20 Stunning Hiking Trails Near Columbus, OH

Hiking lovers and enthusiasts are always looking for the next beautiful trail to hit. But, besides seeking beautiful places to enjoy the view and take amazing pictures, proximity also matters. 

Since finding hiking trails close to you has gotten more accessible, thanks to the internet, you only need to type a string of words to find what you’re looking for. And if you’re in Columbus looking for hiking trails near Columbus, you are at the right place. 

Therefore, get your hiking gear ready and get set to hit the must-do trails close to you. Check out these 20 must-do hiking trails near Columbus!

Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Length: 10 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 65 to 282 feet elevation gain, five trails, Licking River view

You can access a couple of trails in the Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, and it’s just an hour drive from Columbus, 30 to 45 minutes from the East. This preserve has five trails, all making up ten miles. 

Since there are many trails, you should probably know that some are paved, dirty, and hilly, but they are easy. The most popular trail is the Blackhand Trail which is about 4 miles, flat and paved. 

When you visit these trails in summer, you can enjoy the cool breeze of the forest made of hemlock and birch trees. However, it could get a bit chilly or icy during winter, so you better be prepared for that. 

This trail runs along the Licking River, a beautiful sight to behold. One last thing to know before setting out is that the trail is a one-way trail, so you can plan for parking and returning. Don’t forget to pack hiking essentials before going!

Scioto Trail

Length: 12.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 229 feet elevation, loop route type, beautiful city, and river view

Who says you can only hike in the woods? The Scioto Trail is perfect for when you want different scenery from the real wood and rock trails.

This trail is a multi-use path and the first Greenway trail in Columbus. On this trail, you enjoy the city’s beautiful skyline view, and the Scioto River as the course stretches along the area. In addition, this trail promises a more relaxing hike in cool weather.

The trail’s surface is concrete and asphalt and is sometimes, usually moderately crowded as you will see people walking that path. Plus, the greens surrounding the path are a good place for you to sit and catch your breath if you need to.

The trail is connected to others, and it runs through parks in the city like Arena District, Battelle Riverfront Park, and North Bank Park. The path is accessible for all skills, and you’ll also see a couple of restaurants where you can grab a bite on the go.

Tip: Don’t miss out on the view!

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Length: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 49 feet elevation, loop route type, beautiful garden scenery

You could have an enjoyable day at the Inniswood Metro Garden. You can visit here during the weekday when you’re free or on the weekend, take a walk and enjoy beautiful views in the garden.

This garden has a couple of trails, and two popular ones are the Chipmunk Chatter trail which is 0.6 miles, and the Boardwalk trail, 0.5 miles. These trails are paved, and you can access them from the parking lot. 

You can check out the Sister’s garden, which is a loop trail so you can see the treehouse. Bring your camera along to capture some beautiful pictures. 

While it might be a short, easy hike, you get to see beautiful wildflowers and wildlife like deers, hawks, woodpeckers, and other birds. Unfortunately, you can’t bring food into the place, but there’s a patio area for that, where you can eat and picnic if you have company.

Overlook & Dripping Rock Trail, Highbanks

Length: 5.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Highlights: 354 feet elevation, loop route, creek

Located in the city center, you switch from the city’s buzz to beautiful nature at the Overlook & Dripping Rock Trail. This trail is one of the more famous hiking trails near Columbus in the metro parks area.

The best time for you to visit this trail is during fall when all the leaves would have changed color and added to the beauty of the location. The route is a loop, and you get to start and finish at the same spot. 

You should stop at the Overlook deck and check out the Olentangy River to watch birds when on the trail. The trail gives off forest, meadows, and creek vibes, having dirt and gravel. It has tall trees with shady spots to relax and hide from the scorching sun.

Metro Park

Length: 230 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Highlights: 19 natural parks, multiple hiking trails, waterfall, creeks

The Metro Park is a whopping 230 miles, and it houses many hiking trails! Honestly, you should be interested in checking out a few or all; there are over ten of them. The trails have different route types, and they all have amazing views.

You can experience the biggest waterfall in Columbus if you hike the All-Purpose Trail, Garfield Park reservation. The Buckeye Trail also features a breathtaking waterfall view, and you can enjoy a magnificent rock overlook at the Rocky River Reservation.

You can’t possibly hike all 230 miles at once, so it’s best you take a few trips to Metro Park if you want to cover them all.

Rockbridge State Nature Preserve

Length: 2.75 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Highlights: 544 feet elevation, loop route, two trails, rock formation

Behold the beauty of the Rockbridge State Nature Preserve when you go hiking there. In less than an hour’s drive from Columbus, you can be walking on either of the two trails in this area.

You can visit here for a more casual hike when you want to explore nature. These trails feature rock formations and the largest natural bridge in Columbus. The two-loop trails are the Natural Bridge and Rock shelter trails, leading to the natural rock bridge. 

Here, you’ll also see the Hocking river, forested landscape, and streams of water. This is a must-do trail for you to capture nature with your camera lenses.

Rocks and Roots Trail, Alum Creek State Park

Length: 6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Highlights: 246 feet elevation for the South loop, 183 elevations for North loop, loop route, creek view.

If you need hiking trails near Columbus that are challenging with some elevations, you should visit the Rock and Root Trail. This is one of the best trails in Alum Creek State Park. 

It features beautiful forested terrains with birds of different species. The trail is loop type and divided into the South and North loop. The South Loop is a forested area and a hunting area, so if you’re walking this trail, wear bright, colorful clothes. 

The North loop views the forest and the best time to hike the trail is March through November. You can choose to hike whichever side you want, depending on the elevation challenge you want.

Conkles Hollow Nature Preserve

Length: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Highlights: Cliff views, caves, boardwalks

A day’s hike in Conkles Hollow Nature Preserve will be worth it rather than staying indoors. It’s a 45 minutes drive from Columbus, and it offers incredible views, so don’t forget your cameras.

This location features two trails, the lower one is the gorge trail (about 0.5 miles), wheelchair accessible, and easy for beginners. The upper trail, the rim trail, is 2.5 miles and challenging and not advisable for beginners.

It has a steep sandstone cliff and a 200-foot dropoff which is gorgeous and dangerous at the same time. As one of the popular trails in the Hocking Hills region, you’ll see unique plants and wildlife here, with recess caves and boardwalks on the lower trail.

Camp Chase Trail

Length: 10.9 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 231 feet elevation, paved trail, one-way route

You can also hike on Camp Chase Trail, one of the hiking locations near Columbus. It’s a different setting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

It features exciting scenes like railroad tracks and trains, and you’d also see forested boardwalks, bridges, and old industrial buildings. This trail extends to the rural outskirts of central Ohio, and it’s paved. 

Before going, you should know that it’s usually crowded, and it’s a shared path with bikers, runners, and walkers.

Overlook Trail, Blendon Woods Metro Park

Length: 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 141 feet elevation, multiple trails, loop route

When you need to take nature trips, you should consider Overlook Trail, Blendon Woods Metro Park, one of your go-to hiking trails in Columbus. It is family-friendly and good for all hiking levels.

This location features multiple trails like the Overlook trail, which is 0.6 miles and connects with the Ripple Rock Trail at 0.4 miles, the Hickory Ridge trail at 0.3 miles, and 0.3 miles into Waterfowl refuge and Thoreau lake. 

These trails range from gravel to woods and are rich in wildlife and birds. It is beautiful in fall so you can plan your hike towards that period.

Big Run Park Loop, Big Run State Park

Length: 2.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 128 elevations, river view, a loop route

Natural terrain can never go wrong when it comes to choosing hiking trails. The Big Run Park Loop has a range of landscapes from paved to natural rock stairs, wooden bridges, grassy fields, and others.

Due to the changing terrain, you should make sure you wear appropriate hiking boots for protection. You’ll see many native Ohio wildlife here like squirrels, cardinals, white-tailed deers, and more. There’s an option for picnicking and relaxing.

Adena Ridge Trail, Deer Creek State Park

Length: 4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 72 feet elevation, Deer creek, a loop route

You can get to the Adena Ridge trail at the Deer Creek state park in no time; it’s just 30 minutes from downtown Columbus. This trail can get sloppy depending on the weather, and it runs along the creek shoreline.

The trail also connects to five others in Deer creek state park. It is also heavily wooded with plenty of wildlife, including songbirds and white-tailed deers.

Buckeye Trail, Caesar Creek State Park

Length: 1,444 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: Loop route, Caesar Creek Lake, waterfall

One of the hiking trails near Columbus in Caesar Creek State Park you should check out is the Buckeye Trail. It’s a wide trail and can take multiple days to complete, with stops in the city for rest, of course.

The terrain ranges from unpaved to swinging bridges. If you follow the trail going through the park, you get to hike 20 miles of unpaved terrain. Moreover, you should know that the trail loops around the lake in the park.

The Hemlock Trail, Clear Creek Metro Park

Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Highlights: 777 to 1108 feet elevation

This trail can be challenging but fun and hilly for people who like challenges. However, the path is dirty and has woven hemlock trees around, so you have to be careful. 

Plus, the steep terrain features wooded boardwalks, sandstone borders, and forested trails. However, the hemlock trees and forest covers can shade when in the trail.

Gahanna Woods State Nature Preserve

Length: 2.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Highlights: 49 feet elevation

This hiking trail gives you the “hike in the woods” feeling, and it’s 20 minutes away from Columbus on the outskirts. It features beautiful wildflowers, plants, forested boardwalks, and it’s the perfect escape from the city.

However, the trail could get muddy and flooded when it rains, so plan your hike there for when it’s sunny and dry.

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

Length: 4.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Highlights: Waterfall, river view, a loop route

Add the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve to your bucket list of trails to visit in Ohio. It’s a beautiful trail and features small waterfalls and tiny wildflowers, which adds to its smell, rocky stairways, cliffs, and a cave.

There is a lot to see here, but you have to be careful while on the trail and ensure you wear the right gear.

Rock House

Length: 0.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Highlights: 203 feet elevation, cave

If you need a short hike on a hiking trail near Columbus, then you should check the Rock House out. On this trail, you only climb a steep incline to get to the Rock House, and you can hike around the edges and curves of the rocks.

The view is beautiful and makes for an excellent photography spot, so bring your cameras and get some fantastic clicks here.

Cantwell Cliffs Loop

Length: 0.9 mile
Difficulty: Difficult
Highlights: 269 feet elevation, waterfall, a loop route

This is one of the difficult hiking trails near Columbus, Hocking Hills. It features stone stairs, steep hills, rocky terrains, and a waterfall. It has nice photography spots and gives you a good view of the park. However, be careful on this trail, as it can be dangerous.

Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, & Ash Cave

Length: 12.3 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Highlights: 1,243 feet elevation, waterfall, cave

Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave are challenging trails for pretty much anyone, especially newbies. It features the beautiful Cedar fall, many rock formations, creeks, tunnels, and more. If you’re all about hiking in nature, then you’d check this out.

Jacobs Ladder and Christmas Rocks Trail

Length: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Highlights: 672 feet elevation

This trail is another challenging one, but it offers a nice nature hiking feel. It features forests, rocky peaks, rock formations, beautiful views, and nice shades during hikes. So, you might want to consider hiking at least once here if you are a pro.

Frequently Asked Questions for Hiking Trails Near Columbus

Best time and months for hiking here?

You can hike all year round in Columbus, but of course, that depends on the hiking trail as well.

Are there waterfalls on any trails or hikes?

There are waterfalls on Metro Park, Buckeye Trail, Clifton Gorge, Cantwell Cliffs, Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave.

Final thoughts

Many hiking trails near Columbus, and finding one close to you is easy. Since you have many choices to pick from, add some to your hiking list and set out to start ticking them off. Always make sure you wear the appropriate hiking gear and be careful on the trails.

Good luck!

Emily Winters

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