Ultimate Guide to the Best Winter Hiking Spots in Central Ohio

Adventure, City Guide, Family Friendly, Seasonal, Things to Do, Tours & Walks

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Written by Step Out Columbus

Published on January 24, 2024
Photo courtesy of Dave Milam via Walnut Woods Metro Park’s Facebook page

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that the great outdoors are off-limits! Thanks to the natural beauty of the land in Central Ohio that we call home, venturing outside and into the wilderness is incredible no matter the time of year!

If you’re a hiker or you’ve been looking to find new ways to stay active this winter, these are the best spots for winter hikes throughout Columbus and the surrounding areas.

Battelle Darby Creek

1775 Darby Creek Dr, Galloway, OH 43119

With over 7,000 acres of different land conditions like prairies, wetlands, and forests, your hike along the 13 miles of Big Darby Creek and Little Darby Creek is sure to be beautifully unique and enjoyable. If you’re lucky, you might even see a bison grazing throughout the metro park! Just don’t ask us what the difference between buffalo and bison are because we still aren’t totally sure.

Photo courtesy of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park’s Facebook page

Blacklick Woods

6975 East Livingston Ave., Reynoldsburg OH

With lush woods, open fields, and even a golf course, Blacklick Woods is a hikers’ dream. Here you’ll find some of the best beech-maple forests in the world and plenty of trails to lead you through the woods, swamps, and everything in between. It’s like Mother Nature built a little playground right in Columbus’ backyard!

Highbanks

9466 Columbus Pike (US Rt 23 N) Lewis Center, OH 43035

Deriving its name from the 100-foot-high shale bluffs carved by the Olentangy River, Highbanks is a masterpiece thanks to the eroded Ohio and Olentangy shales which are exposed inside of the ravines. Picturesque and peaceful… what more could you want?

Photo courtesy of Sandy Koen Highbanks Metro Park’s Facebook page

Homestead

4675 Cosgray Road Hilliard, OH 43026

If a smaller and more manageable hike is more your speed, look no further than Homestead. Even at just 43 acres, this park squeezes in a covered bridge, replica train station, and two barns, giving off southern charm and quiet.

Chestnut Ridge

8445 Winchester Rd NW Carroll, OH 43112

Featuring plenty of slopes, trees, and a large pond, Chestnut Ridge is the first ridge in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Rising up to over 1,000 feet, it is sure to make you burn enough calories to keep you warm throughout your hike!

Photo courtesy of Chestnut Ridge Metro Park’s Facebook page

Clear Creek

185 Clear Creek Road, Lancaster, OH 43130

Home to Ohio’s largest nature preserve and Ohio’s last colonies of rhododendrons, this massive park winds you through over 5,000 acres of forest alongside sandstone cliffs, deep ravines, and peaceful creeks (hence the name!). Are you starting to see why hiking is so popular in Central Ohio?

Prairie Oaks

3225 Plain City-Georgesville Road, West Jefferson, OH

With the Big Darby River and over 500 acres of prairies within this 2,200 acre park, your hike might get interrupted by some incredibly beautiful photo opportunities. Don’t say we didn’t warn ya!

Photo courtesy of Prairie Oaks Metro Park’s Facebook page

Rocky Fork

7180 East Walnut St., Westerville, OH 43081

If you’re a hiker who prefers having their furry best friend with them (a.k.a. their dog), Rocky Fork is for you. With a dog park as well as an off-leash trail, you and your pup are sure to be tuckered out when it’s all said and done after a great hike.

Scioto Audubon

400 West Whittier St. Columbus, OH 43215

Located a touch south of downtown along the banks of the Scioto River, this is the perfect hiking spot for those of us in the city that could use a little nature and greenery! Plus, if you feel so inclined, there’s a huge rock climbing wall that is calling your name.

Photo courtesy of Scioto Audubon Metro Park’s Facebook page

Scioto Grove

5172 Jackson Pike Grove City, OH 43123

Much like Scioto Audubon, Scioto Grove is located along the picturesque banks of the Scioto River, but a bit further south beyond the I-270 belt. Scioto Grove features over 7 miles of hiking trails, overlook decks, and a sledding hill for the snowier days of the winter. Your leashed furry friend is also encouraged to join in on the fun.

Sharon Woods

6911 Cleveland Ave., Columbus, OH

With seasonal pools, an 11-acre lake, and a perfect blend of woodlands and fields, Sharon Woods is home to many pleasant surprises to hikers. There’s even a beautiful lodge tucked away in the wilderness for you to discover.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Hotler via Sharon Woods Metro Park’s Facebook page

Slate Run

1375 St. Rte. 674 North Canal Winchester, OH 43110

Featuring extensive species of wildlife thanks in large part to its 156-acre wetland, Slate Run is a more open hike that is home to grasslands and meadows. That’s not to say there aren’t any forested areas, as there are large quantities of beech, oak, hickory, and sugar maple trees to feast your eyes upon.

Walnut Woods

6723 Lithopolis Rd, Groveport, OH 43125

At the north of the park sits Walnut Creek, which helps provide water and wildlife to the trees and species that call Walnut Woods home. The Tall Pines area is home to large pines and sweetgum trees, while the Buckeye Area is home to crab apples and maples. Hiking through Walnut Woods is always a beautiful and serene adventure.

Photo courtesy of Erin Flannery via Walnut Woods Metro Park’s Facebook page

Blendon Woods

4265 E Dublin Granville Rd, Columbus, OH 43230

Explore Blendon Woods, a 653-acre park with tremendous ravines, beech-maple forests, and wildlife galore, including a lively flock of wild turkeys. The 118-acre Walden Waterfowl Refuge features Thoreau Lake and is a sanctuary for numerous bird species. If you’re a birdwatcher who loves hiking, this is the place to be. If you’re a birdwatcher who hates hiking, I’m surprised you are still reading this hiking-focused article!

Glacier Ridge

9801 Hyland-Croy Rd, Plain City, OH 43064

Named after the debris left behind after the glaciers retreated over 10,000 years ago, this park offers a boardwalk hike through the Honda Wetlands Area as well as a 25-foot observation tower that’s ideal for sightseeing and birdwatching. Is there anything better for birdwatching than getting a bird’s eye view?

Photo courtesy of Jerry Guy via Glacier Ridge Metro Park’s Facebook page

Pickerington Ponds

7680 Wright Rd, Canal Winchester, OH 43110

Explore Pickerington Ponds and be amazed by the amount of wildlife you encounter along your hike. Over 260 species of birds call Pickerington Ponds home while deer, beaver, and fox also roam the 1,600-acre park

Quarry Trails

2600 Dublin Rd, Columbus, OH 43228

Formerly an abandoned quarry, the trails at this park meander you through scenic spots such as a 25 foot waterfall and numerous lakes. Fun fact, limestone from this quarry was used to build the Ohio Statehouse!

Photo courtesy of Shannon Hand via Quarry Trails Metro Park’s Facebook page

Three Creeks

3860 Bixby Rd, Groveport, OH 43125

Named for the confluence of the Alum, Big Walnut, and Blacklick Creeks meet, this park is perfect for hikers looking to explore alongside rushing waters. Be on the lookout for the animals who call this park home including owls, blue herons, coyote, and deer.

Griggs Nature Preserve

6245 Riverside Dr, Dublin, OH 43017

Home of one of the most picturesque places in all of Central Ohio (Hayden Run Falls), Griggs Nature preserve is a beautiful spot for a quick hike. Located alongside the Scioto River, hikers frequently report tranquil conditions and lots of wildlife.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Hamman

Olentangy Trail

Olentangy Trail, Columbus, OH 43210

Winding through several neighborhoods north of Columbus, the Olentangy Trail gifts hikers a scenic way to get from Worthington to downtown. This trail is close to SR-315, so off peak hours will be beneficial to you if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.

Alum Creek State Park

3305 S Old State Rd Delaware, Ohio 43015

The Alum Creek Trail within Alum Creek State Park is a favorite for Central Ohio hikers. Winding you along Big Walnut Creek, the scenery is immaculate at all times of the year.

Photo courtesy of Hiking With Doc

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