Columbus Hiking: The Best Columbus Day-Hikes for Viewing Fall Foliage

Photo: Kenneth Keifer/Shutterstock

Fall in Ohio can seem so fleeting—make plans so you can capitalize when the ideal hiking conditions arrive.

Then get outside a few times to view the spectacular show that Mother Nature puts on as the forests change color throughout October. Here are the choice spots on a few of the top fall foliage hikes near Columbus. 

Blendon Woods Metro Park

‘Sugar bush’ is another name for a section of forest where sugar maples dominate (and are tapped for maple syrup). Maple trees are the star of the autumn show—they produce the best yellows, reds and oranges of all the major tree species. Make it a priority to hike the 2-mile Sugar Bush Trail in Blendon Woods. As advertised, this trail features a maple-heavy forest where fall colors do not disappoint. It can be muddy, so plan to go after it’s had a chance to dry out after a rain. Just 15 minutes from downtown, Blendon Woods is quickly accessible from all parts of Columbus. Beginning Oct.1, the park is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. While you’re there, check out the kid-friendly nature center (full facilities) right by the trailhead, open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. More info:

Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve

Drive an hour southeast of Columbus and transport to an Appalachian landscape of ridges, hollows and deep forests. This preserve presents a challenging hike that starts with seemingly endless stairs, which take you out of the hollow to the 2-mile Rim Trail. But you’ll be rewarded with overlook after overlook of rock walls, the gorge below and forested ridges that undulate to the horizon. The bright fall colors of the deciduous trees contrast the deep greens of the Virginia pines and hemlocks. Don’t fret if anyone in your party can’t make the rugged hike to the rim; the adjacent 1-mile out-and-back Gorge Trail is wheelchair-accessible. There are restrooms and a picnic area here, but no water. Open dawn to dusk. Note that dogs are not allowed at Conkles Hollow, nor at any state nature preserve. More info:

Mohican State Forest Fire Tower

It’s worth the hour-and-a-half drive northeast from Columbus to Mohican-Memorial State Forest just about any time. Fall, however, is the best time of the year to climb to the top of the fire tower for a 360-degree view of the surrounding forest ablaze with color. A nice approach to the fire tower begins at the covered bridge in adjacent Mohican State Park, which spans the beautiful and clean Clear Fork of the Mohican River. From here, take the Hog Hollow Trail to the tower and back for a total of 4.6 miles. Toilets and picnic tables are available near the trailhead at the covered bridge, but bring your own water. The state forest is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily. More info:

Fort Hill Earthworks and Nature Preserve

Fort Hill is known for the hilltop enclosure constructed by the Native American Hopewell people who inhabited this site some 2,000 years ago. But it should be equally known for the quality of the forest—parts of this forest are nearly virgin, as the only trees cut were the American chestnuts when the blight struck in the early part of the 20th century. The picnic shelter is a Civilian Conservation Corps-era structure that was built with the chestnut logs. A late fall hike allows you to enjoy fall color with fewer leaves, so that the earthworks, which can be a bit hard to make out, are more visible. Take the 2.2-mile Fort Trail, which encircles the ridge, paralleling the earthworks. For a longer option, hike the Fort Trail to the 3-mile Gorge Trail and descend the ridge to parallel the Baker Fork on the way back to the trailhead. Fort Hill is an hour and a half southwest of Columbus. There are latrine toilets near the parking area, but water is available only when the museum is open. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset. More info:

Track fall colors at their height throughout Ohio:

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.