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The Mathias & Thomas Cabins

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

Clear Creek Metro Park

Thomas-Mathias Cabins Area

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Clear Creek Metro Park has many interesting features. A couple of these are the Mathias and Thomas Cabins. You can see both of these cabins during a short stop or you can add on additional trails and make a day of your visit.

The Mathias Cabin

The Mathias Cabin is named after the family that purchased the cabin in the 1920s. It now a part of Clear Creek Metro Park. Thanks to restorative efforts from Columbus Metro Parks, it is available for the public to admire. It sits a short distance off Clear Creek Road. It can be reached by parking at the Thomas-Mathias Cabins Area parking lot. There is a short path from the parking lot to get to the cabin.

Behind the cabin is a towering cliff face. And to its left is a small stream. It is a peaceful area and would have been a beautiful place to live. There is a picnic table next to the cabin. So, bring lunch and enjoy the serene surroundings and listen to the flowing water.

Like many old homes, it is believed to be haunted. During the day, the cabin looks innocent, but at night the ghosts show themselves. Stories have it that you can see lights in the windows and faces peering out. There has also been a man spotted walking across the porch. But he disappears as he reaches the steps. And don’t be surprised if you hear voices and laughter.

What the Sign Says:

The Mathias Cabin

The cabin possibly built by John Arney, a captain during the Civil War, represents the type of log dwelling early settlers built prior to the availability of bricks and other building materials. Not typical, however were the pine logs that were used for pines were much less common than they are now. The building foundations and rock terracing were built from sandstone quarried nearby. A potable spring emerges from the sandstone outcroppings north of the cabin. The Mathias family moved in the cabin in 1922 and lived there for many years.

The Thomas Cabin

The Tomas Cabin was owned by Edward S. Thomas. He purchased the 80-acre tract in 1921. He called it Neotoma Valley. Ed was a writer for the Columbus Dispatch. His first article was titled “Our Birds.” It was published on March 5, 1922. He continued writing for the Columbus Dispatch for 59 years. Many of his articles were about the wildlife, plants and history of the Clear Creek Valley.

Unlike the Mathias Cabin, the Thomas Cabin cannot be seen from the road. To get to the cabin you must walk approx. 940’. There is a slight incline most of the way to the cabin.

The trail to the cabin is surrounded by trees and large stone outcroppings. Behind the cabin, the trail continues for a short distance.

What the Sign Says:

Ed Thomas rustic cabin was perched on a tielas and woods in the Hocking Valley. Thomas called his cabin and 80-acre tract of land Neotoma for the Allegheny wood rat.


Ed Thomas and some friends found Ohio’s first specimen of the Allegheny Wood Rat. No longer found in the Hocking County, the docile rat’s preferred habitat was rocky areas in deciduous forests or small caves or rock crevices and tissures in steep cliff faces. (1923)


Neotoma Valley

The narrow, forested Clear Creek Valley is a special scenic and geological area. It is also one of the most scientifically studied valleys in the state, particularly the small valley to the north known as Neotoma.

Foremost Ohio naturalist, and one of Metro Parks’ first park board commissioners Dr. Edward S. Thomas developed an affinity for the hill country and the Hocking Hills. In 1921, he purchased an 80-acre tract of cut-over timber land in Clear Creek Valley which he called Neotoma. It was here in the rock ledges that Ed and some friends found Ohio’s first specimen of the Allegheny Wood Rat, “Neotoma magister” and thus the name.

When Thomas purchased the land, he converted a small rustic, five room frame shack into a picturesque cabin that provided shelter and hospitality to hundreds of friends and scientists who scoured the little valley conducting experiments and collecting data on the area.

Just below the cabin is a small building that served as a workstation for many of the scientists. The two best known studies are “A Botanical Survey of the Sugar Grove Region” by Robert Griggs and “Microclimates and Macroclimate of Neotoma, A Small Valley in Central Ohio” by Wolfe, Wareham and Scofield.

Thomas served as curator of natural history at the Ohio Archaeological Society from 1931 to 1962 and wrote more than 3000 articles for the Columbus Dispatch. Written over a period of 6 decades, these articles are considered a major contribution to the field of natural history.

Today, the state endangered Neotoma Wood Rat is gone from Clear Creek Valley and Hocking County – a victim of increased predation, disease and habitat change. While the wood rat has disappeared, Neotoma Valley is today a lush tapestry of maturing trees and thickets because Ed Thomas allowed the trees to reseed.


Dr. Edward Thomas on the porch of his cabin in the Neotoma Valley. Thomas could identify more than 60 species of Orthoptera (the order that includes grasshoppers and crickets) by their sound. (1924)

The Trails

  • Mathias Cabin

There is a very short trail from the parking lot. It is relatively flat and approximately 370 ft. long.

  • Thomas Cabin

The trail isn’t very long, only about 940’. However, there is an incline almost all the way to the cabin.

  • Additional Trail

Sitting to the left of the parking lot is another trail. We walked it for almost a half a mile when we were forced to turn around. The trail was so muddy that it became impassible. The trail is all-natural and has moderate elevation changes. It was very peaceful and didn’t look as though it was as heavily travelled as other trails at Clear Creek Metro Park.


We visited the cabins at the very beginning of spring migration. We still were able to spot several species of birds.

Clear Creek Metro Park is known for its amazing birding. There have been over 150 species of bird spotted at the park. With 20 of these being breeding warblers. 104 species have been submitted to eBird at the cabins.

We Spotted:

Our Thoughts

The Cabins are a nice addition to Clear Creek Metro Park. The two trails that lead to the cabin are short which allows for a quick hiking trip. If you want to stay longer the addition trail can be added on, or try one of the other many trails located at the park.

Other trails located at Clear Creek Metro Park:

What You Can Expect at Mathias Cabin and Thomas Cabin

Please note that park rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Clear Creek Metro Park as of May 2020.

Recycling Toilet at Walnut Woods Metro Park

There was one porta potty at this location.

Bicycles are prohibited on some trails in Clear Creek Metro Park. However, we did not see a sign stating if these trails were included.

Birding at Walnut Woods Metro Park

Great place for birding in Ohio.

Bridges at Walnut Woods Metro Park

There were no bridges.

Concealed carry is permitted.

Dog park at Walnut Woods Metro Park

Pets on leashes are permitted.

Little to no elevation change at Walnut Woods Metro Park

Moderate elevation changes. In 1.8 miles, we had an ascent of 124 feet, and a decent of 117 feet.

Paved parking areas at Walnut Woods Metro Park

Small limestone parking area. There is enough room for approximately 6 vehicles.

Picnic tables at Walnut Woods Metro Park

There is a picnic table located next to Mathias Cabin.

Playground at Walnut Woods Metro Park

There is no playground.

Seating is available along trails at Walnut Woods Metro Park

No seating along the trails.

Shade at Walnut Woods Metro Park

There is plenty of shade available.

Shelter house at Walnut Woods Metro Park

There is no shelter house at this location.

Trails at Walnut Woods Metro Park

Trails are marked and easy to see.

Paved Trails at Walnut Woods Metro Park

Trails are natural.

Trash cans at Walnut Woods Metro Park

We did not see any trashcans. However, areas were closed due to the Coronavirus.

Waterways at Walnut Creek Metro Park

There was a small creek next to Mathias Cabin and the additional trail.

ADA accessible trails and parking at Walnut Woods Metro Park

ADA spaces are not available at the Thomas-Mathias Cabin Area parking lot. However, ADA spaces are available at the Valley View Parking Area.

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