Whether you’re new to outdoor activities or you’re part yeti, visiting the hiking trails of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks is a great way to stay active with your kids while getting them oriented with nature and taking care of that itch to get outside.
I was fortunate in my 20’s to be a tripping guide through the trails of Maine and New Hampshire, but nowadays I serve as weekend Sherpa with my toddler on my shoulders in the carrier. Nonetheless, we are fortunate to have such a robust parks system here in central Ohio to make you forget you’re in Ohio.
Here are just a few of my recommendations of local trails throughout the north end of town to explore with your little ones:
The Flatlander Adventure at Glacier Ridge (beginner): This park is ideal for beginners. You have a variety of easy trails to use (paved and grass/dirt), along with a half mile long challenge course. There isn’t any elevation change on the paved paths, which would help those hiking with the littlest of hiking buddies. Parking was easy, with lots of spaces and great restroom facilities. I don’t recall seeing changing tables - but you’re hiking: you should use the trunk or back seat like a true woodsman.
A Little Bit of Everything at Highbanks (moderate to difficult): Easily one of the busiest, if not, the busiest of all the Metro Parks. This is a must-hike park, but the worst part is all the dang lights along U.S. Route 23 getting there. You have easy trails, and you have the moderate to difficult Dripping Rock and Overlook trails, but all of them have plenty of benches for frequent water breaks. Between the hills, 100-foot shale walls and the views, this is a great all-around hike. Word of caution though, your little ones might not handle what you can, especially after a couple moderate hills, so choose wisely and think about going out and back, not doing the full loop. Pro tip: I highly recommend driving across the street to Olentangy River Brewing Company to use their changing tables…err…to cool off.
This Ones for the Birds at Blendon Woods (easy to moderate): Explore the “spectacular stream-cut ravines” and towering maples and oaks. This is a great place to see and hear all sorts of birds and you’re almost guaranteed to see wild turkeys while you’re there. We’ve enjoyed all the trails, in particular I enjoy hiking Goldenrod. It’s the only pet permitted trail and least traveled. If you want true silence and solitude or what short amount of silence your little companion(s) can give you, I recommend this one.
The Hidden Gem at the 100 Akre Wilderness (easy-ish to difficult): This one is the most primitive and least visited of all the parks, which is managed by the Blendon Woods rangers. It doesn’t even pull up on Google Maps, and that’s why this is perfect for an adventure. For the most part, this is super easy to hike, but you need to be able to read the trail, because there is zero signage. After nearly a mile, you come up on to the Hocking Hills of central Ohio in the form of 80-foot ridges along the river. This is peaceful and breathtaking. We had Metro Parks Executive Director Tim Moloney on our podcast, and he talked about the possibility of hidden art coming to this park that you can search for. This isn’t even on the Metro Parks website.
Stay tuned for other recommended hikes in different parts of Columbus, along with my top kid-friendly, post hike breweries to rehydrate at.
-Matt Lofy, CBUS Dads contributor
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CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.