Greater Columbus is one of the best places in the U.S. to see gorgeous fall foliage. We sit at the crossroads of the north and south, and we boast tree species from both climate zones, meaning there is a veritable rainbow of fall color through the end of October! With comfortable, normally dry weather, this is the perfect time to get out and explore the outdoors. Here are our picks for the five best fall hikes in Central Ohio.

Trees in fall colors on riverfront of Scioto Mile with city skyline in background

The Scioto Mile and Scioto Audubon Metro Park offer beautiful fall color right downtown! Take the trails along the Scioto River south to reach Scioto Audubon Metropark, offering a stunning vista of of wetlands, colorful trees and the skyline of downtown Columbus. Enjoy the park, and don't miss the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, where you can learn more about the wildlife of the area. If you're a birder, October is a great time to see the fall migration through Columbus, and this is a great spot to watch from.

Battelle Darby Creek Metropark, on the far west side of Columbus, is an oasis of nature. With more than 20 miles of hiking trails winding through 7,000 acres of parkland, you'll feel like you're in the heart of the wilderness, but you're only 20 minutes from downtown Columbus. Hike among restored prairies and colorful woodlands, and make sure you you don't miss the bison - a herd of seven roams within a huge paddock.

Bison At Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Blendon Woods Metro Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The sightings are especially fruitful in the fall when wild turkeys roam the park’s trails; follow the Brookside and Overlook Trails to catch a glimpse. Post up at one of the elevated shelters alongside Thoreau Lake to witness one of the hundreds of bird species seen throughout the park, or meander through meadows on the Goldenrod Trail. Mark your calendars for a half-mile "Not So Scary Lantern Hike" for kids along a paved trail at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, and a 1-mile "All Hallows Eve Lantern Hike" for adults along a gravel trail at 7 p.m. on Oct. 31.

Clear Creek Metro Park is the largest Metro Park in Columbus, and fall might be the best time to experience its diverse landscape. From the parking lot, quickly ascend through hemlock forests and lush ferns to the Cemetery Ridge Trail. Continue along the trail past the abandoned 19th century barn, and descend down the Fern Trail for a challenging loop hike. 

Hayden Run Falls is a hidden gem found on the north end of the city featuring a spectacular 35-foot waterfall that cascades into a stream before spilling into the mighty Scioto River. Though the park surrounding the falls in a petite two acres, this is a trip worth taking in the fall. After you scope out the falls, cross the river and walk north along its eastern bank - there is parkland stretching miles, and fall color is usually most intense near rivers and other water sources.

Highbanks Metro Park is named for the 100-foot tall sandstone bluff overlooking the Olentangy State Scenic River, and this park provides incredible vistas of fall color come October every year. Combine the Coyote Run and Overlook trails for five miles of challenging hiking.

Highbanks-fall

Mohican State Park is roughly the mid-way point along the Ohio To Erie Trail, the cross-state bike route that takes cyclists through Ohio’s diverse scenery, and serves as a perfect place for an autumn outing. This park has it all: Trails meander past the Mohican State Scenic River, Lyon’s Falls, and a panoramic overlook of the Mohican Valley, a prime spot to witness the change in seasons. 

Prairie Oaks Metro Park takes hiking with a pet to the next level. Not only are most of the trails at this park pet-friendly, but Prairie Oaks also features a Doggie Beach and park for our four-legged friends to socialize. After a hike, cross a stop off the Hike-Bike-Paddle Trail with a paddle trip in the Big Darby State and National Scenic River. Fall is an especially good time to venture down the river as the trees begin to turn. 

Sandhill Cranes at Slate Run Metro ParkSlate Run Metro Park may be best known for its historic farm, but the scenery is equally breathtaking. Set amid fields, marshes and forests, there's a plethora of tree species, like beech, sugar maple and hickory that will ensure you see the full spectrum of fall colors. Combine the Bobolink, Kokomo and Sugar Maple trails for a 6-mile trip through the full gamut of biomes here. Slate Run is located southwest of Columbus in Canal Winchester.

 

For those who aren't big hikers, check out the Fall Color Driving Tour coming Mid-October at Blendon Woods Metro Park!