Wahkeena Nature Preserve with Kids

Family-friendly destination on the edge of Hocking Hills

Wahkeena Nature Preserve is the perfect day trip for Central Ohio families.  Located just south of Lancaster in Fairfield County, the preserve is on the northern edge of the Hocking Hills region.  Here are my tips for visiting Wahkeena Nature Preserve with kids.

History of Wahkeena Nature Preserve

Wahkeena is the Native American word for “Most beautiful.”  Visitors to Wahkeena will leave the preserve understanding why the property was named in this way.

However, it didn’t always look exactly like this! Dr. Frank Warner gifted his wife, Carmen, a large farm and an old farmhouse. Over the next 20 years, the Warners spent their days redeveloping this land and planting thousands of trees! They also took the siding and roof off of the old farmhouse and created the exposed log-beam cabin that is now used at the Visitor Center. My understanding is that when she passed away, Carmen gifted the home and grounds to the historical society. While Wahkeena Nature Preserve is popular for the landscape, visitors will find the history of the land to be just as engaging.

Trails at Wahkeena Nature Preserve

There are 4 different trails at Wahkeena.  These are short in length and easy for children. The Pond Trail is a .1-mile trail that circles the pond. The Shelter Trail and Casa Burro Trail both travel mostly through woodland. The Shelter Trail is .5 mile and the Casa Burro Trail is 1 mile.

There is no handicap-accessible route, so don’t plan on taking a stroller.  I carried our littlest in the hiking backpack (similar).  

Ona recent trip, we decided to try the Shelter Trail. One of the most interesting parts was this original spring. It’s not used now, but it’s definitely a neat educational tool for kids!

Wahkeena Nature Preserve with kids.  Things to do near Hocking Hills, Ohio.

The wetland boardwalk is a fun adventure with kids (insert nervous emoji)!  It’s definitely a bit unstable, so hold on to little hands. The boardwalk is only .1 mile.

Wahkeena Visitor Center

The Visitor Center is a must-see.  There are taxidermied animals (a little creepy) and real ones!  There are also fantastic diagrams showing how many bears, bobcats, etc have been spotted throughout Ohio.  This is interesting – and a little frightening!  For ages 6-10 this would be the perfect place for a science lesson on habitats and environments. Even my husband and I learned a few things!

Currently, COVID-19 protocols involve limiting the number of people in the Visitor Center. Masks are required and are provided.

Wahkeena Nature Preserve with kids- The Wahkeena Nature Preserve Visitor Center is a must-see!
Wahkeena Nature Preserve Visitor Center

The kids’ favorite part of the day was this barred owl.  He is kept at the Preserve due to an injury he sustained when he was hit by a car.  Owls are so majestic, the kids really enjoyed watching him.

Wahkeena Nature Preserve

More information on Wahkeena Nature Preserve

Picnicking is not allowed.  We packed some sandwiches and ate them in the parking lot.  Lancaster is only 15 minutes away, where you’ll find many restaurants.

Have you been to Wahkeena Nature Preserve?  It would be a great pit stop on your way to Hocking Hills from Columbus.  I think we’ll go back in a few years once my younger kids understand a bit more.

Wahkeena Nature Preserve is located at 2200 Pump Station Rd, Sugar Grove, Ohio. It is open Wednesday- Sunday from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.

Things to do in nearby Lancaster & Hocking Hills

Want to try another hike?  Check out Shallenberger Nature Preserve.

For more to do in Hocking Hills – check out my posts on the best hikes for kids at Hocking Hills & a day in Hocking Hills with kids. You may also want to consider staying at the Hocking Hills Caboose.  Staying longer? Here’s my 3-day Hocking Hills itinerary.

Wahkeena State Nature Preserve is administered by the Ohio History Connection and managed locally by the Fairfield County Historical Society.  You can see the OHS website HERE.

For a more thorough review with up-to-date hours and schedules, one of the employees of Wahkeena keeps a blog HERE.


Wahkeena Nature Preserve.  Must visit attraction on the edge of Hocking Hills.  Things to do with kids at Wahkeena Nature Preserve.
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