IMAGE VIA METROPARKS WILLOWWORKS | FACEBOOK

PAVED PATHS & OFF-ROAD TRAILS: THE BEST RUN ROUTES IN COLUMBUS

article cover

Rose Schrott

Whether you’re training for the big race or are simply challenging yourself to get off the couch, Columbus is a great place to be a runner. It’s got everything you need: long paths, short paths, gravel paths, grass paths. Paths that take you past beautiful buildings. Paths that run you under trees and next to water. It’s basically like a Dr. Seuss book.

And since every run route in our city means a new adventure, there’s no excuse not to get your butt in gear. Lace up your sneaks and race out the door to one of the best running spots in Cbus. Oh, the places you’ll go…

While the Scioto Mile is technically a part of The Scioto Greenway Trail, this picturesque path deserves its own spot on the list. Only a couple minutes walk from the heart of Downtown Columbus, the Scioto Mile stretches from the Arena District to the Whittier Peninsula. Along the way, cool off at a 15,000-square-foot interactive fountain, do some cross training at the country’s largest free outdoor climbing wall, or catch your breath while surveying the tranquil beauty of the 120-acre Scioto Audubon. Just make sure you bring your phone so you can get that perfect Columbus Instagram shot from the trail.

If you feel like mingling with some of the diehard runners in Columbus, check out Big Darby Metro Park on the west side of town. Here, you’ll find over 18 miles of crushed gravel trails that attract the likes of Fleet Feet runners and OSU’s Cross Country teams. But they’re not even the most exotic creatures in the region’s largest park. No, siree! You can catch of glimpse of the park’s roaming (in an enclosed area) bison and get a sense for what Ohio looked like when these creatures grazed freely 200 years ago.

A forested getaway tucked in the northwest corner of Columbus, Sharon Woods has a mix of easy to moderate trails. If you’re in marathon training for Boston or the Flying Pig, the Spring Creek Trail is one of the few outdoor destinations where you can get your hill work in. Keep Fido at home for this run, though, dogs aren’t welcome on the paved trails.

From downtown, the Olentangy Trail tracks the Olentangy River due north through Columbus for 17.5 miles, all the way to Worthington. Along the way, make like a Buckeye and roll through the OSU campus! If you need a break, you can stop and smell the roses at the Whetstone Park of Roses. You’ll never have a boring run here — there’s always a lot of foot traffic on this path, especially towards campus, so you can count on some quality people watching along the route, too.

If you’ve run in Columbus, you’ve probably stumbled upon the Scioto Greenway Trail, a 12.2-mile paved pathway starting at Merion Village and finishing up in Grandview. As the city’s first greenway trail, it connects some of the most popular neighborhoods in Columbus, like the Brewery District and German Village, and it serves as the trailhead for several other parks like North Bank, Bicentennial, and Scioto Audubon. If you’re feeling like an overachiever, you can even jump on the Olentangy Trail to add more mileage.

Antrim Park is 120 acres of awesome north of downtown, offering an easy 1.2-mile loop around a quarried lake. Beautiful wooded views attract loads of runners, as well as walkers, bikers, and lots of dogs. And as runners, we know that your knees will thank you for taking on this gravel path instead of the unforgiving concrete. Isn’t that’s all the motivation you need to go for an extra lap?

Urban warriors can get a taste of green when running around or through Goodale Park. A loop around this outdoor oasis is just under a mile, and several paths crisscross the park. If you feel like some agility training and distraction, head a couple blocks east to dodge pedestrians and traffic as you run through the bustling Short North (be ready to throw an occasional sidewalk juke.) Or, if you have a thing for old houses, run the streets of Victorian Village north of the park to check out the Victorian-style historical homes that line the streets.

Up for a challenge? Tackle the Maxtown Sunbury Trail for 13.5 miles around and through Westerville. You’ll pass parks and urban areas along this paved multi-use trail. Though not for the faint of heart, mix up your workout and run up and down the Hoover Reservoir stairs a few times; you’ll be lucky if you can stand up the next day!

Heading out for a long run? Sure you are. Take this 23.1-mile trail traversing our city north to south to challenge your endurance. Follow the paved route back and forth across Alum Creek as you run from Westerville to Three Creeks Metro Park. You’ll be roaming across some of Cbus’s best features: parks, Champions Golf Course, Easton, and Ohio Dominican University, just to name a few. Sweat and get to know our city all at the same time!

Trail runners, this is the place for you. This 1,159-acre, mostly-wooded park is laced with trails of varying degrees of difficulty. You’ll feel like you’ve left central Ohio as you run past ravines and the 100-foot-high shale bluff from which the park is named. Welcome to the jungle, friends. You’ll jump over roots and sticks on the grass and dirt trails. But if you’re all about asphalt, you can stay on the paved paths. Keep in mind, if you’re braving the trails in the winter, you may run into a cross-country skier!

Running by a creek is something special. Three? Now this park is just showing off. Three Creeks Metro Park is surrounded by—you guessed it—three creeks: Blacklick, Alum, and Big Walnut. These waterways unite forces before joining the Scioto River near this 1,000-acre park, which includes multiple miles of trails — perfect for the city runner who’s looking for a way to change up their routine. Bring along your dog for a playdate at one of their designated dog areas and it might just be the best day ever.

Head to Rocky Fork Metro Park in New Albany for a peaceful scenic run. This 1,003-acre swath of land features over four miles of trails that will guide you through wooded areas and grassy fields. And don’t forget to pack some post-workout treats — after you hit the run route you can relax and refuel in their large picnic area.

Griggs Reservoir Park features a “dam” fine trail! (Yes, we went there.) Look out for the flying frisbees from disc golf whizzing by you for the first three-quarters mile, but after that, it’s smooth sailing. This paved trail snakes alongside the Scioto River for about two and a half miles, so you’ll have plenty of sights to distract you from your run. Run out-and-back, then head across the street for a little Figlio’s pizza! Call it a reward.

Just north of Hilliard sits 87 acres of gorgeous central Ohio greenery known as the Heritage Trail Park. Here you’ll find the Heritage Rail-Trail, a 7-mile paved route that’s perfect for runners and cyclers alike. Bring your furry friend to jog alongside you or make some new ones at the four-acre dog park.