John Bryan is the most scenic state park in western Ohio. The 752-acre park contains a remarkable limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami River which is designated as a state and national scenic river. A portion of the gorge itself is designated as a national natural landmark.
Some of the first people to experience the area's beauty were the Moundbuilders, and later, the Shawnee Indians. Just five 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 to the nearby James Galloway House, which has been kept intact 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 the textile mill, grist mills and sawmills located there.
By the late 1800s, most of the industrial activity in the area ceased. Water was no longer an economical source of power and many mills were abandoned. However, one of the grist mills built in 1869 is still in operation. Located in the village of Clifton, the Clifton Mill is open to visitors.
The park takes its name from an ambitious businessman 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."
John 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
The park’s wooded campground offers a total of 61 single campsites.
9 electric sites
52 non-electric sites
Most campsites are partially shaded and are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings.
Latrines, drinking water and a dump station are available.
Pets are permitted on all sites.
Drinking water is not available during off season.
One 100-person group camp area is available for organized groups on a reservation basis.
Two adirondack shelters are available in the group camp area.
The Little Miami River is excellent for canoeing. A launch area near the park on Jacoby Road provides access to this scenic river. As the river twists and bends, visitors will discover steep rock cliffs, towering sycamores and many historic sites along the way.
An 18-hole disc golf course is available.
The Little Miami River provides excellent stream fishing opportunities for anglers. Smallmouth bass, rock bass and panfish are in abundance. A valid Ohio fishing license is required. Fishing is not allowed in the nearby Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve.
There are several picnic areas in the park. All areas have tables, grills and latrines. Some areas also have drinking water. The shelterhouse at the Lower picnic area is available for reservation May 1 through October 31.
A day-use lodge -- equipped with two fireplaces, restroom facilities, large screened-in porch and kitchen with stove and refrigerator -- is available for reservation from May 1 through October 31.
Rock Climbing and Rappelling
A public rock climbing and rappelling area has been established on a section of the North Rim Trail. Access this area via a trail from a 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.
Ten hiking trails traverse the park:
Big Furnace Trail (Camp Trail) - 1 Mile
Quarry Loop Trail - .47 Mile
North Rim Trail - 2.7 Miles
Pitt-Cinci Stage Coach Trail - 1.3 Miles
Poplar Trail - 0.1 Miles
Ridge Trail - 1.5 Miles
South Gorge Trail - 1.2 Miles (CLOSED DUE TO CONSTRUCTION)
Orton Memorial Trail - 0.4 Miles
Gorge Trail (John L. Rich Trail) - 1.3 Miles
Narrows Trail (John L. Rich Trail)- .6 Mile
One hiking trail also allows bicycles:
Arboretum Trail (Observatory Trail) - 1.2 Miles
Adjacent to the park, Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve also 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 to make the ride interesting for intermediate cyclists.
Arboretum Trail (Observatory Trail) - 1.2 Miles
Power Line Loop - 2.25 Miles
Abracadabra Trail - 2.25 Miles
Great Scott Lower Trail - 2.17 Miles
Great Scott Loop and Exit Trail - 3.0 Miles
Frankenlite Loop Trail - 2.72 Miles
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy sledding and cross-country skiing.