UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Columbus is a vibrant city with much to offer, but there’s something to be said about lacing up your boots, packing up some trail mix, and exploring the great outdoors. Check out our favorite hiking adventures in or near Columbus!
If you can’t decide whether you want to explore wetlands, meadows, or grasslands, then check out Slate Run in Canal Winchester. This 1,705-acre park offers a number of short trails with various terrains, and it's a great option for hikers who want to experience all that nature has to offer.
Whether you're looking for a relaxing nature walk or some serious hiking, Mohican has something for everyone. This 1,110-acre state park is adjacent to a 4,525-acre state forest, and both areas are full of various lengths of trails shared by bikers, joggers, and horseback riders alike. The Clear Fork Gorge, Mohican River, and surrounding forested areas also offer a wide variety of scenery. Plus, it’s just over an hour from Columbus — far enough to get away, but close enough that you don’t have to spend all day in the car.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville is a massive 32,950-acre park that is perfect for a day of exploring. There are over 125 miles of trails, including the historic Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Buckeye Trail, a 1,400-mile trail covering the state. Keep your eyes peeled, and you may just spot a flying squirrel, a family of foxes, or some of the other wildlife in the park. Only two hours from downtown Columbus, this is a great place to get in that weekend workout while experiencing everything nature has to offer.
Head over to Rising Park in Lancaster, roughly 45 minutes from Columbus, for a day of hiking. This park’s claim to fame is Mount Pleasant, a peak you can reach through a moderately challenging dirt trail that gives you a panoramic view of the town (and an opportunity to raise your dog like Simba). The area is also home to a variety of trails, tennis courts, caves, and a pond.
Don’t let the “creek” in Alum Creek fool you. This state park includes a 3,387-acre reservoir and 4,630 acres of fields and woodlands, all within minutes of downtown Columbus. While the reservoir is a hub for boaters, fishermen, and swimmers, a system of trails takes you through the park to explore a more quiet space.
If your prefer to hike in less crowded parks, check out Chillicothe’s Scioto Trail State Park. This 218-acre park is nestled within the 9,000-acre Scioto Trail State Forest, offering just the right amount of isolation from city life. A mix of bridle and hiking trails, you can find 25 miles of trails to explore. Paths around the park also boast breathtaking views of the Scioto River Valley.
If you’re pressed for time and want an adventure close to home, check out Highbanks Metro Park sitting right in between Franklin and Delaware counties. With over 1,000 acres of space and roughly 10 trails, this park makes you forget city life without leaving the city. Be on the lookout for the pair of bald eagles that have routinely made their nest right by one of the park’s observation decks.
Waterfalls and caves and lakes, oh my! One of central Ohio’s best getaways, this list wouldn’t be complete without giving Hocking Hills a shout out. Whether you feel like a day trip or camping overnight, this state park has a long list of activities including hiking near a multitude of waterfalls and natural features, kayaking, and even zip-lining.
If you’re on the eastern side of the city and need a quick escape, Blacklick Woods Metro Park is a great option for a day of hiking. This 643-acre Reynoldsburg hotspot is one of the oldest Metroparks in the area, having opened in 1948. In addition to the 4.1-mile loop that passes through meadows and forests, there are plenty of picnic shelters; post-workout snacks are definitely encouraged.
Salt Fork is Ohio’s largest state park, coming in at a whopping 17,229 acres. There’s so much room for activities! Rent a boat to cruise the reservoir, or hike one of the 11 trails winding through the park’s hills, valleys, and meadows. This place makes you appreciate rural Guernsey County, just an hour and a half from Columbus.
Gahanna Woods is the perfect urban getaway. Part city park, part state nature preserve, the meadows and woodlands include several trails (including a popular 2.3-mile loop) for moderate hiking near beds of wildflowers. The meadows are known to get a little muddy after a good rain, so be sure to wear proper shoes.
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