It's hard to imagine that scenic gorges and waterfalls are within an hour's drive of Columbus.

Driving around the flatlands of Columbus, it's hard to imagine that scenic gorges and waterfalls are within an hour's drive.

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, located just outside Yellow Springs, offers interesting terrain for hiking and sightseeing. The area has plenty of striking rock formations, scenic overlooks and amazing old-growth trees.

It's especially cool because the 2-mile gorge was created by melting glaciers moving through the region.

Well-maintained trails allow visitors to walk along the rim of the gorge or down along the riverbed. The Rim Trail and the Gorge Trail are both one mile long.

Their wide paths make them accessible for hikers of all ages and abilities. On the day we visited, we saw people both in boots and in flip-flops. I would recommend tennis shoes as the trail can be uneven and a little slippery.

We especially enjoyed the big rocks that line the trail and form scenic overlooks. Along the Gorge Trail, we debated whether we thought Steamboat Rock really lived up to its name. We decided that perhaps it had weathered a bit in the 200+ years since the early settlers created the moniker. The boys were inspired to name some of the other rocks as we continued along the path.

They also were amazed by the local legend that Daniel Boone once passed through the gorge, and that a pioneer fleeing Native Americans successfully jumped the crevasse with the help of a tree branch on the other side, just within reach.

Standing on the edge of the rocky cliff just off the trail, we marveled - with a flutter in our stomachs - at what would have been a harrowing leap. Indeed, parents should start the hike by warning ornery children about the dangers of leaving the trail. Keep young children within grabbing distance, and heed the warnings posted along the path.

After hiking all around the gorge, the boys decided they were hungry. We had promised them ice cream at Clifton Mill, which is an easy walk from either of the parking lots along State Route 343.

The historic grist mill, which is now the site of a gift shop and restaurant, was built in 1802. Many know the mill for its spectacular holiday lights.

When we arrived at Clifton Mill, we couldn't resist having a meal. The restaurant serves breakfast all day so it's good place to carbo-load before a hike.

The proximity of Clifton Mill to the gorge also makes the area a great holiday destination. Families can hike the gorge before heading to the mill to take in the holiday display, which includes more than 3.5 million lights.

Also within a few miles is the quirky town of Yellow Springs, with local shops and restaurants that serve as a crossroads for a regional network of bike trails, and Young's Jersey Dairy, a local family attraction with a lunch menu and an ice cream counter.