Ah, nature — the great outdoors. While we love Columbus and everything our vibrant city has to offer, there’s something to be said about tieing up your boots, grabbing a water bottle, and heading off on an unknown trail.
Luckily for us, Columbus is surrounded by tons of great parks, so adventure is never too far away. Maybe you like to hike, swim, boat, bike, walk, or run – well there’s a place for you. And we’ve made it even easier by picking out the 12 best hiking spots to check out inside and outside city limits.
So, whether you’ve got an hour or a long weekend, you can do like Dora and go exploring.
If you can’t decide whether you want to explore wetlands, meadows, or grasslands, drive on over to Slate Run in Canal Winchester. The 1,705-acre park offers a variety of short trails that walk you through its various terrains and won’t take up your entire day. Feel free to mix ’n’ match trails to create your own experience!
If you’re in the mood for some serious space to explore, Mohican is the place for you. The 1,110-acre state park is adjacent to a 4,525-acre state forest, and both are full of trails for bikers, runners, hikers, walkers, horseback riders, and everyone in between. 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, close enough that you don’t have to spend all day in the car.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park will make you love America, and love Ohio even more. This 32,950-acre national park in Brecksville encompasses 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. You’ll also be able to catch some serious cute wildlife in this national park, which is home to beavers, otters, deer, foxes, and flying squirrels. And to think, it’s all just two hours away from downtown Columbus.
Feel like reenacting The Lion King? Head on over to Rising Park in Lancaster, roughly 45 minutes from Cbus. While this park’s claim to fame is Mount Pleasant, a peak that gives you a panoramic view of the town (and an opportunity to raise your dog like Simba), it is also home to a variety of trails, picnic tables, tennis courts, a cave, and a pond. Perfect for all seasons.
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. While the reservoir is a hub for boaters, fishermen, and swimmers, a system of trails take you through the park to explore a more quiet space. Unbeatable for a little “you time.”
If you’re in the mood for a more quiet, contemplative day, swing by Chillicothe’s Scioto Trail State Park. This 218-acre park is nestled within the 9,000-acre Scioto Trail State Forest, making you feel just the right amount of isolation from city life. Paths around the park also allow you some breathtaking looks into the Scioto River Valley. Now that’s a hike with a view.
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. Bonus points: a pair of bald eagles has routinely made their nest right by one of the park’s observation decks. ’merica.
Waterfalls and caves and lakes, oh my! Oh yes, as one of central Ohio’s favorite 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 boasts a long list of activities including hiking, exploring the caverns and waterfalls, kayaking, and even zip-lining. All just over an hour away.
If you’re up for a quick jaunt to Granville, you can explore Denison University’s 350-acre biological reserve — full of happy deer, trails, ponds, and the occasional Denison student exploring or conducting research with their professor. This series of trails is a great place to go for a walk or (if you’re feeling adventurous) run. Add in a stop to Granville’s famous Whit’s Frozen Custard and you’ve got yourself the perfect day.
If you’re on the eastern side of the city and need a quick escape, Blacklick Woods Metro Park’s got your fix — sunshine, animals, trees, and creek included. This 643-acre Reynoldsburg hotspot is one of the oldest Metroparks in the area, opening in 1948. In addition to the 4.1-mile loop that passes through meadows and forests, there are plenty of picnic shelters. So, 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!! Check out what we mean: If you’re feeling aquatic, rent a boat (or find a friend whose family has a boat) to cruise the reservoir. If you would rather use those legs, go for a hike on one of their many trails through the park’s hills, valleys, and meadows. This place makes you appreciate rural Guernsey County, just an hour and a half away from Columbus.
Are you a sucker for wildflowers? If so, Gahanna Woods is the perfect urban getaway. Part city park, part state nature preserve, these meadows and woodlands include several trails that will remind you of the beauty of the outdoors. And, if you so desire, they can remind you of the dirt of the outdoors, too! The meadows are known to get a little muddy after a good rain, so come prepared before you cake your new sneakers.