10,000 years ago ice sheets descended on Ohio, but thanks to Campbell Hill (Ohio's High Point), the glaciers forced to split into two lobes. The resulting valley in between became a massive channel for glacial meltwater, funneling the water south to carve one of Ohio's most majestic geologic features: Clifton Gorge. 

The entirety of this hike is within the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, a protected park with strict restrictions on off-trail travel with pets prohibited.

Starting at the parking lot off of Jackson St, follow the trail northwest allow the narrows of Clifton Gorge. Here, the river has carved a deep chasm into the limestone bedrock, with the river being anywhere from 40-60 feet below the top, and the gorge being anywhere from 20-40 feet wide. Legend has it a member of Daniel Boone's party was trapped by Native Americans along the Narrows (as they're known) and he escaped them by leaping across the chasm to safety.

The trail follows the trim for 0.5 mile until it reaches the Bear Den Interpretive Center, a nature center operated by ODNR within the preserve. From here, follow the trail down into the gorge, which has significantly widened since the Narrows. The trail here snakes between the Little Miami River on your left and limestone cliffs on the right. 

The river has several sections of cascades and rapids along the trail, and a few other named features are noted with trailside signs, such as Steamboat Rock (a large slump block that fell into the river long ago) and the Blue Hole, a massive ponded area of the Little Miami River that has a slightly bluish tint to it. 

Eventually the trail will take you to the intersection with the trails of neighboring John Bryan State Park. From here, retrace your steps back to the parking lot and view all that Clifton Gorge has to offer from a different perspective! 

Pack List

  • Hiking Boots
  • Daypack
  • Water (1-2 liters)
  • Camera
Show More
RT Distance 2.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 200 Feet
Activities Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
River
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Great Hike

This is a great hike, with some great scenery. It is hard to capture the beauty of the narrow gorge with a camera, so it is one of those things you need to see with your own eyes. If you time your hike right, on the trail on the bottom of the gorge by the Little Miami River, there may be a waterfall cascading over the cliffs. Overall, a great hike, but not too strenuous.

Hiking Clifton Gorge

I loved this trail, I thought it was a great opportunity for some cool pictures and it was fun to explore (although I didn’t explore the whole thing.) The only minor downsides were that on the nature trail there were quite a few “ankle breaking” rocks so watch your footing when exploring this trail.

Great Hike

Stumbled across this Trail. Great views. A small section of this Trail is a little close to a main road. But it was a great Trail.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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