UPDATED FEB 28, 2020
One of the best parts of biking is the ability to cover more ground more quickly, and Columbus has plenty of ground to cover. With bike paths that cut through the heart of the city and trails that hug the suburbs, you are bound to be spitting distance from a great (and free) workout.
While it may not be the fastest way to get from Cincinnati to Cleveland, you’ll experience nearly every climate, terrain, and culture in Ohio as you pass through the Three C’s on this 326-mile trail that spans the state. Don’t think the threat of saddle sores are worth the long ride? There are plenty of places in Central Ohio to hop on for as long as you please, as many of the Columbus’s existing greenways and trails are used to make up the trail — think of it like a patchwork quilt. If nothing else, add it to the bucket list.
If State Route 315 is ever so log-jammed, you have to leave your car and ride a bike (this does not seem totally unrealistic some days), hop on the Olentangy Trail. It parallels the popular route from Worthington down to downtown as well as the Olentangy River. It also plunges through the heart of Ohio State’s campus, convenient for students, faculty, and staff who don’t feel like forking over their first-born to pay for campus parking. Created in 1967, the Olentangy Trail was one of Ohio’s first rail-trails and is often coupled with the Scioto Trail — thus, the “Olentangy-Scioto Bikeway”.
This roughly 25-mile paved route (broken up into three sections and completed in 2015) is extremely convenient for those living in Westerville that are looking to explore some of the areas metro parks and access traffic headaches (like Easton — ugh). As it passes under and over some major roads, you’ll have an interesting ride that will keep you entertained, over bridges and through woods. But make sure you aren’t too enamored with the flora and fauna — ‘multi-use’ typically indicates many people will be sharing the trail!
If you’re the type that likes “glamping,” the Scioto Trail is your flavor of bike path. The first greenway in Columbus, the 12.2-mile paved Scioto Trail hugs the downtown riverfront, slinking its way from Grandview Heights, winding through downtown and Franklinton, and out to German and Marion Villages. Want to see some CBUS landmarks? The trail happens to serve as the spine of the Scioto Mile, so plan on spending some time here. Once you’re done, make a stop at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park for some bird-watching on the river before heading to the Arena District for a concert or a Blue Jackets game.
This 12-mile winding trail takes us over to the east side suburbs. If you have kids (or refuse to grow up), the Blacklick Creek Trail has several different parks with great playgrounds along the way. Blacklick Woods Park alone has three separate playgrounds, so you’d be missing out if you didn’t stop for a swing. Fitt Tip: there is a small section of the trail just before Portman Park that is unpaved. If you have a hybrid or mountain bike, don’t bother hopping off. However, if you’re a speedy road bike fan, you may want to abandon ship and walk this portion.
For you gnarly riders with the fat tires, head out 33 East to Lithopolis to Chestnut Ridge Metro Park, home to the nine-mile mountain bike trail with the same name. Comprised of a stacked loop system, beginner and intermediate riders should stick to the inner loop, while the outer loop is for advanced riders. Guaranteed, you’ll get a good workout in, as both loops feature steep climbs, banked turns, and varying terrain.
A very active group of volunteers maintains the 16-mile Camp Chase Trail, a popular route for those on the west side. Friends of Camp Chase Trail plans rides such as the Strawberry Festival Bicycle Tour (worth it just for the t-shirt), shares nearby cycling-centric events like the Franklinton Cycle Works Bike School 101, and keeps the trail in tip-top shape. You can enjoy the trail—a section of the Ohio to Erie Trail—year-round, when you ride from the city out to the scenic town of London.
Partially funded by the Safe Routes to Schools Grant, Big Walnut Trail is a treasured part of the greenspace in Gahanna and the surrounding areas. The nearly 11-mile trail starts along the docks at the beautiful Hoover Reservoir and follows Big Walnut Creek to Inniswood Metro Gardens. And heck, make a day of it by following an offshoot to Creekside in Gahanna for some local music and grub.
What this trail lacks in scenery, it more than makes up for in convenience. For those living in the city’s east side neighborhoods, it’s a vital connector path if you work downtown and don’t feel like sitting in a parking lot during rush hour on I-670. There are some steep curbs to jump on bridges and busy streets to cross, so gather your nerves of steel and steel your helmeted head for this thrill ride to the heart of the city.
You’ll feel the love put into this 7-mile multipurpose trail from Old Hilliard to Plain City. Take your time at the trailhead — there’s information on the history of the railroad that eventually became the bike trail. There is also a dedicated warm-up area, so if you jump out of the car and right on to the bike like gangbusters, that pulled hamstring is on you. And during your ride along the paved path—which spans just over six miles—be sure to wave to four-legged friends on the horse trail that parallels part of the Heritage Trail.
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