Field Trip Fort Hill
General Hike Location: Fort Hill, off of SR-41, near Cynthiana, Ohio.
Driving Distance from the Appalachian Forest Museum: 15 minutes.
Time & Meeting Location: For the hike, meet at 9:15 am at Fort Hill’s picnic shelter, located near the farthest parking lot. Follow the park road past the brick museum building, and over the little bridge. The picnic shelter will now be in view. Hike departs promptly at 9:30 am.
Length: Approximately 4.5 miles round trip.
Bring: We will stop for lunch along Baker’s Fork Creek, so be sure to bring a daypack to carry your lunch, a filled water bottle, and a piece of plastic to sit on since the ground will likely be wet. The park has pit latrines by the trailhead. Bathroom facilities throughout the hike, however, are absent. Please be prepared to relieve yourself in the woods.
Difficulty: This hike is for strong hikers who can cover ground. The trail is moderately difficult because of its length. The trial covers undulating ground with several changes in elevation gains and losses of 400 feet. We will start out slow, stopping to see the floral displays, but will pick up for a steady pace on the last half of the trek. Please be cautious when signing up for this hike. A slow hiker could prevent the group from returning in time for dinner.
We will be hiking the Gorge Trail along Bakers Fork, circling around the backside of Fort Hill. This loop is longer than our average hiking trail, but the scenery is worth the trek, with tall mature woodlands and dense wildflowers throughout the course. On the return loop we will be able to see a glimpse of Fort Hill’s tall earthen walls circling the ridge top that were built by Native Americans approximately two thousand years ago.
Fort Hill preserves an exceptional mature forest. It was one of the favorite jaunts for the famous 20th C. botanist, Lucy Braun, who gave Fort Hill its well-earned reputation of being a botanical hotspot, boasting an incredible plant list of 675 species. It is estimated that when the inventory is finally complete, the total will reach 800 species, which is almost unheard of for one tract of land in Ohio. Fort Hill is one of the last places in Ohio, for instance, to find the rare plant known as Canby’s Mountain Lover.
For wildflower enthusiasts, Fort Hill is a gem. We will be following the scenic course of Baker’s Fork, as it winds its way through a low limestone gorge filled with a bounty of rich wildflower displays: trilliums, anemones, jack in the pulpits, geraniums, bluebells and miterwort, just to name a few.
Fort Hill is acclaimed for its recorded sighting of the rare Early hairstreak, a little butterfly that lays its eggs on unfolding beech trees. Usually it stays high in the canopy, but occasionally it nectars on the forest floor on none other than spring beauties. But only in mid-morning – then it’s back up to the treetops!