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I practically grew up in the parks in Columbus, Ohio. From a young age, my mom had us exploring nature on the hiking trails in Ohio. Now, as an adult, I still love hiking in Columbus and around the state. To help fellow trekkers, I’ve rounded up my list of favorite Columbus hikes in the best city parks.
Parks In Columbus, Ohio
Some of the best parks in Ohio are located within the Columbus Metropolitan area – which means there are plenty of opportunities for hiking near Columbus, Ohio. In fact, Columbus, Ohio Parks and Recreation maintains more than 350 parks in Franklin County alone.
Additionally, Columbus Metro Parks boast 19 of the most beautiful parks in Ohio covering 27,700 acres – with an astounding 230 miles of trails. If you are in Columbus and are seeking the best hiking in Ohio, you don’t have to go far!
Hiking Columbus, Ohio: What You Will Need
When you go hiking in Ohio, there are a few things you will want to have on the trails!
We don’t think hiking boots are necessary for most of the hiking trails near Columbus, Ohio. Instead, Kris likes to wear Merrell trail shoes – and I wear a lightweight sneaker, like my favorite travel shoes from New Balance.
Sunscreen and Bug Repellent
When hiking in Columbus, Ohio in the summertime, you will want to make sure you are protected from both the sun’s rays and the insects. It is best to bring sunscreen – and possibly wear a wide-brimmed hat. To keep the bugs away, be sure to carry insect repellent with you, too.
Camera for Ohio Photography
When hiking in Columbus, you will be visiting some of the most beautiful places in Ohio! Bring your favorite camera so that you can capture the beauty of the trails. On Columbus hiking trails, we often bring our DSLR Canon Rebel with an 18-135mm lens to take photographs of nature and wildlife.
Binoculars for Ohio Wildlife Spotting
Ohio is home to an array of wildlife – like White-Tailed Deer (the state mammal), Bald Eagles and many other birds. Using binoculars is your best bet to get a closer look at the creatures in nature.
Day Pack for Hiking
You don’t want to be juggling your water, camera and binoculars when on the Columbus, Ohio hiking trails. Instead, carry everything in a great day pack!
The Best Columbus Hikes
Our list features the best hiking near Columbus in some of the most beautiful parks in Ohio. For each of the Columbus walking trails, we include park information, a trail description and a link to Google Maps.
Highbanks Metro Park
Hands down one of the best parks in Columbus, Highbanks is a 1,200-acre park with 10 different trails that range from easy to moderate/difficult. Featuring deep ravines and exposed shale rock, the park offers some of the best hikes in Columbus, Ohio.
Highbanks Hiking Trails: Columbus, Ohio
Overlook and Dripping Rock Trails are the two best paths in the park. The Overlook Trail (Trailhead MAP) is a 2-mile out-and-back trail (with an optional loop in the middle). The trail leads to an observation deck on 100-foot bluff overlooking the Olentangy State Scenic River. It is one of the best hiking spots in Ohio to see Bald Eagles – as there is a nest near the viewpoint – so bring your binoculars!
Dripping Rock (Trailhead MAP) is a 2.5-mile loop trail that climbs through beautiful forested ravines – and it is one of our favorite places for a peaceful walk. While the trail can get crowded on weekends, on most weekdays the trail is quiet.
As Highbanks is one of the best parks in Columbus, Ohio, there are several other trails to explore at the park, too!
Sharon Woods is another one of the parks around Columbus, Ohio that we love visiting! The 761-acre park is centered on Schrock Lake and features both multipurpose and hiking-only trails. In addition to the paths, visitors can go fishing in the lake in the summer or sledding on the hill in the winter.
Sharon Woods Walking Trails: Columbus, Ohio
The 1.8-mile looping Spring Creek Trail (Trailhead MAP) is our favorite route through Sharon Woods Park. The Columbus, Ohio hiking path winds through forest, up two hills and along the creek.
Not exclusive to a single park, the Olentangy River Trail extends 13 miles from downtown Columbus north to Worthington, passing through several of the best parks in Central Ohio along the way. Although it is often referred to as the Olentangy Bike Trail, it is actually a multi-use trail for bikers, joggers and walkers.
Biking and Walking Trails Columbus, Ohio: Olentangy
While it might not be one of the best hiking trails in Columbus, Ohio, it is a wonderful place to walk or bike in the city. Along the route, there are several short trails that offer detours to the water. It is best to view an Olentangy Trail Map (North or South) to find the most convenient trailhead.
Maintained by the City of Columbus Parks and Rec, Antrim Park is one of the many parks traversed by the Olentangy Trail – but is well worth visiting all on its own! The highlight of the park is the large quarried lake and the 1.7-mile loop trail that goes around it – which is why we rank it as one of the best parks in Columbus, Ohio.
Best Walking Trails Columbus, Ohio: Antrim Loop
Although the pedestrian-only lakeside Loop Trail (Trailhead MAP) is the only official trail at the park, there are several paths that break off from the main trail and lead down to the Olentangy River. The Antrim Park Bike Trail (which is part of the Olentangy Trail) extends north and south of the lake.
Hayden Run Falls Park
If you are looking for hikes near Dublin (northwest of the city), then we highly recommend seeking out Hayden Run Falls (Trailhead MAP). It is one of the best waterfalls in Columbus, Ohio, streaming 35 feet into the gorge.
Not necessarily the best place for hiking near Columbus, Ohio anymore (they have built a boardwalk and viewpoint in an effort to protect the ecosystem), it is an absolutely gorgeous piece of nature in the city.
Other parks in Dublin, Ohio are Indian Run Falls, which features cascading waterfalls and nature trails, and Scioto Park, which sits on the Scioto River and has a 12-foot-tall statue dedicated to Native American Chief Leatherlips.
Pro Tip: There are other parks in Columbus, Ohio with waterfalls! At Glen Echo Park – situated in a Clintonville ravine – water tumbles down a sheer shale cliffside after heavy rain. In Westerville, there is a cascading waterfall at Inniswood Metro Garden. We talk about more hiking trails in Ohio with waterfalls at the end of the post!
Battelle Darby Creek
Battelle Darby Creek is the best Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio to see amazing wildlife, specifically the American Bison that freely roam the park’s enclosed pasture lands. While many people go to the park to see the Bison, what many do not realize is that there are miles of trails along the Big and Little Darby Creeks. In fact, there are numerous intertwining paths that take visitors through the forest, prairies, wetlands and to the picturesque rivers that are some of the best hikes in Columbus, Ohio.
Battelle Darby Creek Park Trails: Columbus, Ohio
When visiting Battelle Darby Creek, we like to park at the Nature Center (Trailhead MAP). From there, visitors can walk south on the Darby Creek Greenway Trail through the Bison pastures to the Cedar Ridge Picnic Area. Continuing on the trails, the best hikes are down to Darby Creek via the Cobshell Trail (which also links up with Hawthorn and Indian Ridge Trails for further exploration).
The Camp Chase Trail – part of the Ohio-to-Erie Trail (which we talk more about in a minute!) – also passes through Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.
Another great place for hiking around Columbus, Ohio is Blendon Woods. The Metro Park is comprised of more than 650 acres of land, which is crisscrossed by interlinking, forested trails that are perfect for hiking Columbus, Ohio. A large lake at the park, Thoreau Lake, is a popular birdwatching spot in the park.
Blendon Woods Hiking Trails: Columbus, Ohio
The network of connecting trails at Blendon Woods allows hikers to plan different routes through the park. Of the several ways to explore the park, our favored route is to start on the Overlook Trail (Trailhead MAP), connect to Ripple Rock Trail and then return via the Brookside Trail, which is about a 1.5-mile hike. There are easy options to detour to the lake (via Lake Trail) or to the meadow (via Sugarbush Trail).
Three Creeks Metro Park
Located southeast of the city, the 1,100-acre Three Creeks Metro Park is a fabulous place to go hiking in Columbus. The park is centered on the confluence of thee waterways: Alum Creek, Blacklick Creek and Big Walnut Creek. There are 14 miles of trails within the park – including forest trails that lead to the confluence.
Three Creeks Walking Trails: Columbus, Ohio
The best way to explore Three Creeks Park is by trekking on the forested trails that weave around and over the waterways; it’s one of the best places to hike in Columbus, Ohio. We suggest that visitors park at the Confluence Trails Area (Trailhead MAP) and go on several short, interlinking hikes. Start on the Bluebell Trail, merge onto the Alum Creek Greenway Trail and cross the bridge, then hop onto the Confluence Trail and return via the Alum Creek Trail. If you want to keep going, do a lap around Turtle Pond or the easy, looping Evergreen Trail.
Pro Tip: The Alum Creek Bike Trail, which is part of the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, is one of the best places to walk in Columbus, Ohio. Like the Olentangy Trail, the Alum Creek Columbus Trail is a multi-use paved north-south trail that extends 25 miles from Westerville to Three Creeks Park, passing right by downtown Columbus. The Blacklick Creek Greenway Trail – another multi-use trail in Columbus – connects Three Creeks Metro Park to nearby Blacklick Woods Metro Park.
Hoover Dam Ohio Trails
Hoover Dam Reservoir Park is one of the cool parks in Columbus, Ohio. Covering 4,700 acres, top park activities are hiking, biking, boating and fishing.
Hoover Dam Hikes: Columbus, Ohio
On the east side of the dam is the Hoover Dam Nature Trail (Trailhead MAP), which is an easy 1-mile loop through scenic nature (but does include a set of steep stairs!). The path connects to a paved trail across the dam and hooks up with the Big Walnut Trail.
The Big Walnut Trail, a multi-use paved trail, runs along the western side of the reservoir. It is part of the Columbus Greenbelt Network and connects Hoover Reservoir Park to nearby Inniswoods Metro Gardens (which is about 3 miles from the dam).
Columbus Park of Roses
One of the most beautiful Central Ohio parks, the Park of Roses is known for its gorgeous rose gardens. However, what many visitors might not know is that beyond the meticulously planned gardens and paved pathways there are forested trails. The shaded paths follow Adena Brook, a meandering stream of exposed shale rock in a deep ravine.
Park of Roses Hiking Trails: Columbus, Ohio
Labeled the Olentangy Trail on Google Maps (Trailhead MAP), there are actually trails on both sides of Adena Brook; the south side follows the top of the ravine, while the north side stays by the creek. The trail is best accessed by the small parking lot along Hollenback Road (just before the main parking lot at the park of Roses Shelter House).
Downtown Columbus Scioto Mile
One of the newest trails in Columbus, Ohio is the Scioto Mile. Paved pathways line both sides of the Scioto River as it snakes its way through downtown. Although the multi-use path is not immersed in nature like many of the other hikes in Columbus, the Scioto Mile trails are the most beautiful places in Columbus, Ohio to view the city skyline.
Best Walking Trails Columbus, Ohio: Scioto Mile
In total, there are more than 12 miles of Scioto Greenways recreational trails (MAP). The trail is officially part of the Ohio-to-Erie Trail. The route passes through numerous Columbus parks – like Scioto Audubon Metro Park and Bicentennial Park – and connects to other city trails, as well.
Pro Tip: Looking for more parks downtown Columbus? Some of our favorite parks in Columbus, Ohio Downtown area are the Topiary Park (a 7-acre park of sculpted shrubs), Schiller Park (featuring a pond and outdoor theater) and Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (entry fee required).
More Ohio Parks
We have featured our favorite parks in Columbus for hikes – but there are so many more places to hike in Ohio! For trekkers who want to go hiking beyond the city, we are highlighting a few of the best trails in Ohio.
Hocking Hills Trails in Southeast Ohio
Hocking Hills State Park has some of the best hiking trails in Ohio! Located in southeastern Ohio in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Hocking Hills hiking is nothing short of phenomenal. Some of the best Hocking Hills hiking trails (and some of the best Ohio hiking trails, for that matter!) are Conkles Hollow, Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave and Rock House.
Clear Creek Metro Park (Southeast of Columbus)
Highly rated as one of the best places to hike in Ohio, Clear Creek Metro Park encompasses more than 5,300 acres of land. The forest is filled with Canadian hemlocks, but the park’s rhododendrons are a big attraction when they bloom in early summer. With a range of trails – rated from easy to difficult – the park offers some of the best hikes near Columbus, Ohio. Truly, there is a trail at the park for every level hiker.
Slate Run Metro Park (South of Columbus)
Slate Run is a 1,700-acre park – and one of the fun places to go hiking in Ohio! Comprised of forest, meadow, prairie, waterways and wetlands, the park is incredibly diverse. In addition to the numerous hiking trails near Columbus, Ohio, the park features a Living Historical Farm, which is an interesting and entertaining place to learn more about this history of farms.
Deer Haven Park and Havener Park in Delaware County
Deer Haven (part of the Preservation Parks of Delaware County) and Havener Park (in Liberty Township) are two of the most underrated and beautiful parks near Columbus, Ohio. The parks sit side-by-side and have joining trails.
Together, the two parks feature forested terrain, wetland ponds, grassy meadows and a river ravine. The trails are rated easy to moderate (there is even a shallow creek crossing) – and, all together, there are about 4 miles of trails. We prefer to park at the Havener Park lot (Trailhead MAP) and hike through the park in looping patterns so that we do not back track until the last leg of the hike on our way back to the car.
Shale Hollow Park in Delaware County
Part of the Preservation Parks of Delaware County, Shale Hollow is a 211-acre park near Columbus, Ohio that is marked by a tributary of the Olentangy State Scenic River. The stream winds through the park next to 40-foot-tall cliffs. Exploration of the stream, shale wall and round rock formations is encouraged – and it’s a great place to cool off in the summertime! The Great Horned Owl Trail and Overlook Trail are ideal trails for hiking in Central Ohio.
A hidden gem near Mount Vernon, Ohio, the Schnormeier Gardens is a privately owned park that is open to the public on certain weekends. There are nine different gardens, more than 50 sculptures and a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired residence on the 75 acres of land. Go to their official website to find information on Open House event dates.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Cleveland
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the best places to hike in Ohio – especially in northern Ohio. The 32,500-acre park is the only national park in Ohio. At Cuyahoga Valley NP there are more than 125 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy to challenging hikes.
Brandywine Falls is a fairly easy 1.5-mile loop – and one of the most popular walking trails in Ohio for its spectacular waterfalls. The epic 87-mile Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail runs through the park, as does part of the Ohio Buckeye Trail, which is a 1,444-mile trail that loops through the entire state.
Ohio to Erie Trail for Bicyclists
The Ohio-to-Erie Trail (OTET) is a 326-mile path that links Cleveland and Cincinnati and is designed for bicyclists. Called Ohio Bike Route 1, more than 80% of the trail is off-street, paved surfaces that takes cyclists through the state’s biggest cities. Many portions of the trail – especially those that run through city parks – are designated as multi-use trails.
Central Ohio Hiking Club
Trekkers who want to meet fellow hikers or are more confident hiking in Ohio with others might want to join the Central Ohio Hiking Club (COHC). The Columbus hiking club is a membership club for adult hikers interested in hiking with fellow members. The club organizes day hikes for members, which are usually about 4 to 6 miles, on the city’s most popular and off-the-beaten-path trails.
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