Don’t be fooled by the word “little” because the splendid stream that meanders through Clermont County delivers big-time fun for dog lovers. Boasting national and state scenic river status, the Little Miami is ideal for everything from strolling on the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a legendary hiking and biking path that follows the river for miles, to canoeing, kayaking and fishing at Little Miami State Park, the popular and picturesque greenspace that overlaps it.
With rolling terrain and a sprawling lake fed by a branch of the Little Miami River, East Fork is one of Ohio’s largest state parks and a great spot for fresh air and exercise with Fido. The lake has open water for boating plus secluded coves for kayaking and dogs are welcome at the campground, where you can rent kayaks and bicycles, sign up for naturalist-led hikes and even watch movies on Saturday night. The park’s extensive trails are a magnet for geocachers and lead to local landmarks — including an ancient Indian mound and 1860s church — that hint at Clermont County’s rich history.
A short drive from the campground, the village of Williamsburg dates to 1796 and has a highly walkable downtown with historic stone buildings and indie shops. At the Old Firehouse Brewery, you can walk into a 1950s firehouse with your dog and sip unique ales like 50 Dalmatians, which contains Ohio-grown Paw Paw fruit. While Old Firehouse pleases its pet patrons with dog bones made with spent beer grains, it has no human food, so bring your own edibles or order a made-from-scratch pie from Main Street Pizza, which delivers and is just across the street.
This rustic 6-mile trail links Williamsburg with the campground at East Fork State Park. Going up and down hills and across creeks, the route includes a scenic lake overlook, a wetlands observation deck for bird watchers to check off their bird list, and East Fork Wildlife Area. Tip: check out the hunting dog training ground south of Williamsburg-Bantam Road.
So many people bring four-legged friends to Cincinnati Nature Center that it has an admission fee — $2 — for dogs. Brimming with Mother Nature’s eye candy, this 1,000-acre preserve boasts 16 miles of hiking trails. Three of the best for dogs are Edge Trail, which encircles a lake; Upland Trail, which features a mature forest; and Discovery Trail, which includes forests, fields and ponds. Tip: register your dog and get a drink at Rowe Visitor Center, where an outdoor fountain comes complete with a bowl that’s just the right height for lapping up water.
Bordering the Little Miami River and its namesake Scenic Trail, Milford is a hub for outdoor activities and has the added attraction of a Victorian downtown that combines specialty shops and restaurants with a designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA) for consuming alcoholic drinks alfresco. Milford’s hillside trailhead overlooks the town and river, and just across the Mill Street bridge sits the Little Miami Brewing Company, where you can hang out with your tail-wagger at the patio or beer garden and feast on hand-tossed pizzas and small-batch beers. On nearby Main Street, outdoor seating at The Main Cup (think beverages, brunch and books) and Padrino (a fave for Italian food) lets you dine with doggie from morning to night. Optimize both of your trail and river experiences with the float coats, hydration packs and other doggie gear available at Roads Rivers and Trails (a.k.a. RRT), but when it’s reward time, go to Old Milford Parlor for ice cream and dog biscuits or Tickled Sweet chocolate shop for all-natural pupcakes.
Loveland so fervently embraces its stretch of the Little Miami Scenic Trail that many folks simply call it the Loveland Bike Trail. Once a railroad junction, Loveland converted abandoned tracks into a wide and easily accessible trail that skirts the Little Miami River and brings a steady stream of cyclists, skaters, joggers, nature lovers, people watchers and dog walkers into the heart of its historic downtown. On weekends, Loveland practically turns into a dog park, and since many eateries offer patio or sidewalk dining, it’s easy to eat, drink and delight in the town’s friendly, laid-back vibe with a puppy pal. Options range from the New Orleans-style cuisine and cocktails at Bishop’s Quarter to pub grub at Paxton’s Grill to handcrafted desserts — including yogurt-based dog ice cream — at Loveland Sweet Shoppe. Along the bike trail itself, both Lyle’s Bikes, Brews & BBQ and Narrow Path Brewing Co. provide casual fare, good beer and shady backyard tables where customers — and canines — happily mix and mingle.
Bring your pup to exlore Clermont County for a paws-itively good time! After a long day of play, tuck your four-legged companions in at night at one of the many area hotels that accept pets, then wake up the next morning for more tail-wagging fun!