Columbus might not be one of the world’s most well-known hiking destinations, but it is a natural wonder in its own right! The city was built around two rivers — the Scioto and the Olentangy — on a lush landscape with breathtaking ravines, rolling hills and colorful foliage. There are plenty of trails and Metro Parks within easy driving distance, allowing for a quick and easy escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. To help you choose, we rounded up 11 of the area’s most popular options.
The best way to appreciate our area’s natural beauty, of course, is to immerse yourself in it. So once you’re done reading about the best hiking spots in Columbus, tie up those shoes and go try them out. Adventure awaits!
Hocking Hills State Park is one of central Ohio’s most popular wilderness escapes, complete with striking waterfalls, awe-inspiring caves, lush greenery, wildlife and ample trails to explore it all. The park is situated just one hour away and is perfect for a day trip or for camping overnight. Before or after your hike, try one of the other activities offered in the park, including kayaking and zip-lining!
The hike we like: Ash Cave is the must-try hike in Hocking Hills. Trek approximately a half-mile across rugged terrain on the high trail to the cave, which is the largest recess cave east of the Mississippi. We also love the trails in the Cedar Falls area, which allow easy access to both the falls and Old Man’s Cave.
Wildflower aficionados will love exploring Gahanna Woods, which is filled with them during the spring and summer months. The urban getaway is part city park and part state nature preserve, and includes several hiking and walking trails for your enjoyment. It’s a popular destination for wildlife photographers and families looking for an easier hike!
The hike we like: There are several short loops that are pretty easy to link together here. Since this park’s main attribute is its natural scenery and wildlife, we recommend hitting the trails without a plan! You can opt for a quick half-mile walk or a multi-mile trek.
Nestled between Franklin and Delaware counties, Highbanks Metro Park offers more than 1,000 acres of space and approximately 10 trails. There’s a reason it’s the most highly visited park in town! Your journey will lead you past shale bluffs, breathtaking vistas of the Olentangy River, and an 100-foot-tall sandstone bluff.
The hike we like: Opt to link up the Coyote Run and Overlook trails for more than 5 miles of hiking!
This 218-acre park is situated within the Scioto Trail State Forest — a lush oasis within the Columbus Metro Area. The trails here boast breathtaking views of the Scioto River Valley, plenty of spots for picnicking, and just enough isolation from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The hike we like: The DeBroad Vista Trail to the Fire Tower Trail is reserved for hikers only, which means you won’t have to look out for mountain bikers along the way! It’s a 2.5-mile trek one way and is rated as moderate.
Make a quick trip to Granville (just 30 or so minutes outside of town) to explore the Denison Biological Reserve. The area spans 350 acres across forest, orchards, old plantations, ponds and former agricultural fields, and is commonly used by students for field research! It’s a great place to go for a leisurely walk or run in nature, and you will probably encounter one or two deer on your trek.
The hike we like: Grab a map towards the beginning of your journey! All of the trails here are scenic (and fairly easy), but the Woodcock Trail is one of the most popular.
Situated just north of Columbus, Alum Creek State Park is a haven for water sport aficionados. The beach is one of the most well-known in the state, but there is plenty more to do in the park other than enjoying the lake! You’ll find three different hiking trails as well as a 7-mile multipurpose trail, all skirting the water. There is also a popular disc golf course on site with rental equipment available!
The hike we like: The Rocks to Roots trail is the lengthiest hiking trail in the park, covering just over 4.1 miles. The trail is scenic and rated as moderate!
Located on the far west side of Columbus, this natural oasis offers more than 20 hiking trails meandering through 7,000 acres of prairies, forests and wetlands. It’s an ideal place to seek out birds and wildlife — in fact, bison have been reintroduced to the park and roam freely within their spacious enclosed pastures.
The hike we like: The Dyer Mill trail is a moderate to difficult hike that winds for 3.2 miles through tall grass meadows and secluded woodlands. You’ll pass by the scenic Little Darby Creek, as well! We are also fond of the Fort Ancient Mound Loop.
Located just over 30 miles from Columbus in Lancaster, this spectacular nature preserve features two loop trails that can be linked for a scenic hike that totals nearly 5 miles. The hike starts with an old covered bridge and winds through colorful flora and wildlife to eventually end up on a clifftop. The short climb will reward you with picturesque views of the valley below!
The hike we like: Link the loops together for the full Christmas Rocks experience. You can find a map to the loop trails here!
An hour drive will reward you with a scenic getaway spanning thousands of acres. Mohican State Park is a 1,110-acre preserve situated right next to a 4,525-acre state forest. Both are full of trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders alike.
The hike we like: There are seven hiking trails that traverse the park. The 2-mile Lyons Fall Trail is our favorite, as it follows the Clear Fork Gorge and features two scenic waterfalls. The trail is ranked as moderate to difficult.
This spot might be most well-known for the Slate Run Living Historical Farm, but the scenery here is equally as breathtaking! Come explore the abundance of tree species, the picturesque fields, the shaded forests and the wetlands! Wildlife viewing opportunities abound, and sandhill cranes have been known to nest in the wetland areas. The park is located in Canal Winchester, just a short trek southwest of Columbus.
This popular 643-acre park is located just east of town and features an abundance of forested trails and picnic trails for a convenient escape. You will likely encounter several species of wildlife, including a few varieties of colorful birds!
The hike we like: The trails here are short and fairly easy — so they are perfect for families. The Beech, Maple and Buttonbush trails are all just under a mile, so try them each in turn and stop when you’re tired!