Cool off with a walk in the woods

Highbanks Metro Park

View along the Overlooik Trail at Highbanks Metro Park, October
Overlook Trail at Highbanks (Eric Lipschutz)

The Overlook Trail in Highbanks Metro Park is an easy extension from the Dripping Rock Trail and a great place to escape on a hot day. The 2.3-mile trail meanders through the forest and passes along small streams and creeks. It’s perfect for hikers looking for a little challenge.

You’ll come to a small fenced in area with gravestones that belong to some of the area’s earliest settlers. Joseph and Sally Pool came to Columbus in 1812 from New York and farmed the land that’s now part of Highbanks.

Earthwork at Highbanks (Tim Perdue)

On the way to the overlook deck, you’ll see a depression followed by a berm. This large semi-circular earthwork was constructed by the Late Woodland Native people and designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Eagle flies over Highbanks Metro Park
Eagle flies over Highbanks Metro Park (Don Wise)

The observation deck provides views of the Olentangy State Scenic River. Gaze down on a floodplain dominated by sycamore trees, growing along the river some 110 feet below or watch for eagles swooping down on the water and snagging a snack.

Close up of the head of a red fox
Red fox (Al Staffen)

Wildlife is abundant in this wooded area, so be on the lookout for squirrels, deer, fox and chipmunks.

The Overlook Trail is part of the 206-acre Edward F. Hutchins State Nature Preserve situated on 100-foot high bluffs overlooking the Olentangy State Scenic River. The preserve honors Hutchins extraordinary efforts in acquiring park land and promoting conservation during his tenure as Metro Parks director.

Battelle Darby Creek

View along the Terrace Trail at Battelle Darby Creek, in fall
Terrace Trail at Battelle Darby Creek (Mike Fetherolf)

Pick up the scenic Terrace Trail from the Indian Ridge picnic area. It’s a moderate 2-mile trail that runs adjacent to Big Darby Creek for a while and loops through the woods. From this loop, you can connect to the Camp Chase Trail or the Ancient Trail to extend your hike or just head to Big Darby Creek and dip your toes into the creek to cool off. The trail is mostly forested and the western side of the loop passes by Big Darby Creek.

A red-headed woodpecker sits on a snag at Blacklick Woods
Red-headed woodpecker (Terrence Peck)

Bring your binoculars and camera as you might see turkeys, meadowlarks, red-headed woodpeckers and white-tailed deer. Be sure and hit this trail when the leaves begin to turn. There’s nothing like a creekside view of fall.

Old Chevy truck off Terrace Trail at Battelle Darby Creek
Old Chevy truck off Terrace Trail at Battelle Darby Creek (Mike Fetherolf)

And if you’re really observant, you’ll see the rusted remains of a Chevy truck dating from the 50s about a half mile along the trail.

Slate Run

Layers of shale in a small waterfall on Slate Run Creek in Slate Run Metro Park
Layers of shale form a small waterfall in Slate Run Creek (Andrea Krava)

Head to the Shady Grove picnic area with the family and head out on the Five Oaks Trail. This 1.5-mile trail traverses a steep ravine that contains several Ohio black shale outcrops. The trail was named after a massive oak tree that once sported five huge limbs but now has four. You’ll see this tree about a quarter mile into your hike.

Creek with shale bordering the natural play area at Slate Run Metro Park, with a woman searching in leaf litter for critters
Creek with shale bordering the natural play area at Slate Run (Hannah Henthorne)

Follow the trail past the ravine overlook deck and down to the bottom of the hill and have some fun in the 7-acre natural play area. Wade in the shallow stream and look for crawdads and other aquatic critters or explore the wooded hillside.

Sun burst breaks through trees on a trail at Slate Run
A sun burst on trail at Slate Run (Nathan Black)

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