Travelers to southwest Ohio’s Butler County, just north of Cincinnati, will need sustenance to fuel their journey through the area’s small towns. With 13 mom-and-pop donut shops on Butler County’s Donut Trail, it has one of the highest numbers per capita of donut shops in the Midwest.
Note: Thank you to Butler County for hosting my visit. The opinions offered are mine.
To include a donut shop on the Donut Trail, it must be in Butler County, Ohio, and not part of a national chain. In addition, its primary business must be donuts, and it must make them on site.
You must get an early start because some of the most popular donuts sell out early, even on weekdays. Some of the smaller shops sell out in their entirety. Be prepared to stand in line, especially on the weekends, when everyone seems to have the same idea.
You’ll find two items helpful in conquering the trail: the Donut Trail Map and the Donut Trail Passport. Download the passport or request one at your first stop. Next, ask the staff to stamp their shop with their official Donut Trail stamp. You’ll have a head start, with one shop already stamped. Visit all the others, get your passport stamped at each shop, and earn a Donut Trail T-shirt.
Each shop has seasonal specialties, so if you’re a pumpkin fanatic or love apple cider donuts, you’ll want to tackle this trail in the fall.
I’ve organized this trail in the order that I took it. Over 3 days, I collected donuts every morning. I sampled some on the spot, but I kept others for an afternoon or bedtime snack. You must pace yourself.
The Donut Hole By Milton’s, West Chester
“You need to sign a waiver so that if you get addicted, I won’t be responsible,” jokes the man behind the counter as I place my order at The Donut Hole by Milton’s.
A local tipped me off that these cake donuts are moist even after a couple of days. I can’t imagine donuts not being eaten long before that, but it’s good to know. The glaze is light and just sweet enough, rather than overly sweet. The must-try offering here is the fried cream cheese Danish.
Pro Tip: Before starting the Donut Trail, plan your route. With over 13 shops on the trail and a fair distance between those on each side of the county, you’ll want to be efficient and plan your strategy using the Donut Trail map.
Stan The Donut Man, West Chester
Stan the Donut Man started in Lebanon, Ohio, over 60 years ago. Today, Stan’s son Marty is at the helm of Stan the Donut Man and has continued the family tradition in West Chester for 25 years. Using the same made-from-scratch family recipes his father started, customers know Marty’s shop for the fritters — apple and pineapple. The apple fritter has chunks of apple and cinnamon with a light glaze.
Pro Tip: The Donut Trail has a concierge, a Donut Trail expert, to help customize your experience. Call 513-860-0917 for assistance.
Holtman’s Donuts, West Chester
Holtman’s Donuts is a third-generation family business. Charles Holtman started the shop in 1960, and today the family still makes everything from scratch. It takes about 2 hours of prep before they start popping out the donuts. You can watch them work in the large window to the kitchen.
The shop has a pretty turquoise and white décor, where you can sit down and enjoy your donut with a cup of coffee. You’ll find a wide variety of specialty donuts. For example, you’ll find donuts decorated as sharks during Shark Week. The maple bacon donut, a yeast donut, topped with maple icing and crispy bits of real bacon, put them on the map. Another one of my favorites here was the pumpkin cake donut with cream cheese topping.
Pro Tip: This shop stays open later than most, until 7 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday and until 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The Donut Dude, Liberty Township
While The Donut Dude is a relative newcomer to the donut business, his shop has been open for 3 years. Glen Huey has been a donut lover most of his life. A comfortable atmosphere with friendly banter between the Donut Dude and his customers ends with, “See you in a week or so!” Glen has new offerings weekly with 60 to 65 different varieties in total. Coming soon to the showcase is the Bananas Foster donut.
Martin’s Donuts, Trenton
People said not to overlook the little places and you can’t ignore Martin’s Donuts. The tall bright pink building stands out boldly against the landscape. The shop, owned and operated by the Mason family since 2003, specializes in handmade donuts. The team comes in and starts baking before midnight to offer a fresh variety of donuts in the morning. They make everything in-house, the donuts, icings, and glazes.
Martin’s is known for the Twisted Sister, a braided donut. Then there’s the maple bacon twist. The cream horn came highly recommended by the woman behind the counter. She admitted to taking them home and hiding in the bathroom to eat them so she wouldn’t have to share. They are just that good.
Pro Tip: If you plan to visit several shops in a single day, pace yourself. Share a single donut with three other friends or cut out a bite-sized piece and save the rest for later.
Milton’s Donuts, Middletown
Milton’s Donuts offers award-winning donuts. The shop won first in the region and third in the state for the best donuts, one employee proudly informed me. The team at this family-owned business has been handcrafting donuts since 1960. The kiddos are sure to love the Fruity Pebbles iced yeast donut.
Pro Tip: The Donut Trail is a fun group activity for birthday parties and other celebrations. That way, you can share smaller pieces of each donut and sample a wider variety.
Central Pastry Shop, Middletown
Central Pastry Shop has been a tradition in Middletown for more than 69 years. Customers standing in line recall fond memories of Central Pastry Shop from their childhood. The shop sits between two schools, and now customers recall stopping by for a donut and a glass of milk before school. The Central Pastry Shop is famous for the yeast donut known as the cinnamon square. It’s glazed and has housemade cinnamon crumble topping.
Pro Tip: In addition to donuts, Central Pastry Shop is a full-service bakery, including crafting decorative cakes
Kelly’s Bakery, Hamilton
If you’re visiting Hamilton, you can sample three shops without leaving the city. Owned by a mom and daughter team, Kelly’s Bakery has been open for over 6 years now. Of course, you’ll want to taste the Buckeye Donut, a yeast donut with a peanut butter filling and chocolate icing. Another local favorite is the Kelly Bread, a glazed donut with cinnamon icing that pulls apart like monkey bread.
Pro Tip: The donut trail doesn’t have a time limit. Do all 13 in one day or tackle it over several months. Just be sure to take your passport to each shop when you go.
Mimi’s Donuts & Bakery, Hamilton
After 30 years as a police officer, Sherry Richardson retired and opened Mimi’s Donuts & Bakery. The shop is famous for the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup donut, filled with peanut buttercream and topped with chocolate icing. Another favorite is the lemon-iced blueberry cake donut.
Pro Tip: If a shop sells out of donuts, it may close early. Getting an early start on the trail will help ensure you can get donuts at all the shops on that day’s itinerary.
Ross Bakery, Hamilton
If you like strawberry cheesecake, you’ll want to sample the strawberry cheesecake donut at Ross Bakery. Topped with fresh glazed strawberries, I wanted to go back for another one. They were just that delicious. Ross Bakery is also known for the glazed donuts, another must-try.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to tackle the Butler County Donut Trail, pace yourself. Remember to mix savory food throughout your trip to avoid a sugar high.
Oxford Donut Shoppe, Oxford
Located close to Miami University’s campus, the Oxford Donut Shoppe has offered donuts for more than 50 years. Its most famous donut is the blueberry cake donut. In addition, the shop has perfected making the old-fashioned, kettle-fried donuts. Other specialties at this donut shop are fried croissants, cream horns, and cinnamon rolls.
Pro Tip: A non-donut favorite at this shop is the cinnamon rolls.
Jupiter Coffee & Donuts, Fairfield
Jupiter Coffee & Donuts has an out-of-this-world maple bacon donut. It flavors the donut with maple syrup from the owner’s family farm. Another specialty is the Red Storm Roll, with a nod to Jupiter’s red storm. The donut has a raspberry filling with cream cheese frosting and a red swirl on top.
Pro Tip: Pair the shop’s house-roasted coffee with one of its donuts.
The Donut Spot, Fairfield
Even with an early start, The Donut Spot had a line out the door on Saturday morning. Of course, you’ll want to try the raspberry-filled donut. That’s one of the standouts here. If you’re a chocolate lover, try the chocolate Bavarian cream yeast donut.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve completed the Donut Trail, you can wear your Donut Trail T-shirt to receive over 30 additional offers and savings at other Butler County businesses with the Extra Sweet Savings Pass.
For other things to do while you’re exploring Butler County’s Donut Trail, check out these other activities: