Best Outdoor Activities in and Around Columbus

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By Mike

Columbus and its nearby areas present many opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting various activities such as hiking, biking, and paddling.

Alum Creek State Park

You’ve probably heard of Alum Creek State Park, but do you know what it offers?

The park’s designated wildlife observation areas are a must-visit if you’re a nature enthusiast. Equipped with viewing platforms, they provide the perfect opportunity to observe over 200 species of birds in their natural habitat.

Recreational Activities Available

Alum Creek Reservoir shines as a 3,300-acre lake managed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, offering distinct experiences across its waters.

The northern end welcomes paddling enthusiasts, while the southern waters invite all types of boats and water skiing fans. Fishing enthusiasts find joy both from boats and the shoreline.

The park’s swimming beach stretches 3,000 feet along the lake’s edge, featuring amenities like changing rooms, restrooms, and a snack bar for convenience.

Alum Creek boasts a main campground with 286 sites for overnight stays, all equipped with electricity, water, and even Wi-Fi. Central bathhouses offer hot showers, and sites vary from wooded seclusions to open spaces, some with lake views.

Things to do:

  • Fishing
  • Water skiing
  • Paddling
  • Swimming beaches
  • Picnicking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Cabins for Rent
  • Dog Parks

Campers enjoy access to a dedicated beach and boat launch. For a more back-to-basics experience, a primitive campground near Howard Road offers a getaway into simplicity. Remember to pack camping chairs and a picnic set! A map is available for ease of navigation.

Looking for a cozy retreat? Eight cabins within the park provide a comfortable stay amidst nature.

Adventure trails span 40 miles, catering to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, with dedicated miles for each activity, ensuring a diverse outdoor experience.

Picnicking options abound, with numerous tables with grills scattered throughout the park and two group picnic areas near the dam managed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

Dog lovers will appreciate the 4-acre canine-friendly area by the lake, ensuring fun for furry friends.

Beyond the park, the Olentangy Indian Caverns beckon for exploration, and the waters remain ever-welcoming for boating and fishing enthusiasts, adding to the allure of Alum Creek’s vibrant outdoor canvas.

Imagine being surrounded by lush forests, ancient mounds, and serene wetlands, all while having the opportunity to participate in many recreational activities.

For additional information, call the Alum Creek State Park office at (740)548-4631. To make campground or cabin reservations, call 1-866-644-6727. Campground and cabin reservations are required.

This location, steeped in history and natural beauty, isn’t just a place to visit but to explore and experience.

Natural Highlights of the Park

Alum Creek State Park is fascinating, and its natural features offer a unique mix of geological, floral, and faunal highlights.

You’ll find towering cliffs of Ohio shale, a testament to an ancient sea that once covered the area. These cliffs and surrounding fertile agricultural plains create diverse habitats, each offering a different face of the park’s beauty.

Venture into the park’s heart, and a lush beech-maple forest will greet you. It’s a remnant of a post-glacial era, its rich soils now nurturing many plant species and wildflowers.

Watch for the park’s fauna as you wander through this green canopy. It’s home to white-tail deer and fox squirrels, making it a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts.

The park isn’t just about nature, though. The Adena culture, an ancient Native American society, once called this land home. Just like them, you, too, can find a connection with the beauty of Alum Creek State Park.

Accommodation Options at Alum Creek

Whether you’re an avid camper or prefer a touch of comfort, Alum Creek State Park has you covered. The park offers 286 campsites with electricity and water and eight cozy cabins for rent.

You’ll find both wooded and open campsites, all meticulously maintained and offering breathtaking lake views. They’re ideal for camping, providing a tranquil atmosphere where you can connect with nature.

Each site is well-appointed with amenities such as Wi-Fi, hot showers, and bathrooms in central bathhouses – all designed to enhance your comfort during your stay.

If camping isn’t your style, why not opt for one of the cabins? Nestled within the park, these cabins offer a unique lodging experience, blending the rustic charm of the outdoors with the convenience of modern amenities.

They’re perfect for those seeking a more relaxed stay without compromising on the immersive experience of the park.

Exploring the Hiking Trails

A female hiker outside

After finding your perfect accommodation at Alum Creek, you’ll lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails.

The park boasts 9.5 miles of diverse hiking trails catering to various skill levels. You’ll traverse various habitats, including lush forests, sprawling fields, and serene wetlands.

Each step allows you to drink in scenic views of the Alum Creek Reservoir and the unspoiled natural beauty surrounding you. The trails aren’t just for hikers; they’re also a haven for birdwatchers.

As you navigate the paths, look for the many bird species that call the park home.

These trails are more than just a pathway; they’re an immersive experience into the heart of Alum Creek State Park. Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenge or a novice seeking a stroll, there’s a trail for you. So, gear up, step out, and let the adventure begin.

The Best View Trails in Alum Creek State Park

Here are the most popular views trails in Alum Creek State Park according to

#1 – Rocks And Roots North Loop
#2 – Alum Creek Multi-Purpose Trail
#3 – Winterhawk Bridle Trail
#4 – Out of Africa Trail
#5 – Hunter´s Hollow Bridle Trail
#6 – Maple Glen Bridle Trail
#7 – White Tail Run Trail
#8 – Alum Creek Beach

With every hike, you’ll uncover a new facet of the park’s vibrant, diverse ecosystem. Create memories that’ll last long after your boots hit the trails.

Alum Creek State Park Horseback Riding

Woman horseback riding

Roughly 43 miles of trails are available. The area offers about 25 primitive campsites equipped with trailhead horse amenities, including high lines at every site over solid ground, drinkable water for horses, and several sites with shade.

There’s a permanent primitive restroom, Port-A-Potties, an RV dump station, drinkable water, fire rings, and picnic tables scattered across the campground.

We recommend visiting the Ohio Horsemans’ website for detailed information on horseback riding at Alum Creek State Park. They provide excellent resources and insights. Link:

Alum Creek State Park: History

Delving into the history of Alum Creek State Park, you’ll uncover a rich tapestry of events, from evidence of the Adena culture dating back over 2,000 years to its significant role as a route on the Underground Railroad.

Seven mounds within the park bear witness to the Adena culture’s presence, providing a glimpse into the lives of these ancient people.

The Lenape tribe inhabited this region peacefully until colonial settlers and Iroquois Indians displaced them. Imagine their vibrant communities thriving on the land that’s now Alum Creek State Park.

The first permanent white settler was Moses Byxbe, who arrived in 1805. His settlement marked a turning point in the region’s history, transforming it from a native land into an established colony. During the War of 1812, Fort Cheshire was built, serving as a fortress for those living nearby.

However, perhaps the most significant chapter in the park’s history is its role in the Underground Railroad.

Alum Creek was a crucial route, aiding over 40,000 slaves to freedom. Today, a plaque commemorating Fort Cheshire, which later served as a schoolhouse, stands proudly in the park’s family campground, a testament to the area’s rich past.

Olentangy Rivers

Map: click here to download the map

The Olentangy Water Trail flows through Columbus’s core, stretching from the Broad Meadows pedestrian bridge to the Scioto River.

This trail offers entry to multiple parks in Columbus and weaves through neighborhoods full of history and The Ohio State University campus.

Adventurers can enjoy paddling and biking activities close to the Olentangy Greenways Trail.

The Olentangy River Water Trail starts at the Broad Meadows Pedestrian Bridge and stretches south for 8.94 miles until it joins the Scioto River near downtown Columbus’s western edge.

When exploring the Water Trail, remember to avoid the three lowhead dams.

Never try to cross these dams. Instead, carry your boat around them and relaunch it downstream.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park

You’ve likely heard of Scioto Audubon Metro Park, a gem in Central Ohio. As you wander through the park, you’ll find a variety of outdoor activities, including a 35-foot rock climbing wall and a spacious dog park.

But there’s more to this park than meets the eye. Did you know it’s also an environmental triumph, transformed from an industrial wasteland to a green refuge?

And that’s just the start. Curious about what else lies beneath its surface?

Exploring the Park’s Attractions

From scaling the 35-foot climbing wall to embarking on a motorized boating adventure on the Scioto River, Scioto Audubon Metro Park offers an abundance of attractions to explore.

You’ll find one of the largest outdoor climbing walls in the area, offering bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing options. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or trying it out for the first time, you’re in for an exhilarating experience.

Don’t miss out on the Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course. It’s fun to test your physical abilities with challenges like a running track, balance beams, and monkey bars.

Remember, it’s not about who’s the fastest but who’s the most fun!

If you’re looking for a place to let your furry friends run free, head to the 1.5-acre dog park. It’s been thoughtfully designed with separate areas for large and small dogs.

While they enjoy their playtime, you can unwind by the scenic Scioto River or fire up one of the grills available for picnicking.

With so much to see and do, every Scioto Audubon Metro Park visit promises a new adventure.

Activities and Recreational Opportunities

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a peace seeker, there’s an activity for you at Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

If you’re into cycling, the park’s 10-mile Scioto Greenway bike trail, and 2.5-mile Connector Trails are perfect for you. These trails offer a scenic ride, taking you through breathtaking landscapes.

If you’re more into water sports, the park offers boating on the Scioto River. The boat ramp is ready for your motorized watercraft, promising a thrilling ride on the water.

Fishing enthusiasts aren’t left out, either. The Scioto River is accessible from the boat ramp or elevated fishing dock, so you’re in for a treat.

Dog lovers, you’ll love the 1.5-acre dog park, where your four-legged friends can play in separate areas based on their size. Obstacle stations and play structures are ready for their enjoyment.

For the more adventurous, the rock climbing options are sure to give you a rush. The main climbing wall reaches a height of 35 feet and offers bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing options.

So, get ready for an unforgettable day at Scioto Audubon Metro Park.

The Significance of Audubon Center

Beyond the thrill of outdoor adventures at Scioto Audubon Metro Park, you’ll find the Audubon Center, a significant environmental education and conservation place.

Located at 505 W. Whittier St., the Audubon Center is a beacon for birding enthusiasts, conservationists, and learners of all ages.

The $14.5 million center, which opened its doors in August 2009, stands as a shining example of sustainable design. It’s more than just a building; it’s a testament to the park’s commitment to the environment, boasting a LEED Gold rating for its eco-friendly construction.

Designed by DesignGroup, the center includes classrooms, a library, and an observation room specifically for birding.

However, the Audubon Center’s significance goes beyond its impressive architecture. It’s a key hub for educational programs promoting conservation and understanding our natural world.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or a novice naturalist, the center offers many learning opportunities.

Historical Background of Scioto Park

Before it became the thriving green space you see today, Scioto Audubon Metro Park was an industrial brownfield site, illustrating a dramatic transformation driven by environmental conservation and community collaboration.

Back then, this piece of land on the Whittier Peninsula was nothing more than an abandoned, polluted space. However, a vision of a green oasis in the heart of Columbus sparked a significant change.

In 2009, Columbus Metro Parks, the Recreation and Parks Department, and Audubon, Ohio, united to transform this industrial brownfield site into the beautiful park you can now enjoy.

This transformation wasn’t just about planting trees and creating walking paths. It involved extensive soil remediation to cleanse the land of pollutants and create a safe environment for wildlife and visitors.

Now, Scioto Audubon Metro Park stands as a testament to what can be achieved through cooperation, dedication, and a commitment to environmental education.

It’s not just a park; it’s a living classroom where you can learn about conservation and the importance of maintaining our planet’s natural resources.

This transformation story from industrial brownfield to green oasis powerfully reminds us of the potential for positive change within our urban landscapes.

Engaging With Nature at Scioto

If you’re eager to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, Scioto Audubon Metro Park is packed with opportunities to engage with nature in various ways.

Located in Central Ohio, this nature lover’s paradise offers countless recreational activities. You can hike on the 10-mile Scioto Greenway Trail or the 2.5-mile Connector Trail and experience the tranquility of the natural world around you.

Birdwatching is a popular pastime in the park, with diverse bird species to spot and learn about.

Take your binoculars to the park’s nature center, where you can join in on birdwatching programs and gain insights into the local avian life.

If you’re a fan of water sports, the park also offers boating experiences on the Scioto River. Here, you can appreciate the river’s quiet rhythm and the surrounding landscape’s beauty.

The park’s 1.5-acre dog park is perfect for your furry companions.

They can run free, play, and enjoy the outdoors while you relax and soak in the scenery.

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