Charles Alley Nature Park is a 300 acre city park in Lancaster. The park features two lakes, a nature center, and six miles of hiking trails. Currently 20 acres are being developed for use as a primitive campsite.
We visited Alley Park on a cold, but sunny day in mid-February. The trail head is to the left of the main parking area. Nearby is a picnic shelter, rest rooms, and an informational kiosk. The trail head leads to Lake Loretta passing a rustic cabin on the way. The lake had a thin coating of ice. In warmer weather “catch and release” fishing is permitted.
At the far end of the lake is a large nature center and a red covered bridge. Trails fan out from the lake into the hills surrounding it. We took a trail near the covered bridge and headed up towards the 2.5 mile “Alley Trail” that goes around the parks periphery.
We went around several large rock outcroppings on a ridge and up over a ridge line. Then down into a heavily wooded hollow with a small stream flowing through it.
A steep climb took up to the top of the next ridge line and to an intersection of two trails. At most of the trail intersections, the park has placed informational signage with trail maps. This is useful, because there are quite a lot of trails and the park is heavily forested. Not all intersections have maps, so its worth printing a copy (see link below) and bringing it with you.
We took a side trail down to Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is so named, because a narrow peninsula almost cuts the lake in two. A trail leads to the end of the peninsula. From the end of the peninsula, we had a view of the lake and a very large bird’s nest in a tall tree on the other side of the lake. Deb speculates that it might be an eagle’s nest.
From Twin Lakes, we followed a trail up and over another ridge and then back to Lake Loretta and the parking lot. We had hiked a total of 2.73 miles. In the GPS trace below, a red marker shows the location of the parking lot, the top lake is Lake Loretta, and the bottom lake(s) are the Twin Lakes.
Lancaster offers a variety of activities at Alley Park including archery classes, dog training, nature programs, dance and exercise classes and more. Sometimes the road between the parking lot and the Nature Center is open to traffic, and sometimes it is not. I assume that depends on the scheduled activities there.
Update: March 14, 2013
Sherry Eakin Oatney has confirmed that the nest near the Twin Lakes really is a bald eagle nest. Here’s a link to Sherry’s photo of an eagle sitting on the nest.
- TrekOhio: Fairfield County Parks & Nature Preserves — This is the county where Alley Park is located; check out this page for links to the official site, and for information on nearby parks and preserves.
- TrekOhio: An Overview of Hiking Trails in Fairfield County
Address: 2805 Old Logan Rd, Lancaster, OH