HIKING GUIDE: Dayton's most beautiful spots for a winter walk

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Jan. 4—Though fall's scenic foliage and chilly air might be replaced with bare branches and gusts of cold, winter is still a gorgeous season all its own in Dayton's green spaces.

Hiking during the winter months has a number of benefits that can, sometimes, unfortunately be overlooked. The remaining three seasons often get the praise for their liveliness and scenery, but with a little perspective shift, winter hiking can be just as beautiful.

With the lack of leaves and greenery on trees, Ohio's colder months can be an excellent time to give bird watching a try because they can be easier to spot. It's also an especially important time to get outside for fresh air and sunshine to combat the shorter days and lack of Vitamin D some people might experience this time of year.

In addition, wintertime hiking can be more peaceful during busier times of the year, more conducive to thoughtful time alone to reflect. Above all, it's nature's simple, annual reminder that it's okay to rest and recover.

Angie Sheldon, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator, shared the area's MetroParks she recommends visiting to make the most of winter hiking in the Miami Valley.

Before heading out, Sheldon asked hikers to be extra vigilant.

"Respect wildlife," she said. "Wildlife is more vulnerable in the winter when it's cold and food and water sources aren't as abundant. Be sure to give any animals you see plenty of distance as to not interfere with their natural habits."

4 places to hike where people can benefit from the lack of foliage:

1. Twin Creek MetroPark

Twin Creek MetroPark offers abundant views of the Twin Creek and of the ravines and ridges that make hiking here so unique and challenging.

Address: 9688 Eby Rd., Germantown — More info: metroparks.org/places-to-go/twin-creek/

2. Englewood MetroPark

Hiking in Englewood MetroPark during the winter opens up even more views of the Stillwater River and views of the falls as you approach. If it gets cold enough, you may even catch a glimpse of the falls frozen over.

Address: (Main entrance) 4361 W National Rd., Dayton — More info: metroparks.org/places-to-go/englewood/

3. Sugarcreek MetroPark

Hiking along the green trail in Sugarcreek you'll get more open views of the creek down low and be able to see across the valley as you climb higher.

Address: 4178 Conference Rd., Bellbrook — More info: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/sugarcreek/

4. Carriage Hill MetroPark

Enjoy uninterrupted views of the Cedar Lake and the North Woods Pond at Carriage Hill MetroPark during the winter months.

Address: (Visitors center 7800 Shull Rd., Huber Heights — More info: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/carriage-hill/

Sheldon's winter hiking tips:

"Planning ahead and preparing is important for any hike but becomes even more critical in the winter."

1. Be sure to check the weather before heading out to make sure you have adequate layers and proper footwear.

2. Be aware that since many restroom facilities and water fountains are turned off for the winter, you'll want to bring plenty of water.

For those extra frigid days, when a mile or less is the longest your cheeks can stand the cold, here are three short, worthwhile hikes to consider:

1. Siebenthaler Fen Boardwalk — Beavercreek Wildlife Area

This .75-mile boardwalk loop in Beavercreek contains five restored wetland areas. Many different types of wetland ecosystems, including swamps, marshes and fens, can be observed at the Beaver Creek Wildlife Area, according to the website. The area has been studied by scientists for restoration methods of wetlands.

Address: 1998 Fairground Rd #1952, Dayton — More info: https://beavercreekwetlands.org/

2. Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

Clifton Gorge is a 268-acre preserve in Yellow Springs, protecting "one of the most spectacular dolomite and limestone gorges in the state," according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. In the winter, views of the gorge are just as, well, gorgeous. On especially cold and wet days, hikes can be scattered with icicles and frozen waterfalls.

There are multiple, short hikes to choose from at the gorge:

3 miles of hiking trails (total): — Gorge Trail — 1 mile — Narrows Trail — 0.5 mile — Orton Trail — 0.5 mile — Rim Trail — 1 mile

Address: 2381 OH-343, Yellow Springs — More info: https://ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/go-and-do/plan-a-visit/find-a-property/clifton-gorge-state-nature-preserve

3. Pearl's Fen

One of Dayton's newest conservation areas, Pearl's Fen is a peat wetland containing a rich diversity of plant and animal life that is maintained by springs that emerge from nearby glacial deposits, according to the website. Visitors can view the diverse wetland area from a boardwalk and access nearby Oakes Quarry via a connector trail.

Address: 4535 Byron Rd., Fairborn — More info: https://www.gcparkstrails.com/parks/pearls-fen/