Kid-Friendly Trails at Columbus Metro Parks

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Choose one of these short trails that will be easy for kids to walk or hike for your next outing in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks!

Getting outside has been the name of the game this summer and we are enjoying making trips to many of the local Metro Parks! We have discovered so many new areas! It really takes an astute studying of the park maps to figure out where to go and what to do! 

I’ve said it before, we have a habit of always parking at the same entrance in most of the parks, therefore we do and see the same things over and over again! Some of the parks are HUGE and we have been missing out on a lot!

kids walking across a rope bridge in a grove city metro park

Rope Bridge at Scioto Grove Metro Park

This summer I am making an effort to explore new parts of the parks! For instance we discovered where to go creeking at Battelle Darby Metro Park and we finally found the Rope Bridge at Scioto Grove

I’m taking some of the guesswork out of map reading for all of you and providing this list of trails that are easy for kids to do! These trails are, generally speaking, less than 1 mile and most of them go in a loop. A bonus is the great scenery along the way!

6 Easy Trails for Kids in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks:

1. Turtle Pond Trail

kid looking out over Darby Bend Lake

Park: Three Creeks Metro Park
Distance: .4 miles
Terrain: Gravel
Where to Park: Confluence Trails Area, 3860 Bixby Rd., Groveport, OH 43125

Take a walk around Turtle Pond! The great thing about this trail is that it goes completely around the pond so you always have a great view of the water. This trail is less than a half a mile! It’s also within walking distance of a playground which is always a bonus!

2. River Rock Trail

Trail at Prairie Oaks Metro Park

Park: Prairie Oaks Metro Park
Distance: .7 miles
Terrain: Gravel
Where to Park: Darby Bend Lakes Entrance, 2755 Amity Rd., Hilliard, OH 43026

This is a trail that has a good amount of shady areas and takes a loop around one of the Darby Bend Lakes. I think it’s beautiful here and it’s one of my favorite Metro Park areas!

3. Boardwalk Trail

kid walking a trail at Inniswood Metro Park in Columbus

Park: Inniswood Metro Park
Distance: .5 miles
Terrain: Gravel and Boardwalk
Where to Park: Main Entrance, 940 S. Hempstead Rd., Westerville, OH 43081

This path is so beautiful! With so many things to do and see at Inniswood Metro Parks, I think it can be easy to overlook this trail! I love this trail in the fall because of the changing leaves! I mean just look at this picture! I remember it like it was yesterday!

See more about Inniswood Metro Park in: 3 of the Most Unique Parks in Columbus Ohio

4. Lake Trail

two boys holding hands on a trail in Blendon Woods Metro Park

Park: Blendon Woods Metro Park
Distance: .3 miles (one way)
Terrain: Paved
Where to Park: Nature Center, Enter at Main Entrance: 4265 E Dublin Granville Rd., Columbus, OH 43081

Take this trail behind the Nature Center to the Thoreau Lake and Walden Waterfowl Refuge. This one doesn’t go in a loop, but it’s an easy there and back for .6 miles. Plus when you get to the lake, there are observation blinds (with binoculars) for watching birds. When we took this trail for the first time it was such a fun surprise! (P.S. that picture above is so old, but it is one of my favorites!)

Read about all there is to do at Blendon Woods here: Exploring Blendon Woods Metro Park

5. REI River Trail

boy walking on a trail at Scioto Grove Metro Park

Park: Scioto Grove Metro Park
Distance: less than .5 miles (one way)
Terrain: Dirt
Where to Park: Grove Lodge, Use Main Entrance: 5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City OH 43123 

The entire REI River Trail is 1.8 miles, but for kids, I am only recommending the portion of the trail that goes from Grove Lodge to the Rope Bridge. The REI River Trail ends at the Rope Bridge (it becomes the Mingo Trail). We simply cross the bridge and then turn around and go back over it and walk back to Grove Lodge!

6. Edward S Thomas Trail

kids at the wildlife observation deck at Sharon Woods Metro Park, Columbus

Park: Sharon Woods Metro Park
Distance: 1.1 miles
Terrain: Gravel
Where to Park: Schrock Lake Picnic Area, Use Main Entrance: 6911 Cleveland Ave., Westerville, OH 43081

This is a nice, shady trail through the Edward S Thomas Nature Preserve. The cool part about the trail is the Wildlife Observation Deck which is just about at the halfway point of the trail. If you want to keep your hike to a mile, you could turn around at this point and head back to the parking area, but going all the way around the loop is just about the same distance.

On our hike we saw 3 wild turkeys, 2 deer and a chipmunk, which made the trail pretty memorable in my kids’ minds! 

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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kid friendly trails at columbus and franklin county metro parks


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25 Fun Outdoor Activities in Columbus for the Whole Family

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Explore Columbus with one of these fun outdoor activities guaranteed to provide your daily dose of Vitamin D!

We look forward to warmer weather when we can get outside and enjoy Central Ohio’s parks, playgrounds and other outdoor activities! This list of outdoor activities in Columbus includes the educational, the relaxing and even ideas for those who aren’t the “outdoorsy type”.

Some of our favorite places to explore are the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and you’ll see a few of those parks included on this list. Check out the other links within this post for more kid-friendly ideas within the Metro Parks! We also love to explore playgrounds around town and while I haven’t included many on this list, you can get more ideas in: 12 Columbus Parks to Try This Summer.

Leveque Tower in Downtown Columbus, Ohio

25 Fun Things to do Outside in Columbus, Ohio:

1. Slate Run Living Historical Farm

  • 1375 OH-674, Canal Winchester, OH 43110
barn at Slate Run Farm, Slate Run Metro Park

Slate Run Farm

This Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park in Canal Winchester is home to a living farm where families can visit, ask questions and participate in chores on the farm! On Saturdays kids can feed the animals and participate in chores! Spend a beautiful day outdoors on the farm!

2. Inniswood Metro Gardens

  • 940 S Hempstead Rd, Westerville, OH 43081 
waterfall in Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniwsood Metro Gardens are one of the most beautiful outdoor displays of plants, trees and flowers your can find in the Columbus area! The trails are also beautiful to walk in all seasons! This park is in bloom in the spring and summer and the foliage is spectacular in the fall as well! 

Don’t miss the tree house with its suspension bridges and wooden walking paths! Kids love this area to play in in the park! (Please note, no food or drink is allowed inside the park but there are picnic tables just outside if you’ve brought a packed lunch!)

3. Ninja Course at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

  • 9801 Hyland-Croy Rd, Plain City, OH 43064
outdoor ninja climbing area at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Glacier Ridge Metro Park

This fun outdoor activity in Glacier Ridge Metro Park is often called the Ninja Course by locals. It features ramps, ropes to climb and a small zip line. Lots of fun opportunities for climbing, swinging and jumping! This area is on the North side of the park.

On the South end of the park you can visit the Honda Wetland Education Area which features an outdoor viewing area and information about the wildlife in the park.

4. Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

  • 1777 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43203
boy walking down steps in the outdoor Children's Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory

Scot’s Miracle Grow Foundation Children’s Garden

The Scots Miracle Grow Foundation Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory is an incredible place for kids to play outside! Access to the garden is available only through the Franklin Park Conservatory so you must pay admission or have a membership. However, Franklin County residents can visit for free on the first Sunday of each month!

With bridges, a human-sized birds nest, fairy gardens, musical instruments, water features and so much more, this is one of the coolest outdoor activities in Columbus!

5. Columbus Commons

  • 160 S High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Plants and flowers at Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons is the largest park in downtown Columbus. Throughout the spring, summer and fall the park is home to live concerts, outdoor exercise classes, a carousel, two food vendors, festivals and Commons for Kids in the summer! If you’re looking for a great outdoor green space downtown, this is it!

6. Hayden Falls Park

  • 4326 Hayden Run Rd., Dublin, OH 43017 
waterfall at Hayden Run Falls in Dublin, Ohio

Hayden Run Falls

One might not think of Columbus, Ohio as a place that has many (or any) water falls, which is what makes Haden Falls such a hidden gem! This park is definitely off the beaten path and involves a short hike down wooded steps and walk ways. Once you come upon the falls you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find!

7. Scioto Grove Metro Park 

  • 5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City, OH 43123
Scioto Grove Metro Park Playground Slide

Scioto Grove Metro Park

The climbing structure at Scioto Grove Metro Park is really unique – it’s made nearly entirely out of rope!  This outdoor play area is best for older kids who are confident in rope climbing!  This playground is in the Arrowhead Picnic Area. Parking and restrooms are close by.

8. Bison Watching at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

  • 1775 Darby Creek Dr, Galloway, OH 43119
bison in the field at Battelle Darby Metro Park

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Park at the Nature Center at Battelle Darby Metro Park and take a short walk to look for the bison that live in the park! There are a couple of different pasture areas so you may want to ask at the Nature Center where the bison are currently hanging out. There is a bison observation area about a 1/2 mile walk from the Nature Center.

9. Olentangy Indian Caverns

  • 1779 Home Rd, Delaware, OH 43015
kids going down steps at Olentangy Indian Caverns

Olentangy Indian Caverns

Take a day to tour underground caverns once used by the Wyandotte Indians. There are guided and self guided tours available. While you are at Olentangy Indian Caverns, other outdoor activities include visiting a petting zoo where you can feed and, of course, pet animals, completing an outdoor maze, gem mining, yard games and more! 

10. Park of Roses

  • 3901 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214 
Roses in the Park of Roses in Clintonville

Park of Roses

If you’re looking for a peaceful outdoor walk with beautiful scenery, make sure to check out the Park of Roses in the Clintonville neighborhood a short drive behind the Whetstone Recreation Center. There are several distinct rose gardens, plus additional gardens displaying perennials, trees and herbs. . The park is in peak bloom June through September and admission is free.

11. Ohio Wildlife Center

  • 6131 Cook Rd., Powell, Ohio 43065 
boy looking at a Wolf at an outdoor animal enclosure at Ohio Wildlife Center

Ohio Wildlife Center

Ohio Wildlife Center is home to animals who are being rehabilitated or not able to return to life in the wild. Plan this activity ahead of time because the Center is only open a few times a month. Make sure to check the website for dates. Story times are held as well as regular open houses and, during each event, guests can tour the outdoor grounds where the animals are housed.

12. Stratford Ecological Center

  • 3083 Liberty Rd, Delaware, OH 43015
boy walking down a gravel path at Stratford Ecological Center

Stratford Ecological Center

Stratford Ecological Center is in Delaware, Ohio, about an hour outside of downtown Columbus. This farm is home to animals, gardens, hiking trails, a pond and more! Workshops and classes are held on a regular basis as well as a story time for kids. Enjoy visiting the animals up close, digging up dirt in the gardens and lots of other outdoor activities at your leisure on the farm.

13. Ohio Village

  • 800 E 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43211
base ball players at Ohio Village

Ohio Village Muffins Base Ball Team

Ohio Village is the outdoor portion of Ohio History Center. This area is open during the summer and features what every day life was like in the 1880’s! Special events are held here throughout the year such as Dickens of a Christmas and All Hallow’s Eve but during the summer months, you can visit Ohio Village any day of the week!

During the summer, the Ohio Village Muffins play 1880’s style Base Ball and you can watch the games for free with your admission or membership to Ohio History Connection!

14. Rock Climbing at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

  • 400 W Whittier St., Columbus, OH 43215
outdoor climbing wall at Scioto Audubon Metro Park in downtown Columbus

Scioto Audubon Metro Park

There are three outdoor climbing towers that are free to climb in the playground area of Scioto Audubon Metro Park in downtown Columbus. These reach a height of 35 feet. Climbers have to bring their own harnesses and must be 13 or older. There are a few 10-foot boulders that kids are able to climb regardless of their age.

To access the rock climbing towers you can park at the playground area or walk down the path from the Nature Center! There is a great free, indoor play area inside the Nature Center, as well!

15. Alum Creek State Park Beach

  • 3400 Lewis Center Rd, Lewis Center, OH 43035
Alum Creek State Park Beach

Alum Creek State Park Beach

If you’re wanting a beach vacation but don’t have the time or money, don’t overlook Alum Creek Beach for a  day at the beach! It might not be the ocean, but you might just be pleasantly surprised!

16. The Yard at Polaris Fashion Place 

  • 1500 Polaris Pkwy, Columbus, OH 43240
outdoor life-sized chess game at The Yard at Polaris Fashion Place

The Yard, Polaris Fashion Place

The Yard is an outdoor area at Polaris Fashion Place (near Cheesecake Factory) where there are larger than life sized games like chess, Connect Four, LEGO building blocks, ping pong and more! Nearby is also a fountain where kids can splash around on Summer days!

17. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

  • 4850 W Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065
polar bear standing on a rock at the Columbus Zoo

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Walking the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to see all of the animals is a great outdoor activity (and great exercise!) for all ages! Highlights include The Heart of Africa, the Polar Frontier, and special seasonal events throughout the year like Wildlights and Boo at the Zoo! 

18. Topiary Park

  • 480 E Town St, Columbus, OH 43215
sculptures made of trees at Topiary Park in Columbus Ohio

Topiary Park

The highlight of this park, just outside of Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Library, is a plant-based recreation of Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte. With larger than life size plant sculptures created from yew trees, it’s a sight to behold!

The garden consists of 54 people, boat sculptures and animal sculptures and you can walk the paths of the park enjoying the scenery and getting up close to the sculptures!

19. The Promenade on Scioto Mile

  • 233 S Civic Center Dr, Columbus, OH 43215
Promenade on the Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile

Take a walk outdoors on a beautiful stretch of the Scioto Mile with views of the Columbus skyline, swinging benches, bridges and more! Along the Scioto Mile are parks such as Bicentennial Park and Genoa Park where outdoor festivals and concerts are often held during the summer months.

20. Natural Play Area at Blendon Woods Metro Park

  • 4265 E. Dublin Granville Rd., Columbus, OH 43081 
Boys walking across a bridge at the Natural Play Area at Blendon Woods Metro Park

Blendon Woods Metro Park

Get up close with nature at the outdoor play area at Blendon Woods Metro Park. There is a wooden zip line, forts made of sticks, bridges and climbing areas, a tire swing and lots of area for creeking. (Bring a change of clothes if you know what’s good for you!) Blendon Woods also has a great Nature Center and birdwatching area.

21. Veteran’s Spray and Play (Dinosaur Park)

  • 1121 S Houk Rd, Delaware, OH 43015
dinosaur park with a dinosaur slide in Delaware Ohio

Veteran’s Spray and Play

What is affectionately known as the “Dinosaur Park” is the super fun Spray and Play at Veteran’s Park near the YMCA in Delaware, Ohio, about an hour outside of downtown Columbus. The splash pad and several play fixtures have a dinosaur theme. This is a really amazing playground and splash pad combo that’s worth the trip!

22. Canoeing and Kayaking at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

river at Scioto Grove Metro Park

Scioto Grove Metro Park

Canoeing and kayaking are available at 7 of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks! At last check those parks include: Battelle Darby Creek, Highbanks, Prairie Oaks, Scioto Audubon, Three Creeks, Scioto Grove and Walnut Woods.

23. Outdoor Shopping and More at Easton Town Center

  • 160 Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio 43219 
fountain at Easton Town Center

Easton Town Center

Not the “outdoorsy type” but still want to be outside? Spend the day shopping, dining and playing at Easton Town Center. The mall features an outdoor format with several distinct shopping areas. Outdoor activities for kids include splashing in the fountains at Town Square and watching the nearby model train display!

Grab an ice cream cone from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and sit out on the patio area. There’s also bocce ball, outdoor concerts during the summer and at least two other fountains to visit.

24. Dorrian Green at COSI

  • 50 South Belle St, Columbus, OH 43215
Dorrian Green outside COSI

Dorrian Green

Dorrian Green is a downtown greenspace just outside of COSI that includes a playground, splash pad, picnic area, metal “porch swings,” lawn chairs and more! You can use the public parking area or find a nearby meter. If you’re looking to expand your outing, include this park in your visit to COSI!

25. OSU Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens

  • 152 Howlett Hall 2021, Fyffe Rd, Columbus, OH 43210

 

The Chadwick Arboretum on the campus of OSU just off of 315 is filled with Learning Gardens including a Bamboo Garden, Rose Garden, Wildflower Garden and more! The Arboretum North area has a lake, prairie plants and butterfly way station.

The gardens are open year round and are free to visit. Visit their website for a walking tour app and parking information!

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5 Cool Outdoor Activities for Kids in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

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The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks offer kids (and adults alike) unique opportunities to get outdoors in Columbus and Central Ohio!

I will continue to repeat that our Metro Parks allow us so many cool opportunities to drive 30 minutes and find ourselves lost in nature. I hardly ever visit a Metro Park without saying “Wow, I did not know this was here!”.

waterfall at Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Metro Gardens

We have some really great Nature Centers that are GREAT for kids and I’ve written about those on the blog:

There are also a lot of really great programs including programming for preschoolers:

The Metro Parks also have some really amazing playgrounds:

And though, admittedly, one of those playgrounds makes this list, this list is about some of the other outdoor things kids can do within the Columbus Franklin County Metro Parks! These are some of the most unique and fun outdoor activities in Columbus and Central Ohio!

While there are so many other things to do while you are at each of these parks, you can pick one of these activities as your main event and then spend the rest of the time exploring what each park has to offer!

5 Cool Things for Kids to do Outside at the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks:

1. Rock Climbing at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

climbing wall at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

Scioto Audubon Metro Park

There are three climbing towers that are free to climb in the playground area of Scioto Audubon Metro Park. These reach a height of 35 feet. Climbers have to bring their own harnesses and must be 13 or older. There are a few 10-foot boulders that all kids can climb regardless of their age.

To access the rock climbing towers you can park at the playground area or walk down the path from the Nature Center! There is a great free, indoor play area inside the Nature Center, as well!

water tower at Scioto Audubon Metro Park

Scioto Audubon Metro Park


2. Bird Watching at Blendon Woods Metro Park

bird in the water at Blendon Woods Metro Park

Blendon Woods Metro Park

If you are visiting the Nature Center within Blendon Woods Metro Park, take the Lake Trail to the northeast to reach Thoreau Lake. This lake is in the middle of Walden Waterfowl Refuge and you can enter the shelter to watch for birds and other wildlife in and around the lake!

While you’re at Blendon Woods, check out the great Nature Center that has hands-on activities for kids plus windows for bird watching and the great Natural Play area with a good-sized zip line and opportunities for creeking!

bird watching area at Blendon Woods Metro park

Blendon Woods Metro Park


3. Ninja Course at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

climbing area at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Glacier Ridge Metro Park

This area is often called the Ninja Course by locals. It features ramps, ropes to climb and a small zipline. Lots of fun opportunities for climbing, swinging and jumping! Nearby is a more traditional playground as well. This play area is on the North side of the park and on the other (south) end of the park you can visit the Honda Wetland Education Area.

ninja course at glacier ridge metro park, columbus, Ohio

Glacier Ridge Metro Park


4. Bison Watching at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

bison in the field at Battelle Darby metro Park, Columbus, Ohio

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

We love the Nature Center at Battelle Darby Metro Creek, but when you visit, don’t miss taking a walk to look for bison in the park! There are a couple of different pasture areas so you may want to ask at the Nature Center where the bison are currently hanging out. There is a bison observation area about a 1/2 mile walk from the Nature Center.

several bison in the field at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park


5. Exploring the Kid-Friendly Gardens at Inniswood Metro Gardens

boy on wooden suspension bridge in Inniswood Metro Gardens, Columbus, Ohio

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Inniswood Gardens is full of beautiful, carefully curated gardens! There are several themed gardens including the Sisters Garden, a frog pond and a brick labyrinth to name a few. There is a great tree house surrounded by wooden suspension bridges that kids love off the Sister’s Garden Loop.

The park also includes a lot of other beautiful gardens to explore. Keep in mind no food or drink is allowed inside this park!

boy in the garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens, Columbus, Ohio

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Read more: 3 of the Most Unique Parks in Columbus Ohio


fun things to do in Columbus Ohio

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Need more ideas? Check out Over 100 Fun Things to do in Columbus, Ohio

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5 Outdoor Activities for Kids in the Columbus Metro Parks


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