Hey folks! This week we have a ‘guided tour’ of five of our Metro Parks in and around Columbus. Tony Skrabak has given us his picks and included links to trail maps if you’re able to get out and about — or for down the road when we all hope to be hitting the trails again. I’ve been to all five of these parks and would have to say that my favorite of the five is Clear Creek Metro Park, down in the Hocking Hills area. How this is a Franklin County Metro Park? I still don’t know… but it is probably the wildest of the bunch and close enough to Hocking Hills wilderness areas that you can include it in a day trip to the region.
When my son was a toddler, Highbanks and Three Creeks were fun for the creek exploring and accessable trails; Battelle Darby Creek has the bison, a really cool nature center, and sledding in the winter. Now an 8th grader, his school has a partnership with the Scioto-Audubon center for off-site classes about ecology and conservation. We’ve got a world class park system here with a bit of something for everyone.
ps. I just got sent this article from Sierra Magazine on how to get out safely during Covid19… But I know many people can’t or don’t find it easy to get out beyond the house, or yard if we’re so lucky to have it. So, as the article says, if people don’t have easy access to outdoor areas, they could “try to play nature sounds—like birds, rain, or ocean—and take breaks from the screen as often as possible… or meditate and imagine they are in nature—what would they see, smell, hear, and feel?” Maybe we can work up a joint blog post with Kelli leading us on a guided meditation nature hike!
Five Metro Parks
by Tony Skrabak
With the recent orders to stay home except for outdoor recreation, my wife, Elaine Fujimura, and I have been getting out to the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks to hike in order to get some exercise, fresh air, and sometimes a little sunshine.
Brian asked me to list five of my favorite metro parks. I can’t say they are my five most favorite; that would be like a parent choosing a favorite child. In many cases, it depends on what activity you want to do. These Metro Parks all have good hiking options, along with other attractions.
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park
One of the positive aspects of Battelle Darby is the wide variety of activities available. It has many miles of hiking trails up and down hills or flat along the Big Darby Creek. If you hike between Cedar Ridge and the Nature Center, you can watch the resident herd of bison. You can hike at Battelle Darby in any season. However, over the years, I have gone there more often to canoe or kayak Big Darby Creek from the Alkire Rd. launch in the middle of the park. The section of Big Darby Creek from the park several miles downstram to Darbydale is one of the most picturesque of any stream in Ohio as it has parkland on both shores for several miles. If you are into bicycling, the Ohio to Erie Bicycle Trail runs through the park and provides trail head parking where you can bike 10 miles southwest to London or 10 miles northeast into Columbus near the Hollywood Casino. If you are really ambitious, the Ohio to Erie Bicycle Trail continues on, going southwest through London to Xenia and on to Cincinnati, and going northwest through Columbus and Westerville and on to Cleveland.
Clear Creek Metro Park
This park has miles of hiking trails, many of them very steep and rugged. The scenery is exceptional with sandstone cliffs and deep gorges. Because of some flukes of the Ice Age and local climates, Clear Creek is one of the few places in Ohio where you can see hemlock trees, which are much more common in Canadian forests. There are large stands of hemlocks at Clear Creek. When you read the descriptions of the Clear Creek trails on the Metro Park website, many of them use the word steep, with good reason. One disadvantage is that Clear Creek is south of Lancaster on Rte. 33, nearly an hour drive from Columbus. Oh, and did I mention that some of the trails are steep and rugged?
Highbanks is one of the older Metro Parks and is very well developed with lots of mature facilities. There are many miles of hiking paths, up and down hills, through the meadows, and along the Olentangy River. The location is very convenient for Columbus residents, only 20 minutes from the church. It is a great place to see birds. The excellent Nature Center is a good place to start, with a viewing area looking at several bird feeders. If you go to Highbanks often enough, you might see the bald eagles that are nesting in sight of the eagle viewing area, or you might see pileated woodpeckers (think Woody Woodpecker), or a flock of a dozen or so wild turkeys, or the resident owl or one of the hawks. It is also a great place to see wildflowers, especially blooming now in the early spring. Be aware that because Highbanks is very convenient, it is also one of the most visited Metro Parks, so at peak times, the many parking lots might all be near or at capacity.
Three Creeks is excellent for both hiking and biking. The park is off Rte 33 and Hamilton Rd., same exit as Ricart Auto (as in “We’re Dealin’”). The park has several entrances and areas. My favorite area is at the main entrance at 3860 Bixby Rd., which means you pass several signs for other areas of the park to get to the Confluence Trails area. From there you can hike on trails that cross Blacklick Creek and Alum Creek where they join Big Walnut Creek (thus the name Three Creeks). Another good way to enjoy Three Creeks is on a bike. The park is located where the Alum Creek Greenway bike trail connects to the Blacklick Creek Greenway (or vice versa). The Blacklick Creek Greenway runs for 16 miles between Blacklick Metro Park on the far east side of Columbus and Three Creeks Metro Park passing Pickerington Ponds on the way. If you have driven down’ Rt. 33, you might have seen the bike bridge across Rte. 33. That is the Blacklick Trail Greenway near Three Creeks. The Alum Creek Greenway runs 24 miles between Westerville and Three Creeks, going through Wolfe Park on Broad St. near Bexley.
This is a park that is just outside downtown Columbus near German Village. Like Highbanks, it is a great place to see birds. It is located right on the banks of the Scioto River, so you can see great blue heron wading along the shores of the river, and lots of other water fowl (ducks, geese). Like Battelle Darby, you can bike, hike, or canoe/kayak there. In addition, it has a rock climbing area. The Scioto Greenway Bike Trail runs right to and through the park. From the church you can bike down the Olentangy bike trail to Confluence Park and get on the Scioto Greenway along the Scioto through downtown and continue past downtown to Scioto Audubon for a one way trip of about 9 miles or so. To canoe/kayak, you can go to the boat ramp near the park entrance and kayak up the Scioto River past COSI and downtown Columbus. If you have seen kayaks on the Scioto River from downtown, they probably launched from the boat ramp at Scioto Audubon.
- Overview and map of Metro Parks https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/
- Battelle Darby Creek Trails – https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/battelle-darby-creek/trails/
- Clear Creek Trails – https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/clear-creek/trails/
- Highbanks Trails – https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/highbanks/trails/
- Three Creeks Trails – https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/three-creeks/trails/
- Scioto Audubon Trails – https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/scioto-audubon/trails/
Tony Skrabak Bio
I have been active in outdoor recreation in Central Ohio since the early 1970s, bicycling, kayaking, whitewater rafting, backpacking, camping, and hiking.
Elaine and I started attending First UU in the early 1990s and our daughter Heather went through the RE program including OWL and Youth Groups. We joined in 2003, the year Heather went through Coming of Age. Since then I have been a board member, board chair, moderator, and an ex officio member of the Nominating Committee (during the short period of time it was called Leadership Development).
Professionally, I have a Masters of Computer Science from THE Ohio State University and retired in May 2019 from developing and delivering training on computer topics like databases and programming languages.