Day Trip on the Great Miami Recreational Trail
Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
NOTE: This article was written prior to COVID-19.
When cycling the Great Miami Recreational Trail from Tipp City to Piqua, a distance of about 23 miles when starting at Ross Road and ending at Swift Run Lake, there appears to be five distinct sections to the trail, not to mention dozens of things to see and do along the way.
Some of the highlights include numerous relics from Ohio’s canal era, a ton of parks, a variety of scenic views of the Great Miami River, historic buildings and bridges, waterfalls and fountains, museums and historical markers, and deep pockets of wilderness filled with wildlife and wildflowers, among other treasures.
Also, since the trail passes through the hearts of downtown Tipp City, Troy and Piqua, there are plenty of places to stop to eat, rest and sightsee along the way.
With so much variety to be had, riding the entire 23 mile route, or the entire 46-mile roundtrip, can be a very healthy way to have a lot of fun.
Traveling at a fair rate of speed, with plenty of stops and snack breaks along the way, the 23-mile ride takes about four to five hours. The round-trip version takes about seven hours, since there are typically less stops on the way back. Either way, it’s a great experience that can fill a sunny day.
If you do go, the following places can make interesting stops along the way. And take note of how the scenery changes as you move through the different parts of the county on the bike trail. Return in the summer and fall to see even more changes.
Section One – Old Tippecanoe & 4 Parks
Starting at Ross Road, where there is plenty of parking for trail users, and heading north, the Great Miami Recreational Trail first passes through Tipp City, including four parks within the community.
Just south of town, the trail starts in the quiet countryside before reaching Kyle Park, where a giant feeder pond for the old canal attracts a host of wildlife, including blue herons, which are common along the trail.
On the north side of Main Street is Canal Lock Park, where Canal Lock 15 is located, as well as the Tipp Roller Mill, which is one of the oldest buildings in Miami County. A replica canal boat sits behind the building.
This is also a chance to visit the historic district, where breakfast at Sam & Ethels can help jumpstart the day, not to mention plenty of stores to shop at.
Before reaching City Park, the trail follows the levee system built after the Flood of 1913. This is also where you may smell fresh peanuts roasting at Trophy Nut, just up the hill from the trail.
If your timing is right in the summer, the concession stand for the Tippecanoe Family Aquatic Center in City Park serves bike path guests through a special outside window, including great ice cream and soft pretzels. (If you’re doing the roundtrip, this makes a nice reward toward the end). Just after City Park is the Tipp City Nature Center. Before this point, the Great Miami River has been out of view, but it will now play a central role. Look for a bench that overlooks the Great Miami River. In late April, the area near the bench teems over with a carpet of purple and yellow wildflowers, but only for a very short time.
Section Two: The Wilderness to Troy
Certainly one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of Miami County’s trail is the section between the Tipp City Nature Center and Miami Shores Golf Course in Troy, which spans about 3 ½ miles. It’s almost entirely wooded, with a number of interesting things to see and do. This includes Canal Lock 14 (pictured below left) and the foundation of the lockkeeper’s house (both located deep in the woods next to the trail), a bridge that looks down on some really big carp, bike path access to the WACO Historical Museum and a beautiful railroad bridge (pictured below) that takes trail users from the west side of the river to the east and into Troy.
Section Three: Decisions in Troy
After passing Miami Shores Golf Course and then Troy Memorial Stadium, trail users come to a crossroads. Those going left across the impressive Adams Street Bridge will continue on the main trail toward Piqua. Those turning right can follow a side trail to Duke Park where a loop path adds some extra distance (and scenery) to the trip. Duke Park also contains a separate mountain biking trail in a wooded area near the river.
The fork in the road is also a chance to take a short detour into downtown Troy for lunch and other activities.
Both trails at the fork offer scenic views of Treasure Island Park, Troy’s newest park, but the best view is from the Duke Park side path, where the lighthouse can be seen reflecting in the Great Miami River. The reflection of downtown Troy near Troy Memorial Stadium (pictured below), isn't bad either.
Continuing toward Piqua, the next part of the trail passes through residential areas in Troy, past the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology (look for the interesting fountain in front of the main building, pictured below right), and behind the Miami County Fairgrounds before again returning to the countryside.
Section Four: History Between
The long section of trail between Troy and Piqua passes a number of historic sites, as well as a wishing well, a beaver dam, several waterfalls and another stretch of wilderness, before entering downtown Piqua for the final, and probably most interesting part of the trip.
Just before reaching Eldean Covered Bridge is another historic bridge in Miami County. It’s a Pratt Pony Truss design that was built in 1913. An historical marker stands next to the bridge.
After passing Miami County’s famous covered bridge, and entering a wooded area again, trail users will pass a set of ponds that are popular for fishing (and beavers) before coming to the restored, historic Miami & Erie Canal Twin Arches, a Miami County Park. The bridge was originally built in 1837 and is one of only two structures of its type in Ohio!
Continuing north, the trail crosses the Great Miami River on the Robert J. Shook Bikeway Bridge (offering scenic views of the river) and then comes to Farrington Reserve, where a waterfall flows right next to the trail near Peterson Road.
On the outskirts of Piqua, learn about the old atomic plant that stood in the area through historic signage, see a small waterfall near the old plant, and then cross a very cool bike bridge into downtown Piqua.
Section Five: The River's Edge Trail
While each section of the Great Miami Recreational Trail has its perks, possibly the most interesting and diverse is the part that goes into and around Piqua. It was the first bike trail in Miami County by many years and it’s called the River’s Edge Trail today. It passes through a number of different neighborhoods in Piqua, which keeps the ride interesting.
The trail makes a loop around Piqua, first hugging the river and then the Swift Run canal from Swift Run Lake to Echo Lake. It is here that you may see more blue herons. Other points of interest include Forest Hill Cemetery, which has beautiful foliage in the spring and fall and a labyrinth (pictured top below-right), the William H. Pitsenbarger Memorial and Fountain Park.
The trail then circles back into downtown Piqua where there’s plenty to see and eat, and, if you’re doing a roundtrip ride, the way back home.