Key At-A-Glance Information
Length: 1.13 miles
Configuration: Lollipop figure 8
Difficulty: Moderate (woods wandering)
Scenery: Woods, agricultural fields, and streams
Exposure: Full sun
Traffic: Light except during hunting season
Trail Surface: Mowed
Hiking Time: 2 hours
Driving Distance: 45 minutes south of Cincinnati
Maps: USGS Walton
Wheelchair Accessible: No
For More Information: (859) 428-2262 or www.kdfwr.state.ky.us
Special Comments: Want to get away from it all? Head for the rolling hills at Mullins.
Although Mullins Wildlife Management Area is nestled between a country road and I-75, it still has a lot to offer in the form of peace and tranquility. In fact, you’ll most likely be the only one in the 266 acres of mixed wildlife plots (planted fields) and woods.
Even during the hunting seasons, odds are good hunting pressure will be light. Look up the current seasons online at www.kdfwr.state.ky.us. Deer season here is archery only. If you want to be undeniably visible to other people, wear a blaze-orange jacket and ball cap. It won’t impact your ability to see wildlife
species such as white-tailed deer—they see in shades of gray—but you will be very visible to humans.
The trail described here leads down to the woods, but I don’t feel comfortable bringing you farther along, as the trail blends in and out of existence once you get into the forest. If you choose, you can follow the fence line to the east and reach the southern half of the property.
Because this is a wildlife management area, you’re permitted to go anywhere on the property. This is good news for the die-hard birder in you. The area has tufted titmice; red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches; Carolina, Bewick’s and sedge wrens; cedar waxwings; long- and short-eared owls; barn owls; and lark, savannah, grasshopper, and Henslow’s sparrows—just to drop a few names. At dusk you might may see little brown, Indiana, and evening bats zipping through the sky.
Once you turn on Courtney/Eads Road, it’s easy to zoom past the entrance to Mullins Wildlife Management Area because of the angle at which it sits to the road. Turn right into the gravel lot and park. Enter the trail by passing through the gate.
The trail is a wide path between agricultural fields. Wildlife management areas have crop fields beneficial to a variety of wildlife species, providing a source of food, water, and cover. Additional cover is provided by the unmowed and brushy edges. This is a good place to see various wildlife species such as red foxes, rabbits, and songbirds.
The best times to view wildlife on the property are at dawn and dusk. Especially during the fall and spring bird migrations, you can expect to see a variety of wildlife, including neotropical songbirds.
Near 0.2 miles, the area to the right is unmowed. Here you can sit and watch the activity along the edge of the field and brushy area. The trail continues on, passing several agricultural fields and more overgrown brushy areas.
The first thing I noticed about this hike was the cacophony of insect sounds that at times is loud enough to drown out urban noise. At 0.28 miles, the path leads up a small hill and crosses through an intersection of crop fields. Continue following the trail to the right toward the power lines.
The trail descends next to a fence line and through the power line rightof- way. Be careful to not get snagged by the bountiful growth of multiflora rose at 0.38 miles. During the summer and early fall the beautiful deep-purple blossoms of ironweed dot the clear-cut under the power lines. Butterflies frequent this area for a nectar source during summer. During fall and winter, birds forage for seeds.
After the right-of-way area, the trail enters upland woods. It’s not an urbanized trail, coming into and out of existence as it passes through the woods. The trail is not marked.
After the path enters the woods, it crosses a small stream. Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, you’ll need to find a way across the stream without getting wet. On the other side, follow the stream, and at 0.49 miles turn south and head uphill.
Continue up to the ridge and take a moment to enjoy the incredible hickory trees along the ridgeline. Shagbark hickory trees have a distinctive peeling gray bark. You can harvest some of the bark, about a cupful, and boil it in a pan of water. Once the water turns a copper color, strain out the bark and return the water to the pan. Add half as much sugar as you have bark-flavored water. Boil the mixture to the soft-ball stage as in candy making to make syrup.
This delicious hickory syrup rivals maple syrup any day. If you decide to try this, make sure there is no poison ivy on or near the tree, and that you can accurately identify a shagbark hickory tree via a tree identification guide.
The best feature of this hike is what it lacks—distractions. The hike verges on woods wandering and allows you the rare opportunity to explore the forest, roll a few logs to see what creatures lurk beneath, listen to birdsongs, or just sit and watch nature in action. Odds are good no one will disturb you, as long as you remember to turn off your cell phone.
Continue following the ATV trail to the southeast through the woods. The path heads downhill and ends at a stream crossing at 0.6 miles. Cross the stream and walk south, then turn back. The fence line is to the left and the confluence of the streams is to the right. Cross the other stream to get to the fence line.
Follow the fence line (on the left) through a forest of tulip, sugar maple, and hackberry trees. Plenty of grapevine is snarled up and through the trees throughout the area. At 0.74 miles, cross the creek near a large, old, fallen tree and continue up to the ridge with the shagbark hickory trees.
From there, follow the trail back downhill and at 0.82 miles cross the first creek you crossed earlier in the hike. Continue northwest to the trail that leads underneath the power lines. Retrace your steps along the trail to your vehicle. Turn the cell phone back on.
GPS Trailhead Coordinates
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UTM Zone (WGS84) 16S
Latitude: N 38 degrees 48' 48.78"
Longitude: W 84 degrees 36' 28.93"
Boone County Cliffs State Nature Preserve, Dinsmore Homestead and Dinsmore Woods State Nature Preserve, and Curtis Gates Lloyd Wildlife Management Area offer additional hiking trails. Florence Mall has plenty of shopping and dining options.