Steinhauser Trail – Morning View Heritage Area, Morning View, KY

I am a four season hiker, and all but the winter are “my favorite seasons to hike”. The early fall is a great time to be outdoors as nature offers the encore of the summer season, as well as the onset of leaf change. That is what brought us back to Morning View Heritage Area (MVHA), a Kentucky State Nature Preserve that is relatively close to Cincinnati.

As noted in the title photo, the Goldenrods were still in their prime: Looking even more striking interlaced with the Sumacs and briars as they start to display there crimson colors.

The MVHA is a well maintained and signed preserve. To get to the Steinhauser Trail we first entered the Dickerson Trail,

and then the Kreissl Trail.

The Kreissl Trail traverses a field in succession, with a creek bed valley to your left and a sloping mixed field to your right.

At times the path tunnels through a canopy of small trees and shrubs.

The saunter was alive with wildlife, be it the constant clucking of the Wild Turkeys in the creek valley, or the fluttering of a variety of small butterflies, including this lovely Pearl Crescent.

It was here that we saw two varieties of Goldenrod shoulder to shoulder, one more understated than the other.

Tall Golden Rod

Zig Zag Goldenrod – an educated guess based on the back and forth of the stem.

Shortly we saw a different dramatic fall yellow, a Sugar Maple well into color change.

This was where the Steinhauser Trail started; a 1.5 mile loop trail that leads to the highest peak of the preserve.

The topography changes immediately. The trail climbs down a short grade to a stone filled dry creek bed and then immediately climbs a 45 degree slope. The photo is not near as intimidating as the view from the creek bed.

But at the top of the short climb we were rewarded by the incandescence of the October afternoon sun illuminating some Sugar Maple leaves.

From here the trail headed east, both ascending and descending, and crossing dry creek beds. Intermittently we would enjoy isolated pockets of color like these, a marriage of Sugar Maple to the right, with what appeared to be a Tupelo to the left. Some tree identification gets challenging when the leaves are 30 or 40 feet from the forest floor, but Tupelos are one of the first trees to turn red in the eastern forests, and on magnification of the photo I saw the variation of leaf forms characteristic of Tupelos.

The fall colors appeared more dramatic on closer examination.

As we climbed up toward the peak we could occasionally catch glimpses of nice views to our east. As we were clearly in a succession farm pasture, with younger primary trees like Black Locusts and Redcedars, and knowing the dairy farm history of the property, I posed a question to the photographer, “Do you think that the dairy cattle enjoyed their views from the top of this ridge”? She did not seem to appreciate my Dolittlian philosophical inquiry.

After a relatively challenging trek we did turn the corner and reach the apex of the trail.

The selling point on the Steinhauser Trail is reportedly the view from the top of the climb. While it was nice, to be honest, it was less than I anticipated. Perhaps previous reviews were written by hikers taller than myself and the photographer. The thriving briars and forbs limited our proximity to the viewing edge.

I can only imagine how much the colors in this field of view will improve over the next two to three weeks.

The transition field at the top of the climb featured seed heads from flowers whose display we had missed earlier in the summer.

Joe Pye-Weed – a pollinator favorite. This head was about 6 inches across.

Ironweed – which flowered an intense purple in August and September.

From here the trail meanders through a non-descript succession field of forbs, American Elm, Black Locust, Redcedar, and Honey Locust.

Eventually the loop closes, and we ended back on the lead in trail, which on the descent offered a welcoming view of the nearby wood, with a relatively open understory.

As I mentioned, hiking this time of year offers the blend of the seasons; still some outstanding floral displays, along with the earliest of leaf change.

The floral displays included these:

Frostweed Aster – its very small leaves allows the plant to present as a ball of white.

Crooked-stem Aster – notice the stem in both photos.

Calico Aster – the center of the flower heads turn from yellow to purple as they age, as seen here.

Autumn Sneezeweed – this flower does not cause hay fever as the pollen is too heavy for wind dispersal and must be carried by insects. The dried and crushed foliage however can cause sneezing.

White Snakeroot – the leaves and stems are poisonous to cows and toxic to humans who consume the milk of cows that have eaten the plant. The name comes from the “snaking” curves of its taproot.

In the fall, there are so many textures and colors added to the hike as flowers become seeds and fruit. We enjoyed seeing these.

Dandelion – is a native to Europe and was initially introduced into eastern North America in the mid-1600s as a food and medicine source (leafy greens, root). Each “blow ball” seed head can hold from 54 to172 seeds for wind dispersal, and a single plant can produce up to 5000 seeds per year. Despite the colorful flower and the attraction of bees, the dandelion largely reproduces asexually, with each seed being a genetic clone to the parent plant.

Queen Anne’s Lace – a member of the carrot family and sometimes referred to as “Wild Carrot”.

Rose Hips – a fall and winter food source for wildlife.

Poison Ivy – note the waxy white berries, which birds love.

Coralberry – varieties of these are sold in plant nurseries and provide outstanding fall color in the garden. The cultivars have heavier berry production and more intense fuchsia berry coloration.

While we were early for the most dramatic of leaf change, we did find it on a more intimate scale.

Virginia Creeper

Gray Dogwood – while we did not capture them in the photos, this one had the white berries to differentiate it from Flowering Dogwood, which has red berries, and smooth leaves, to differentiate it from Rough Dogwood. It did have the classic purplish red color making it identifiable as a dogwood from a distance.

With a characteristic Dogwood bark, this specimen was pretty substantial for a Gray Dogwood.

And selected American White Oaks had started the conversion early compared to their peers.

Other interesting sightings included:

A collection of Pawpaw seeds amongst an unidentified scat (poop). Given when Pawpaws ripen this poop is probably 2 weeks old or more.

and this rather chaotic spider web that is officially called a “tangle web”, and characteristic of certain spider families including the black widow.

The following two architectural gems are on the opposite ends of the biomass scale. First a multi-trunked Chinkapin Oak that stood proudly along the Kriessl Trail.

And then this interesting plant that we saw in the deepest shade of the hillside climb. Notice, that at each level leaves arise along the stem in threes. Her breadth was only about 1.5 inches. Stunning in its simplicity. It is a native succulent, Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum). A shout out to the staff at The Parklands of Floyds Fork in Jefferson County for helping me with the identification.

And we exit the Steinhauser Trail to the Kreissl Trail to find our way back to the parking lot and apparently freedom 🙂

In summary, the Steinhauser Trail is an enjoyable challenge. I would certainly rate it as moderate plus, and like the other trails at MVHA, it is well maintained. It has several challenging creek bed crossings, and while listed at 200 feet of elevation change, that does not account for the waveform ascent to the view. To be honest, the view is oversold and would benefit from some community service or an Eagle Scout project, to clear the viewing area and perhaps place a bench. Then, after the climb, one could sit back, hydrate and enjoy the oak covered hills and the colors of the leaf change. This is the ideal trail to intersect a cardio workout with fresh air and embrace nature. The footing is challenging at times and is not a simple woods run, but there is a lot to enjoy. The next few weeks will be an ideal time to appreciate the changing leaf colors, and we encourage you to find the time to enjoy them. posts are released every Sunday morning and some bonus content is added periodically. Please click on a social media icon above to follow for future posts and to make sure that you catch all our reflections on, and adventures with, the great outdoors.

Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.


Location – 15168 Decoursey Pike, Morningview, KY 41063. It is 25 miles south of downtown Cincinnati.

Parking – Large gravel lot for approximately 20 cars.

Facilities – None.

Trail Conditions – mowed path through fields and succession grasslands. Dirt path through the woods. There is approximately 200 foot elevation change, but with the rolling course the actual vertical climb is more than that. The entire course that we hiked, including the access trails, was approximately 2.5 miles.

Print Map Link –×11.pdf?ver=1661851941998

Benches – None

Picnic Tables – None

Kids – kids 10 and over should do well here

Dogs – Prohibited

Suggested Paired Hikes – there are several other hikes in the preserve.



  1. Thanks, Dr. Burns!
    I would never have known about the Morning View Heritage Area except for your Blog! Loved the flora description and photos.
    Yours in the outdoors,

    • Thanks Ron. I hope that you find your way there. One of my daughters hiked there last weekend and had a great outing.
      Good hiking close to home is a blessing.

      Thanks, Dr. Burns!
      I would never have known about the Morning View Heritage Area except for your Blog! Loved the flora description and photos.
      Yours in the outdoors,

  2. Pat and Peg:
    Cheryl and I I just got back from hiking at the Morningview Heritage Area. While it was a little
    late in the season, the flowers in the meadow were still plentiful and we were happy to see a few we’d never seen before. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found that most of the Steinhaus Trail was closed, as they are in the process of removing invasive species. We want to go back to see it all!

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