I began before the sun rose, venturing out into a foggy morning up I-75, my only guides the GPS and a hot cup of coffee. The coordinates were set for Milton’s Donuts in Middletown, Ohio. This, my friends, was the first stop on…
THE BUTLER COUNTY DONUT TRAIL
Yes, you read that correctly: a donut trail. Butler County, Ohio, sandwiched between Cincinnati and Dayton, is a mix of small towns, rolling farmland, light industry, and booming development along the highway. And you can explore the area through the Donut Trail, a collection of nine locally owned donut shops spread across the county. Much like the Ale Trail or Coffee Trail in Columbus, you pick up a passport, visit the shops, buy donuts (aw, shucks), and collect stamps. Fill up your passport and you earn an official Donut Trail T-shirt!
The good folks at Butler County invited us out to try the trail, and over the course of two mornings we managed to hit up enough stops to complete our passports. There are nine stops total, and we made it to all of them except one – the Oxford Doughnut Shoppe in Oxford. It’s the farthest out from the other locations, so your passport comes pre-stamped.
We were staying at the Staybridge Suites in West Chester, and I ventured out early Saturday morning and drove up to Middletown to Milton’s Donuts. I knew I was in the right place when I saw a strip mall with one storefront brightly lit, and a collection of cars parked around it. Milton’s was busy, with a steady stream of customers coming through the doors.
They laid out a half dozen donuts for us, including this beauty filled with cream cheese. We also loved the Oreo donut.
Stop #1 on the tour complete!
Then I was off to Martin’s Donuts in nearby Trenton. Even in the dim light of morning I couldn’t miss the pink building with its glowing windows. There I found an incredibly warm welcome from the owners.
Every Donut Trail stop is designated with a little street sign with funny pictures and phrases.
They laid out a box full of their best at Martin’s, including everything from glazed donuts, cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, bacon-topped maple longjohns. My favorite of the bunch was that rectangular fried and glazed cronut.
Stop #2 completed!
Before I left, I peeked into Martin’s production room. The building is a renovated mechanic’s shop, with the garage transformed into the kitchen.
With the sun coming up, I trekked back to West Chester to pick up the family, and we found Stan the Donut Man in a tiny strip mall storefront.
Stan’s was busy, too, with a short line to the door, and it looked like they were starting to sell out. But we still nabbed a small collection of donuts.
Including a tasty cruller. And thus we completed stop #3!
They we hit the road for a 20-minute drive northwest into Hamilton, Ohio. We drove straight through the center of town past a dramatic statue of A. Ham. himself (more on that later) and arrived at Ross Bakery. Again, it was tucked into a little strip mall.
Here we received a friendly welcome and were introduced to some of the largest donuts on the tour. Ross Bakery actually has two locations on the Donut Trail, and you can complete either one. We stopped at the Eaton Avenue location, which a few different sources recommended.
They really excelled at the glazed donuts at Ross Bakery, and their regular glazed was one of my favorite tastes of the weekend. Much like a brewer creating a clean and balanced lager, a baker who can produce a great yeast-raised glazed donut gets high marks in my book. This once was soft but substantial, evenly glazed without being too sugary sweet.
They also featured a cinnamon roll that was quite literally as big as our heads.
Or bigger than our heads, for the little ones.
Ross Bakery also creates a big glazed donut twisted like a pretzel. Another hit. Stop #4 completed!
Then it was off to Kelly’s Bakery, also in Hamilton. It’s decorated like a throw-back diner, with checkered floors and colorful decorations.
And colorful was the name of the game with their donuts, dipped in Fruity Pebbles, crushed Oreos, or crumbled bacon. There was a buckeye donut, a s’mores donut, and even their version of a Thin Mint donut.
And with that, stop #5 was completed!
And then we snuck over to Mimi’s Donuts & Bakery. Ross, Kelly’s, and Mimi’s are all in Hamilton, so it’s easy to hit all three fairly quickly (depending on how long you stop to savor the donuts).
Again, we got a friendly welcome and good conversation at Mimi’s. It sounds like the donut shops have seen many Donut Trail-ers, so they’ve learned to spot folks walking through the doors with bright green passports in hand.
They loaded us up with a box of the good stuff, including a generous handful of their signature donut holes.
Stop #6 completed!
We took a short break to visit Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield, where we ate some protein (what’s that?) and shopped around. Across the street from Jungle Jim’s was our final stop for the day: Jupiter Coffee & Donuts. On Saturdays Jupiter stays open later than many of the other shops (which mostly close between noon-2pm).
Again, the warm welcome and engaging customer service.
And we walked away with a few hearty selections like this raspberry jelly-filled beauty. Stop #7 – our final stop for the day – completed. Now it was on to some more sightseeing, swimming at the hotel, and a protein-heavy dinner.
The next morning was Sunday, and since I passed on my morning person gene to my boys, the three of us got up early and zipped back up to Fairfield for our final donut collection: The Donut Spot. Given the continual line out the door, we were clearly in the right place.
The workers ducked and wove between boxes of pre-ordered donuts. They were busy, but they still took time to welcome a couple newcomers, stamp our passports, and suggest donuts to try.
We picked up a half dozen to go. My favorite there was the cream cheese-filled glazed donut, warm and fresh and lightly iced.
With that, stop #8 was completed, and thus THE DONUT TRAIL WAS FINISHED. Eight donut shops within roughly 30 hours. Because some of the shops had saved us donuts, we had boxes and boxes of donuts leftover, so we shared the bounty with friends at home.
I loved the experience obviously because I love donuts, but because I’m a big believer in using food as your entryway to discovering and exploring a new place, and the Donut Trail does just that.
And you can do it, too! Learn more about the Butler County Donut Trail at: http://www.gettothebc.com/donut-trail
You can pick up a passport at any of the participating donut shops or the visitors center in West Chester, or you can print one off at home. Learn more about the region through the Butler County Visitors Bureau, and as you travel the trail, be sure to tag posts with #donuttrail and #gettothebc.
- Start early! Many of the donut shops will run out, especially on weekends, and will close early
- You don’t have to complete the trail all in one day or even one weekend. If you live close by or visit the region regularly (hello, IKEA!), hit up one or two shops at a time.
- Plan your ideal route ahead of time by using the map
- Do it as a family or with a group of friends! This is the perfect opportunity to do some exploring with others.
- Make time to visit other sites in the county: local restaurants, downtown Hamilton, Jungle Jim’s, Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, EnterTrainment Junction, and more
Disclaimer: accommodations, entertainment, and some meals were provided by the Butler County Visitors Bureau. Photos and opinions are my own.