trail south through City Park. If it’s summertime, stop by the Tippecanoe Family Aquatic Center for a treat from their snack bar. It has a window to serve trail users.
When you reach the Roger Presley Trail, enter Freeman Prairie and hike to Canal Lock Park, with a stop at the viewing platform in the middle of the prairie.
Canal Lock Park is located in the historic district, so this is your chance to walk a few blocks into town for a bite to eat or a cold drink before finishing the last leg of the journey. (Click HERE to learn more about what to see in Tipp City)
After visiting town, get back on the Great Miami Recreational Trail at Canal Lock Park and cross over St. Rt. 571 (bottom right image below) where you will enter Kyle Park.
A Long Walk Through Kyle Park
Follow the Great Miami Recreational Trail south in Kyle Park. You’ll first follow a long white fence and then a large pond filled with fish and geese. When you reach the main road in the park, cross the road, exit the path to the left and follow the grassy area along the north side of a stream and past the ball fields on your left until you’re back where you started.