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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Two Days in Ohio's Oak Openings Preserve

Nestled in rural northwest Ohio, halfway between Cleveland and Detroit, lies Oak Openings, a preserve of sprawling oak savanna and grassland prairie, and home to more endangered native plant species than anywhere else in Ohio. This globally rare ecosystem, once part of the Great Black Swamp, has been studied by botanists all over the world for its rare plant and animal species, including its rare butterfly population. The Nature Conservancy once named Oak Openings to its "Last Great Places on Earth," a list of regions across the globe worthy of conservation efforts. Ancient sand dunes flank the preserve's northwest while an area simply known as "The Spot", a beautiful pine grove that's drawn the eyes of photographers from across the country, rests in its heart. We've been to the park and general area quite a few times, but below was the itinerary from our last go around.

Day 1

Lakes & Ferns Loop + Sand Dunes (4 miles/100')
Precious Sea Stables
Fort Meigs
The Spot

We started the trip with the preserve's best short trail, the Lakes & Ferns Trail. The flat four mile trail follows the western edge of beautiful Mallard Lake before entering a hardwood forest blanketed with fern fields as far as the eye can see. We hiked this one counterclockwise and picked up the Sand Dunes Trail along the western section of the trail to view the remnants of the area's ancient glacial beach ridges.

Oak Openings Lakes and Ferns

After, we drove out to Precious Sea Stables in Wallbridge for a relaxing hour-long horseback ride. The privately owned horse farm has nearly two dozen rescue horses, some descended from iconic race horses like Seattle Slew and Secretariat.

Next, we made a stop at the Fort Meigs Historic Site in Perrysburg. The War of 1812 fort, one of America's largest reconstructed log forts, features several blockhouses, artillery batteries, a quartermaster's building, and much more. Each blockhouse is its own mini museum with informative displays of what life was like during the war, how it was fought, diary entries from soldiers, etc. After walking the fort grounds, we stopped at the museum and visitor center where we found uniforms worn by soldiers who defended the fort, weaponry, diaries, prisoner roles, and a ton more.

We then headed back to the preserve for some relaxation in an area simply known as "The Spot." Here, at one of the once best kept secrets in the entire state, acres of towering red pines dot the soft forest floor and make for the perfect place to hang a hammock.

Oak Openings The Spot

The sights and sounds of The Spot are borderline mesmerizing. Tree tops sway high above, gently crashing into each other creating some of the most beautiful sounds you'll ever hear in a forest.

Oak Openings The Spot

This trip, we decided to stay at the Cannelly Treehouse Village, the first public treehouse village in the country. Opened in July 2020, the village is extremely popular and usually requires a reservation up to a year in advance. The treehouses come fully furnished with beds, sinks, microwaves, dining tables and chairs, electric grills, and more. A communal fire pit, bathrooms, and shower facility are located near the front of the treehouse village.

Cannaley Treehouse Village

If you visit the preserve and are unable to get a reservation for the Cannaley Treehouse Village, give the The Eco Camp some consideration. It's a small yurt campground adjacent to the Bluegrass RV Campground, five minutes from the Cannaley Treehouse Village. We stayed here during a pervious trip and found it to be worth the price tag.

Oak Openings Eco Camp

After checking into our treehouse, we had a decent dinner at the Mail Pouch Saloon.

Day 2

Hognose, Blazingstar, Blue Racer & Badger Loop (7 miles/150')
Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve (1 mile/flat)

In the morning, we headed out on another great hike - a multi-trail loop along the western reaches of the preserve. The mostly shaded trail winds through hardwood forest, beside Swan Creek, and through a swampy area teeming with bullfrogs.

Afterward, we returned to our treehouse and relaxed for a while before cooking dinner together. Towards the end of the day, we headed over to Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve to walk the Boardwalk Trail and watch sunrise.

Irwin Prairie Ohio

A quick and easy-going weekend trip in an area that we've always enjoyed visiting.


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