ST. PARIS – An off-the-beaten path gem in western Champaign County is called Davey Woods and it’s one of the “best hikes” near Urbana. Located in the foothills of St. Paris, this natural wonder is a state nature preserve operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
And, if you hike this hilly, mountain-like “nature roller coaster” your legs will think they had just walked through a small part of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. The soreness the next morning will be an additional reminder of that, but it’s a good soreness well worth every ounce of effort traversing through these woods of wonder.
Trails & features
Davey Woods State Nature Preserve is 103 acres of beautiful trees, woods and scenic hiking trails. The park has a small parking lot and two well maintained loop trails. The Conrad Trail is a 1.4 mile loop trail and the other loop trail, which is called the “Short Loop Trail” is 0.6 miles. (This trail overlaps the Conrad Trail.)
Scenic trails create an incredible outdoors experience with beautiful vistas and unique natural features.
The old growth forest has many large tulip trees, oak, ash, and sugar maple trees and is truly one of the best wood lots still remaining in this part of Ohio. Be sure to check the numerous wildflowers.
The preserve was named in honor of Davey Tree Expert Company, which through The Nature Conservancy provided half the funding to acquire the site in 1989.
The terrain is very hilly for this part of Ohio. This wooded area is heavily shaded in the summer, which makes for pleasant hiking conditions. Colors pop in the fall for postcard views and winter is full of beautiful snowy landscapes and vista scenes.
There are many switchback trails to smooth out the hills, but this wooded paradise of trails is considered rugged and challenging by most standards. It’s a true hidden gem I like to call Champaign County’s “Little Smokies.”
How to get there
Davey Woods is located on Lonesome Road just outside of St. Paris and just 7 miles west of Urbana.
To access the trailhead, take U.S. Route 36 and proceed 1 mile north on Neal Road, then 1/2 mile west on Smith Road, and then northwest on Lonesome Road (Township Highway 66) to the preserve entrance.
Ron Brohm is a regular contributor to this newspaper.