Five Great Places to Hike With Your Dog Near Columbus, Ohio
Most dog owners have heard the expression “a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.” Regular exercise is important for the mental and physical health of your pet. Hiking is an excellent way for both you and your dog to get out and be active together. Although there are many walking and hiking trails in the Columbus, Ohio area, not all of them permit dogs. There are, however, some really great places where you and your dog can go hiking together.
1. Highbanks Metro Park
Highbanks Metro Park is located north of Columbus, Ohio off of Route 23. The park boasts over 1,000 acres and includes hiking trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds. Coyote Run Trail is the park’s dog-friendly hiking trail, which is 3.5 miles in length and meanders through the woods as well as across open meadows and fields.
The trail is designed in a series of loops that allows you to shorten or lengthen the total distance of your hike. The trail is “unimproved,” which means that it is a dirt path (as opposed to gravel). Portions of the trail get very muddy in wet weather, especially in the spring, so plan accordingly. In snowy conditions, the trail is used for cross country skiing and is closed to hiking and pets.
To get to the Coyote Run Trailhead, enter the park through the main entrance and turn right on the first road. The Nature Center will be on your left. Park at the far end of the lot—the entrance to the trail is on the same side of the lot as the Nature Center. If Coyote Run is too muddy, or if it is snowy, you can try Big Meadows Path instead. It is a paved walking path approximately one mile in length. The entrance is on the other side of the parking lot from Coyote Run.
2. Blendon Woods Metro Park
If you enjoy the Metro Parks but would like a shorter, less strenuous hike, then try Goldenrod Pet Trail at Blendon Woods. This hiking trail is very similar to the trail at Highbanks, but it is shorter at 1.2 miles in length. Even so, the trail winds through an area of the park that is away from other hiking trails, giving you the feel of being alone with nature. Like Highbanks, the trail is unimproved and gets very muddy in wet weather.
Blendon Woods is located northeast of Columbus off of Dublin-Granville Road near New Albany. The park contains 653 acres and includes the Walden Waterfowl Refuge which offers sanctuary to a variety of water birds which can be viewed from observation shelters. To access the Goldenrod Pet Trailhead, enter the park off Dublin-Granville Road and bear to the left at the split. Follow the road all the way to the back parking lot by the nature center. When facing the center, the pet trail is to the right. Tired and thirsty after your hike? There are a water fountain and dog water dish over by the nature center.
3. Char-Mar Ridge Preserve
Char-Mar Ridge Preserve is located just north of Westerville Ohio in Delaware County. It is part of the Preservation Parks Delaware County system. Char-Mar features Glacier Ridge Trail, a 1.66-mile hiking path that winds through a mature woodland setting, which includes a wildlife blind that allows visitors to pause a few moments and observe the forest ecosystem.
The trail is improved with a limestone/gravel surface. It can still get boggy in spots during wet times of the year, but it is far less muddy than the trails at Highbanks or Blendon Woods, which makes it a good alternative.
Char-Mar Ridge is located near the Polaris area. The main parking lot is located off Lewis Center Road which runs between State Route 3 and Old 3 C. The trailhead is located at the entrance to the parking lot. If you find the length of the trail to be a bit short and would like to add some distance to your hike, you can easily walk from the trailhead to the Genoa Township Trail (see below for more information).
4. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park
Battelle Darby Creek is the largest park in the Metro Park system and includes over 7,000 acres. The park features open prairies as well as mature woodlands as it winds along the Big and Little Darby Creeks. Thanks in part to its large size, Battelle-Darby is home to more than one dog-friendly hiking trail. Wagtail trail is a 1.6-mile grass/dirt hiking trail that winds through prairies as well as through the woods. Like the other Metro Park trails, Wagtail can be very muddy in wet weather.
The Darby Creek Greenway is Battelle Darby’s other dog-friendly hiking trail. It is 4.7 miles long and features a gravel surface that is also used by cyclists and joggers. The trail crosses through some woodland areas, but much of it is out in the relatively flat, open prairies. The park is home to a herd of bison that spend much of their time grazing along the Darby Creek Greenway. The bison area is fenced off so neither you nor your dog are in any danger, but you will both have the opportunity to get an up-close view of these very large, amazing animals.
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is located to the south-west of Columbus, off of Darby Creek Drive in Galloway. The pet trails can be accessed from multiple locations so be sure to check the park map to determine the best access point for you.
5. Alum Creek State Park
Probably the most extensive and challenging trails to hike with your dog can be found at Alum Creek State Park. The park consists of over 4,000 acres with more than 45 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and bridle trails. The trails wind along the 3,000-acre reservoir, offering spectacular views year-round. Many of the trails open out into small coves where you and your dog can take a rest lake-side. Since most trails are multi-use, be sure to follow proper trail etiquette and maintain control of your dog at all times.
Alum Creeks offers some of the best winter hiking in the area, as the trails remain open to hiking year-round. It is important to note that sections of the park are open to hunting/trapping and that the hiking trails do cross into hunting/trapping areas. It is, therefore, very important that you familiarize yourself with the trail maps and be aware of the various hunting seasons.
It is not recommended that you hike in hunting areas during open season. If you do, make sure that you avoid peak hunting times, such as dusk and dawn, and that you dress appropriately. In general, the west side of the lake has the greatest number of trails outside of hunting zones.
Alum Creek State Park is located just north of Columbus, Ohio in Delaware County and is easily accessible from I-71 as well as 270. If your dog would enjoy a refreshing swim after a long day of hiking, check out the Alum Creek Dog Park, which has a fenced-in area right on the water.
Other Great Places to Walk Your Dog
If hiking is a bit too strenuous for you and your pooch, and you would prefer a leisurely stroll down paved paths, here are two you might want to check out:
The Olentangy Greenway Trail
The Olentangy Greenway Trail is 13.75 miles in length and follows the Olentangy River from the Worthington Hills area all the way to downtown Columbus. The trail crosses through both Antrim Park and the Park of Roses as well as through a number of residential neighborhoods.
There are numerous locations to access the trail, and you can easily design a walk to fit any distance that suits you. The views along the river are particularly scenic and offer a lovely way to enjoy the outdoors with your dog.
The Genoa Township Trail
The Genoa Township Trail is located just north of Westerville and runs along State Route 3 from Mt Royal Avenue up to Plumb Road. The trail is 4 miles in length through mostly wooded terrain. If your pet gets thirsty, the Genoa Township Fire Station maintains a watering area complete with dog dishes at the point where the trail runs behind the firehouse. You can also stop and rest (and use the bathroom) at McNamara Park.
Both the Olentangy Greenway and Genoa Township Trails are multi-use and are popular with joggers and cyclists. It is important to make sure your dog stays on a leash and that you are courteous to those around you.