- Paperback:256 pages
- ISBN-10: 0762771747
Greater Columbus is blessed with a range of hikes that explore Ohio’s biodiversity. It all starts with area residents acknowledging and preserving this scenic beauty in the capital region and points beyond. The citizenry could see that the special places would remain special if they were held by the public for the public to use and enjoyment, to create parks and preserves. In 1945, the Metro Parks system began a tradition of creating parks. Other parks and preserves were expanded or came to be, from 8 decades old Blacklick Woods to newer parks such as Walnut Woods. Trails became part of these natural oases.
Set on the banks of the Scioto River in the heart of Ohio, Columbus hikers can immerse themselves in Ohio’s physiographic regions and the attendant biodiversity contained within each province. The unglaciated Appalachian Plateau is easiest to identify. Think of the Hocking Hills southeast of town — a land of deep valleys, sandstone ridges, and rough topography. In this area you can hike to Rockbridge – Ohio’s largest natural arch, or visit the amazing gorge of Conkles Hollow. To the east stands another section of the Appalachian Plateau, except it was swept over by glaciers. Sheets of ice worked over its hills and vales. Recall Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve.
Franklin County, the heart of greater Columbus, mostly lies within what is known as the Till Plains. Glaciers deposited rich soil and sculpted gentle hills in this land. Glacier Ridge Metro Park exemplifies this region. Stretching west of town glacial outwash carved local gorges that are some of Ohio’s best hiking destinations. Think Clifton Gorge with its sheer stone bluffs shading huge mossy boulders astride a crystalline stream. This meeting of physiographic regions gives greater Columbus a varied landscape where the flora and fauna meld into a mosaic of nature.
The recipe for great Central Ohio hiking starts with this varied landscape. Next, add a layer of quality parks. Metro Parks come to mind first. Preserves of this quality and variety – and full of trails – aren’t in every city. I applaud Columbians with the foresight to establish these natural gems, such as Clear Creek, with a mix of streamside wildflower filled meadows, Three Creeks Park, with a mix of primitive trails, asphalt path and other facilities overlain where Alum Creek and two of its tributaries meet in moist, rich bottoms, and Prairie Oaks Park, where Big Darby Creek flows through woods and field. Battelle Darby Park also features a stretch of Big Darby Creek — and lakes, and vertical terrain, and an ancient village site, and on and on…. and Slate Run Park with its living history farm, miles of trails coursing through wetlands, woodlands, hills and steep sided creeks. These wetlands are of special note, since they attract waterfowl and support fish and other aquatic creatures.
Additionally, the state of Ohio has established several state parks within easy striking distance of greater Columbus, such as Delaware State Park and Deer Creek State Park. The establishment of some preserves extends back to the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps came in and built campgrounds, picnic shelters and other facilities to enhance the already verdant beauty in what became the state parks. Of course, they built hiking trails to explore hills and valleys, vistas and waterfalls. Additionally, Ohio’s state nature preserve program protects a collection of natural gems, from the largest natural arch in Ohio at Rockbridge Nature Preserve to rugged Clifton Gorge. Today, we hikers benefit from a cornucopia of parkland throughout the capital region. It all adds up to an impressive array of hiking destinations!
It is in Columbus and this greater region where the hikes in this book are found. After having the privilege of researching potential hikes for this book, hiking the hikes, taking photographs, finding the ones that made the grade – and the ones that didn’t, exploring the parks beyond the trails, mapping the hikes, then actually writing and completing this compendium I couldn’t help but reflect on the wealth of places found within the scope of this guide. I think about Cantwell Cliffs. It is one of the most famous area landmarks, with its rockhouses, stone bluffs, clear streams and fascinating geological formations.
From atop a bluff at Cantwell Cliffs, I looked out and reflected on other destinations, recounting all the scenic hikes of greater Columbus. I thought of quiet Blues Creek Preserve, with its restored, sun-splashed prairie, rife with colorful wildflowers in summer. Speaking of sun, I can still see ol’ Sol reflecting of Delaware Lake from a trailside vista. Highbanks Park came to mind, where trails visited vistas, aboriginal mounds and earthworks amid woods with everywhere-you-look beauty. The high knobs of Shallenberger State Nature Preserve provided vertical variation, wildflowers and impressive trees near Lancaster. The hills aren’t quite as high at Lancaster’s Alley Park, but the trail network there can be physically challenging.
My legs a got a little sore remembering the 2,000 feet of ascent and descent while hiking an 8 mile loop near Mount Ives and Lick Run at Great Seal State Park. And the rock formations there … the abrupt hills, the wildflower-rich hollows, what sights! The Hargus Lake Loop at AW Marion State Park circled completely around the impoundment there, allowing watery views of the lake and of the numerous and clear streams that feed it.
I came again to the scene at hand, Cantwell Cliffs, and considered the preserved gorge where generations past and present admired, as will those of the future. Ohioans from the distant past knew this as a special spot in the Hocking Hills. Today, the city of Columbus forms the heart of Ohio, a place where trail-laden parks overlay an area enriched with an abundance of the state’s natural features. I hope the trails offered in this book will help you explore, understand and appreciate the natural and human history of the greater Columbus region. Enjoy.