Beautiful year-round, the park's breathtaking scenery attracts visitors in every season. John Bryan is distinguished by its remarkable limestone gorge, which was cut by the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. The gorge, which is a National Natural Landmark, offers hikers splendid views from the trail. A launch area outside the park provides paddlers with access to the river.
Along with 10 different trails including the popular Storybook Trail, the park has a public rock climbing and rappelling area. Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, located next to the park, offers additional hiking opportunities. (Note: pets are only permitted in the park, not in the preserve.)
Day-use visitors will enjoy the scenic picnic areas and playgrounds; a reservable day lodge is great for group gatherings. The family-friendly campground is perfect for overnight guests who enjoy rustic surroundings.
A paddlecraft launch area near the park on Jacoby Road provides access to the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. As the river twists and bends, visitors will discover steep rock cliffs, towering sycamores, and many historic sites along the way.
The John Bryan State Park Campground offers non-electric and electric sites close to the park's hiking trails. Pets are permitted on all sites. The park also offers a group camp. Reservations may be made six months in advance online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
John Bryan's recently renovated day lodge is available for reservation; a perfect place for special events and group gatherings. The lodge features a kitchen with stove, fridge, microwave, sink, large banquet table, two fireplaces, two restrooms, screened-in porch, air conditioning, outdoor charcoal grill, picnic tables, and a volleyball court. Located near the mountain bike and hiking trails.
An 9-hole disc golf course, located across from the camp store, is free to play with your own equipment.
The Little Miami River provides excellent stream fishing opportunities for anglers. Smallmouth bass, rock bass, and panfish highlight potential shoreline catches.
- Fishing is not allowed in the nearby Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve.
- Ohio fishing regulations apply.
- A valid Ohio fishing license is required (16 and older).
Ten hiking trails traverse the park.
- Arboretum Trail (Observatory Trail) - 1.2 miles - also allows biking
- Big Furnace Trail (Camp Trail) - 1 mile
- North Rim Trail - 2.7 miles
- Orton Memorial Trail - 0.4 mile
- Pitt-Cinci Stage Coach Trail - 1.3 miles
- Poplar Trail - 0.1 mile
- Quarry Loop Trail - 0.5 mile
- Ridge Trail - 1.5 miles
- South Gorge Trail - 1.2 miles
- Storybook Trail - 0.5 mile
Adjacent to the park, Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve offers additional hiking trails which can be accessed from the park, however, pets are not allowed in the state nature preserve.
Mountain bikes are permitted on 9.7 miles of interconnected single-use and multi-use trails. Trail segments with mostly level terrain are suited to novice cyclists, while ramps, log jumps, climbs, and creek crossings provide more challenges for intermediate cyclists.
- Arboretum Trail (Observatory Trail) - 1.2 miles
- Abracadabra Trail - 2.25 miles
- Frankenlite Loop Trail - 2.72 miles
- Great Scott Loop and Exit Trail - 3.0 miles
- Great Scott Lower Trail - 2.17 miles
- Power Line Loop - 2.25 miles
There are several picnic areas in the park. All areas have tables, grills, and latrines. Some areas also have drinking water and are near the playground.
Rock Climbing and Rappelling
A public rock climbing and rappelling area has been established on a section of the North Rim Trail. Access the area via a trail from the parking lot on the south side of the park road about a mile east of the parks' center. Equipment is not provided and all climbers are encouraged to use safe climbing practices. Top-rope climbing is permitted from dawn to dusk. Bouldering is prohibited.
Located beside our newly installed playground, this Storybook Trail presents a children’s nature story in segments along a short path. As visitors wind through the heavily wooded trail, they will experience the peaceful sounds of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. At the beginning of the trail is a free Little Library where you can choose to take a book home or leave one for others.
- Storybook Trail - 0.5 mile - easy, natural surface
- Find more Ohio State Park Storybook Trails
- Find more Storybook Trails in Ohio
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy sledding near the lower shelter house and cross-country skiing.
History & Natural Features
Some of the first people to experience the area's beauty were the Moundbuilders, and later, the Shawnee Native Americans. Just 5 miles south of Yellow Springs, approximately where the town of Oldtown is now, was the site of Old Chillicothe, one of the leading Shawnee settlements in Ohio. The great Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh, was a frequent visitor here and at the nearby James Galloway House, which is maintained by the Greene County Historical Society.
This portion of the Little Miami River was a vital, economical source of power for the early settlers in the 1800s. The Cincinnati-Pittsburgh stagecoach road served the area and several enterprising settlers began establishing water-powered industries in the gorge. The town of Clifton prospered from its textile mill, grist mills, and sawmills. By the late 1800s, water was no longer an economical source of power and many mills were abandoned. Today, Clifton Mill, a nearby grist mill built in 1802, is still in operation and is open to visitors.
The park takes its name from businessman John Bryan who was responsible for the preservation of much of the area as a state preserve. In 1896, Bryan purchased 335 acres along the gorge and called these acres, "Riverside Farm."
Bryan had a great respect for the natural world. In 1918, he bequeathed Riverside Farm to the state of Ohio, "...to be cultivated by the state as a forestry, botanic and wildlife reserve park and experiment station," which would bear his name. In May of 1925, John Bryan's land became one of the state's first forest parks. In 1949, John Bryan State Park was transferred to the newly created ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation. John Bryan State Park and the adjoining Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve overlook the beautiful Little Miami River gorge that has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Much of the history of John Bryan State Park is "written in the rocks" of the Little Miami River gorge. Entering the area at Clifton, at 980 feet above sea level, the Little Miami drops 130 feet through layer upon layer of limestone and shale bedrock. Each layer has a tells a story of the time when the area was covered by warm, shallow seas or scoured by tons of slow-moving glacial ice. Each layer has its own characteristics. Some of the shale layers are easily worn away by the forces of erosion, causing undercutting in the cliff face. The more erosion-resistant dolomite and limestone rocks above are weakened by this undercutting and large "slump blocks" fall away, creating unusual rock formations including Steamboat Rock (which can be see at the preserve). Springs feeding small waterfalls and cascades are common.
Not only did the glaciers affect the landscape, but they also affected vegetation. As the last glacier retreated and the climate warmed, the cool shaded recesses of the gorge valley provided a suitable habitat for several Canadian plant species such as Canada yew, redberry elder, mountain maple, arborvitae,and even a few hemlocks.
More than 100 different trees and shrubs have been identified in the park. More than 340 species of wildflowers grow wild here. Snow trillium, Virginia bluebells, bellwort, wild ginger, Dutchman's breeches, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and wild columbines are only a few to be seen in the park. The dominating trees are oaks and maples, but large numbers of sycamores and cottonwoods can be found along the river. Wildlife is also abundant in the park. For instance, more than 90 different varieties of birds live in or visit the park area during the year. To fully appreciate the beauty of John Bryan, one needs to experience it during all four seasons.