Urban woodlands like those at Hills & Dales are critical to the health and quality of life within our cities. They are dynamic ecosystems that provide clean air and water. This historical urban forest has been a natural refuge for Daytonians since 1907.
Filled with picturesque creeks, rolling hills, dense woods, wildflowers and wetlands, the park was designed by renowned landscape architects the Olmsted Brothers. Now beautifully restored to its original glory by Five Rivers MetroParks, Hills & Dales offers many unique features for today’s active lifestyles, including miles of trails and walkways, Adirondack-style shelters, a scenic pond, preserved wetlands and remnants of historical architecture.
Hills & Dales White Oak Camp area offers a traditional play area and a nature play area on the tree-covered hill where children engage with nature. Kids can move back and forth between the two play areas. Caretakers can walk on nearby paths or enjoy the comfy Adirondack chairs.Park in the lot off of Hilton Drive or access by a three-quarter-mile trail walk from Twin Oak Camp off of South Patterson Boulevard.
It’s easy to appreciate the beauty of nature from high atop a vista. Get a slice of history and a spectacular view from the Patterson Monument. Park at Twin Oak or Adirondack Camp and hike the Adirondack Trail to the statue. John H. Patterson, co-founder of NCR, believed education, recreation and outdoor exercise were the pillars of good health. A memorial to Patterson was erected in the 1920s and stands in the heart of Hills & Dales to honor his leadership.
Old Barn Camp
Check out Old Barn Camp and hike Inspiration Point Trail while you imagine what life must have been like at the turn of the 20th century in Dayton. Park at Paw Paw Camp off of Deep Hollow Road and take the Adirondack Trail across Oak Knoll Drive where it connects to the Old Barn Camp area, or use the small parking lot at Old Barn Camp to explore the area.
Park founder John Patterson’s original design for Hills & Dales MetroPark included a scenic pond at what is now Dogwood Camp. Though lost in subsequent years, the historical pond is now beautifully restored and features an Adirondack-style overlook shelter and benches, picturesque waterfall and a trail loop around the pond that is part of the 1.4-mile Adirondack Trail. Fishing is not permitted.
Paw Paw Camp
Groups can enjoy this picnic area that features modern restrooms and a shelter with a fireplace and grills, as well as a trailhead and rain garden. These features were created with sustainable design in mind; the shelter roofs and boardwalk are made of 100 percent recycled materials.
Take a stroll through a high-quality forested wetland along the Adirondack Trail Boardwalk connecting Dogwood Pond to the trailhead at Paw Paw Camp. This handicapped-accessible boardwalk allows visitors a chance to view wetland vegetation, such as skunk cabbage and marsh marigold, and various migratory birds.
In approximately 1940, the Hills & Dales Lookout Tower was built on Patterson Boulevard.Known locally by many names, it was constructed by The National Youth Administration under the direction of Earl Shock, the superintendent of what is now the Community Golf Course that the tower overlooks. While interior access is no longer available due to safety concerns, the tower is still a valuable piece of history within the park.
Click to Explore
Accessible parking sites are available at White Oak, Dogwood and Paw Paw Camps, with ADA-accessible restrooms at White Oak and Paw Paw Camps.
The boardwalk connecting Paw Paw and Dogwood Pond and the paved loop trail around the pond are also ADA-accessible.
Paw Paw, Patterson and Olmsted shelters, as well as each flush restroom, are equipped with a drinking fountain. The drinking fountains at each restroom also include a dog watering station. A drinking water fountain equipped with a bottle filler is available at the Paw Paw shelter.
RTA Bus Routes 11 or 18
Take Route 11 or 18 south on Main Street through downtown to South Dixie Highway and Stockton Avenue. Cross South Dixie Highway and walk four to five blocks east on Stockton Avenue to Hilton Drive to the park entrance.
Handicapped-accessible flush toilet restrooms are located at White Oak Camp and Paw Paw Camp. A portable restroom is available at Twin Oak Camp.
This historic park contains hills and ravines covered in mature and young hardwood forest. Other habitats include an area of spring seeps and associated small wetlands, which can be seen from the boardwalk along the Adirondack Trail.
Since the park’s major renovation in 2009, a key consideration has been vegetation restoration. The long-term goal is to restore the park’s plant-life to the composition and layout approximating the original Olmsted design from 1907. Over the last 100 years, parts of the park have become overgrown by invasive plants such as Chinese honeysuckle and tree of heaven. These plants have choked out some of the original plantings on the site, blocking some of the views incorporated in Olmsted’s original design and disturbing pedestrian circulation through the park. MetroParks is working to eradicate these invasive species so the woodland floor will come back to life.
The effects of the emerald ash borer are obvious at Hills & Dales. To keep the park safe and in its best condition, many dying ash trees along the trails and roadways in this long narrow park have been removed. To help offset the loss of some of these valuable trees, park staff have planted and will continue to plant saplings of various native species in appropriate areas of Hills &Dales.
Hills & Dales MetroPark has many Paw Paw trees. These native trees not only provide edible fruits, they are also popular with native wildlife, such as zebra swallowtail butterflies. Head to the Paw Paw Camp area, near the entrance at Deep Hollow Road, and hike Adirondack Trail to look for these beautiful black-and-white butterflies.
Seeps are small wetlands found on sloping ground. A seep is formed by water from a spring that saturates the soil over a broad area. The water often flows throughout the year and reaches the surface at a temperature between 50 degrees and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeps support plants that are more commonly found along a river’s edge, such as horsetail (Equisetum). See if you can spot this plant from the boardwalk along the Adirondack Trail.
Geocaching is an activity combining technology and nature, using global positioning system (GPS) devices to search for and find “caches” hidden throughout the world. Visit www.geocaching.com and search by location to get started. Then head out on an adventure to find the geocaches hidden in this park.
Hills & Dales is one of the area’s most historical parks. In addition to the monument honoring the park’s founder, John Patterson, the park also includes architectural remnants of the Old Barn Camp, one of several Adirondack-style camps that hosted countless picnics and parties in the early 20th century.
Get a slice of history and a spectacular view from the Patterson Monument. Park near Twin Oak or Adirondack Camp and hike the Adirondack Trail to the statue. John H. Patterson, co-founder of NCR, believed education, recreation and outdoor exercise were the pillars of good health. A memorial to Patterson was erected in the 1920s and stands in the heart of Hills & Dales to honor his leadership. The bronze and granite monument by Italian sculptor Giovanni Morretti places Patterson and his favorite horse, Spinner, at the top of the hill, where he often rode on the bridle paths. Allegorical figures representing prosperity, progress, industry and education also are included to represent Patterson’s influence on the community.
The park has more than 2 miles of wooded trails for walking and hiking, including the 1.4-mile Adirondack Trail loop that encompasses the beautiful Dogwood Pond and a boardwalk through a high-quality forested wetland.
John Patterson chose the location of the park for its distinctive character. It has some of the highest land near the city and offers beautiful views and includes tall, long and narrow ridges surrounded on all sides by woods.
The wealth of wildlife in the park also makes Hills & Dales a great place for nature study and birding.
The landscape of Hills & Dales makes a great place for an impromptu game of Frisbee or kicking or throwing a ball around, and it provides a place for children to run, climb and find secret hiding places.
Hills & Dales’ White Oak Camp offers both a traditional play area and a nature play area for kids on the tree-covered hill. Caretakers can walk on nearby paths or enjoy the comfy Adirondack chairs.Park in the lot off of Hilton Drive or access the camp by a three-quarter-mile trail walk from Twin Oak Camp off of South Patterson Boulevard.
A testament to the fact that Hills & Dales is a “work of art,” the Staged Gates sculpture, installed by renowned artist Mary Miss in 1979, is an appropriate frame for this MetroPark. Staged Gates creates an illusion of procession by arranging a sequence of narrowing wooden gates that act like theater wings. It is located near the stone tower at Paw Paw Camp.
The vista on Patterson Boulevard near the Patterson Monument provides a panoramic view for photographers. The park is a popular spot to capture the changing leaves in fall, especially near Dogwood Pond.
Unreserved shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Picnic table sites also are available.
Cross-country ski the picnic areas and open meadows. Most hiking trails are not suitable for skiing due to steep terrain.
Hiking trails are open all winter long in most MetroParks, including Hills & Dales.
The sled hill at nearby Community Golf Course is popular with sledders of all ages.
Birding is a great way to learn about nature and get outside in your parks. From the young to the young at heart, people of all ages can enjoy this activity year-round. Winter in Ohio offers many opportunities to explore the woods for songbirds.
Park Amenities & Activities
The 63-acre Hills & Dales MetroPark is filled with picturesque creeks, rolling hills, dense woods (including an outstanding example of Ohio natural forest), wildflowers and wetlands, all conveniently located just south of downtown Dayton.