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Sleep In A Treehouse And Explore Ohio’s Hidden Sand Dunes

Nestled between Whitehouse and Swanton, Oak Openings Preserve is a natural treasure in Northwest Ohio. At 5,000 acres, it’s the largest Metropark in the Toledo area, offering a unique blend of ecosystems that range from oak savannas and wetlands to vegetated sand dunes. It’s a place where nature’s majesty is on full display, making it a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts and curious explorers alike.

The Unique Sand Dunes

girdham road sand dunes
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One of the most incredible aspects of Oak Openings is undoubtedly its sand dunes. While you won’t find towering dunes like those at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Ohio’s sand dunes are special in their own right. These pockets of sand, remnants of an ancient shoreline, are tucked into a landscape of prairie woodland trees and brush, creating a unique and surprising sight.

The Sand Dunes Trail is an adventure waiting to be explored. Starting at the Mallard Lake pavilion and playground parking area next to the Buehner Center, the Red Trail winds through the woods, revealing sandy patches that seem to appear out of nowhere.

girdham road sand dunes
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The dry, hot dunes are dotted with prickly-pear cactus, wild lupine, and sand cherry, contrasting sharply with the nearby orchids thriving in the wetter areas.

As you hike, keep an eye out for animal tracks in the sand, especially after a rain. Benches along the ridge provide perfect spots to sit and take in the unique landscape. It’s a place where every step reveals something new, making it a favorite among photographers and nature lovers.

Step Back in Time

The history of Oak Openings is as fascinating as its landscape. Pioneers named the area for its widely spaced oak trees that made travel easier compared to the dense Great Black Swamp they had to traverse to get there. Today, those same oaks still stand, a living link to the past.

The Treehouse Village

metroparks toledo treehouse
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For a truly immersive experience, spend a night (or two) in Oak Openings’ Treehouse Village. This unique spot offers a whimsical and adventurous way to connect with nature. The treehouses range from cozy one-room retreats to multi-level structures that can accommodate larger groups. Elevated walkways and rope bridges connect the treehouses, adding an extra layer of excitement.

Staying in a treehouse is like stepping into a storybook. You’ll wake up to the sounds of birdsong and the rustling of leaves, high above the ground. It’s an experience that brings out the inner child in everyone and creates unforgettable memories.

A Haven for Wildlife

girdham road sand dunes
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Oak Openings is not just about sand dunes and treehouses; it’s also a paradise for wildlife, particularly for bird enthusiasts. The park is a nesting ground for bluebirds, indigo buntings, whippoorwills, and lark sparrows. During the spring migration, it becomes a hotspot for birdwatchers hoping to catch a glimpse of traveling songbirds.

The park’s diverse habitats support a wide variety of plants and animals. From the stands of isolated pine and spruce to the wetlands and oak savannas, every part of Oak Openings is teeming with life. The Nature Conservancy once named this sandy region one of the 200 “Last Great Places on Earth,” a testament to its ecological significance.

Trails for Every Adventurer

With over 70 miles of trails, Oak Openings offers something for everyone. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, or horseback riding, you’ll find trails that suit your style. The park features a dedicated cross-country ski trail and a popular singletrack mountain bike trail, catering to adventurers of all kinds.

Plan Your Visit

Whether you’re looking to explore the unique sand dunes, spend a night in a treehouse, or simply enjoy a hike through diverse ecosystems, Oak Openings Metro Park has something for everyone. It’s a place where nature, history, and adventure come together, making it one of Ohio’s most remarkable outdoor destinations.

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