If you want to hike around Cincinnati, author Tammy York is a great resource and guide. She has put her heart, soul, and feet on the trails that she covers in her book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati.
I’ve known Tammy for several years and I wanted to give her the opportunity to share more about the story behind her book and passion for hiking.
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What is your book about?
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati covers the best and oftentimes little-known hiking destinations within 60 miles of the greater Cincinnati area. The hikes were selected based on family friendliness, scenery, and history.
Many of the hikes fall between 3 to 5 miles in length, providing parents with a relaxing and revitalizing hike that even little ones can enjoy. I hiked most of the trails with my two young daughters.
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati was created with other parents and newbie hikers in mind, yet it provides plenty of challenging hikes for skilled outdoor adventurers.
Trails in this guide cover southwest Ohio, southeast Indiana, and northern Kentucky, and range from easy to difficult.
When did your passion for this topic begin?
When I was a child I spent a lot of time with my family on my grandparents’ farm and enjoyed spending time exploring the surrounding land which included several woodlots. I wasn’t allowed to go off of the property but I often did which meant I needed to be able to find my way back.
I learned how to really see the forest for all of the trees and I could navigate through the woods and then back to the farm.
There were also a few properties around that my mom would take us to explore. I like being in the woods because to me it feels like home.
What’s the story behind why you wrote your book?
For several years, I submitted query letters to publishers about writing a hiking guide book based on a city as the center.
Working in the natural resources field as well as in marketing, the results showed that people stayed about 1-1.5 hours from their homes for most of their outdoor recreation. At the time all of the hiking books were for a state-based area.
This really annoyed me when we moved to Cincinnati, as I needed to buy three different state-based hiking books.
Okay, I’ll admit I bought way more than three books!
I submitted the queries for my idea of writing a hiking book based around the Cincinnati area and would get back fairly snarky rejections. I just kept trying for about five years because I knew this was a good idea.
Fast forward to me leaving my full-time job to be able to stay at home with my children while also running a writing business. I was making cold calls one day and happened to get an editor that I knew.
We started catching up and he said, “Hey we got this new line of books you might be interested in.” He sent me the link and I almost passed out. It was exactly what I had been proposing and getting shot down for years!
While I was talking with him, I found my query letter, dusted it off, and sent it to him. We had a meeting later that week and a book deal within a month. And the book was in print less than 18 months later!
What was your first leap of faith when you started?
That I would be able to write a book while being a work at home mom running a successful business. I just trusted that I’d make it work.
Looking back, I have no idea how I made it work. It was a lot to handle all at the same time.
How has your book evolved over the years?
About every four to five years, the book is updated. Land managers will move trails or shut down trails to minimize impact, so I need to continually hike the trails to see if there are changes.
Some of the trails that were in the first edition aren’t in now, mainly because the areas and managing agencies don’t have enough funding to maintain the trails.
I’m an advocate for contacting your representatives and telling them you want parks and natural areas fully funded. I’m also an advocate for joining or donating to a Friends of groups associated with a park.
These groups are volunteer-based and do a lot of trail maintenance and help out around the park.
What’s your favorite thing about your book?
I love doing the hikes. It is enjoyable to spend time in the woods. I also absolutely love it when I see someone on the trail with my book!
That is pretty awesome.
What’s been the most challenging part of your book?
When I am working on a deadline, the weather doesn’t matter, how I feel doesn’t matter. It is work that needs to be done.
I’ve hiked when I really should have been at home. A year ago, I broke a toe (at home) in what the doctor referred to as “really cool, come check this out” way (and, yes all the doctors came and looked at my Xray!)
I broke the middle bone from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. I cannot accurately describe how painful this was. In about two weeks I was back out on the trail with my gear and a crutch.
Do you know how long it takes to hike with a crutch? Forever.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your book?
The best is when someone shows up to a book signing event with a battered, muddy, folded in half, tattered edged copy, and asks me to sign it and I open it up to see handwritten notes all over the pages.
It is a book that a parent and child have been using as a way to bond. They have used any available white space as a place to note their experiences and their time together on the trails. That is the best compliment I could ever get!
I think overall it is when my book is used as a way for people to connect and share common experiences and joy.
Where are your favorite underrated places/hidden gem to hike around Cincinnati?
There are so many places to hike. I think that is what is overlooked.
As far as which hikes, I’d have to say it depends on what you want from the hike.
Ohio Hidden Gems to Hike
Take, for example, Eden Park. The trail is highly urban but you can start at the Cincinnati Art Museum and spend some time enjoying the artwork before heading down to enjoy the views of Mirror Lake.
Then pass by the small gardens with sculptures before arriving at the Krohn Conservatory. The trail passes through the Memorial Grove, by gargoyles at the water tower, and eagles at the bridge.
You can discover even more sculptures in the Twin Lakes area as well as sit and enjoy the overlook of the Ohio River. If you love art then Eden Park or Pyramid Hill are definitely places to explore.
If you want a hike that feels a little more – remote – then any of the trails in Adams County are for you. I like the Wilderness Trail for the cool geology and overlooks but if you hike this trail, you will need boots – i have never hiked it without there being ample mud.
If you are looking for a quick hike then Caldwell Nature Preserve, a portion of Mt Airy Forest’s trails, or Fernbank Park are great spots.
Indiana Hidden Gems to Hike
Further away there is Clifty Falls State Park, Hardy Lake State Recreation Area, Muscatatuck Park, and Versailles State Park over in Indiana. I like camping at Hardy and then hiking the surrounding areas.
Kentucky Hidden Gems to Hike
In Kentucky, I really like Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park. We have hiked with llamas as well as a dog that comes and visits and hikes the trail with people.
It is always an adventure there, plus the area has a lot of history.
Where is the most unique place to hike around Cincinnati?
Pyramid Hill is unique. You are hiking trails around outdoor art sculptures. You get the best of two interlinked – art and nature.
Note: Don’t climb on the sculptures. Yes, I had to say that as some of the artwork looks climbable.
There has been a lot of accidental damage to several pieces.
How should someone prepare for a day hike?
You don’t need much.
A good pair of shoes that protect your feet, proper clothing for the weather, water to drink, and if you are bringing your pet, water, and a bowl for them to drink from.
I like to wear a ballcap to shade my eyes and I spray it with bug repellent so that helps keep away a lot of insects, insect repellent, as many maps of the area as you can find.
Bring my book or take a snapshot of the map page and grab a copy of the map from the actual location.
Decide where you are going to hike and tell someone else where you are hiking and then contact them when you are done. This is in case you hurt yourself on the trail emergency services will know where to start looking for you.
Budget plenty of time to enjoy the hike.
Most people average about 2.5 miles per hour.
If the trail is hilly or there are some great views drop the mileage per hour down to 1.75-2 mph. This will give you a ballpark of when you will be done.
However, you will likely be done before that as when you get to hiking you tend to enter into a meditative state and will step in pattern with your heartbeat and breathing which means you’ll hike about 2.8-3.5 mph on average.
Do you have any tips for hiking with younger children?
Keep the hike fun.
Give the kids three hikes to choose from. They get to decide what trails to hike.
Let them pack small and super light backpacks – a reusable bottle of water, a piece of fruit, a journal book, colored pencils, a small identification book (wildflowers, birds, trees), and a trash bag.
Take breaks along the trail using the trash bags to sit on and write or draw.
Don’t be in a rush.
Let the kids lead the hike and let them TELL you about what they have found.
Don’t tell them you know what something is – let them be the leader and the know it all.
For younger kids, I would also bring along a Radio Flyer Wagon. This worked well to carry our stuff as well as the kids when they got tired or decided to fall asleep. The wagon went everywhere and was easy to manage.
I also bring along M&Ms but these were only to give two to four at a time. You want the kids to have a sweet treat, not a meal.
Why should someone consider purchasing 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati for their next hike?
When I wrote the book, my rule on selecting hikes was, “Would I be comfortable sending my mom friend and her two children alone on this trail?”
I also wrote the book as if we were hiking together, so I cover the flora and fauna as well as the geology and any man-made history of the area.
As far as my expertise in writing this book, I’m a graduate of Purdue University.
I worked as a naturalist and trained thousands of naturalists and teachers for over 14 years, and I prefer to be in the woods exploring.
How can someone connect with you online?
What are your social media handles?
Thanks again to Tammy for sharing so many valuable hiking tips! Make sure that you get her book 60 Hikes Withing 60 Miles: Cincinnati.
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