Over this spring and summer, and now continuing into fall, we’ve enjoyed several trips out to Yellow Springs. The small town is an easy drive from Columbus, less than an hour down the highway, and it offers a variety of activities: hiking and biking, some interesting eats, shopping, arts, family fun.
Let’s get one thing out of the way and acknowledge their bike racks. Get it?
We like strolling the main streets and poking our heads in the shops. Stop by Dino’s for a throw-back to 90s-era coffee houses.
Yellow Springs is surrounded by a number of expansive parks, including Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, John Bryan State Park, and Glen Helen Nature Preserve. There’s something especially endearing about Glen Helen because it offers more opportunities to get off the trails and do some real exploring. It’s run by a non-profit. Parking is $5 (bring cash), and they’ll give you a map at the gate.
Some trails are more clearly marked than others, and we’ve had fun following them wherever they lead.
A few of the paths are simply stepping stones through the creek.
And many of the paths lead past waterfalls and other features. The first time we discovered these falls, the boys spent almost half an hour playing in them.
We also discovered the Glen Helen Raptor Center.
Where there are owls, we will find them. (They’re Owen’s favorite bird, in case you didn’t know.)
On another hike through Glen Helen, Beth and I tried following some of the more loosely defined paths. Some of them are bare hints of trodden earth passing through the undergrowth. One time we got lost and ended up going on an unplanned adventure that included wading through creeks and me tearing my shorts.
But it’s all worth it. The trails lead past little grottos…
…and rock features like Pompey’s Pillar.
If you follow your map, you can even find the yellow spring (spoiler, though: it’s more orange than yellow) from which the town takes its name.
There are some good food finds in Yellow Springs, from casual pizza to ice to food trucks to more upscale options. We’ve loved breakfast at the Sunrise Cafe and have had a tasty (but very slow-service) lunch at the Winds Cafe on their patio.
Make sure you leave time to explore the shops. We always love visiting Dark Star Books, some of the pottery studios, and Village Artisans Gallery.
Clifton Gorge offers a couple different levels of hiking. Some of the lower levels take you closer to the river and along the bottom of the gorge. The path is well-marked, but it’s a little rougher. There are some beautiful rock formations to see.
As you descend into the gorge, you’ll find a lot of beautiful features – even a small cave to explore.
The upper level paths at Clifton Gorge are more paved, but there are little bridges and other interesting features, and you get good views of the river carving its way through the gorge. If you follow it far enough you’ll end up at Clifton Mill. You can stroll around the grounds (which get positively draped with lights at Christmas), cross the old covered bridge, stop in the gift shop, and have breakfast at the restaurant.
We’ve recently discovered the Little Miami Bike Trail. It runs right through Yellow Springs; you can catch it at their visitors center and take it north or south as many miles as you want.
On our most recent trip there we rode south a few miles, past Glen Helen and along Antioch College. Along the way we discovered a newly completed covered bridge.
And we usually wrap up the festivities in town with a trip to Yellow Springs Brewery.
We love the place more and more every time we visit.
The taproom features 10 or so beers on tap, there are snacks, board games, artwork on the walls…
…and a lovely patio out back overlooking the the bike trail.
The brewery’s branding is on-point, and they produce a roster of wonderfully drinkable beers: pale ales, IPAs, saisons, brown ales. Perfect for sipping on the patio.
They also host a solid selection of food trucks from around the region.
On one visit we encountered Christian Brothers Meat Company, which offered the Barnyard Parfait, a delicacy layering brisket, mac and cheese, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and smoked chicken.
And pretty much every trip to Yellow Springs ends with Young’s Jersey Dairy. I mean, it’s right on the way back to the highway, so it’d be rude NOT to stop, right?
Young’s is a complex that includes an actual working dairy farm, batting cages, mini golf, hayrides, games, feeding the animals, and much more.
My favorite ice cream flavor is the Cow Patty, with dark chocolate, chocolate chips, chocolate cookies, and chocolate-covered toffee.
And it’s hard to pass up fried cheese curds!