23/07/2024

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The Best Biking in Columbus Ohio – 11 Trails You Need to Know

10 min read
The Best Biking in Columbus Ohio – 11 Trails You Need to Know

Where is the best biking in Columbus, Ohio? With over 100 miles of dedicated bike trails, Columbus is staking its claim as one of the top biking destinations in the Midwest. It isn’t only the greenways but the integration of the entire system with public transportation, local restaurants, events, and attractions that makes cycling in C-Bus outstanding. So clip in, and let’s explore the best biking in Columbus.

Columbus Ohio Skyline
Alum Creek Trail Columbus Ohio

Interactive Columbus Bike Map

Our interactive bike map matches color-coded trails with some of the best places to eat, stay, and play along your ride. If it doesn’t load, just hit the refresh button on your browser. We think it’s worth it! We’ve even included some fun things to do in Columbus that are right off the greenway system.

Do you know what’s round on the ends and hi in the middle? A bicycle in Ohio. Sorry, I had to do it…

Ohio to Erie Trail (326 miles)

Undoubtedly, the Ohio to Erie Trail is Ohio’s premier destination bike ride. It runs 326 miles, primarily on rail trails and canal paths. It runs from Cleveland to Cincinnati and passes through Columbus in the middle.

With its wide range of amenities, you’d be remiss not to stop in Columbus on your Ohio to Erie ride. The Ohio to Erie trail segments detailed in the guide are the Alum Creek Trail, Downtown Connector, Scioto Trail, and Camp Chase Trail. Each section will contain additional information to help you plan your ride and SAG stop in Columbus.

Downtown Columbus Ohio
Alum Creek Trail Columbus Ohio

Scioto Trail (10 miles – paved)

The Scioto Trail is the heart and soul of the city and the literal centerpiece of biking in Columbus. Skyscrapers rise from the banks of the Scioto River trails and run on either side at both street and river levels.

Casual riders will enjoy getting bikes from the bike share (many locations available) and riding the Scioto Mile Promenade from the North Bank Pavilion to Bicentennial Park (Neil Ave to Main). This area is full of public art, like the playful Scioto Deer installations (Scioto means hairy deer in the Wyandot language) and spectacular views. You don’t have to ride far to see a lot, and with four parallel trails along the river, you can spend an afternoon pedaling and poking around.

Local attractions along the Scioto Trail include:

For serious riders, the Scioto Trail is the hub of the Columbus Metro Parks Greenway system. It connects directly to Camp Chase and Olentangy trails and the Alum Creek / Blacklick Creek system via the Downtown Connector.

Scioto Trail Columbus Ohio
columbus,ohio,usa. 9-11-17: beautiful columbus skyline at night via Deposit Photo

Olentangy Trail (15 miles – paved)

Perhaps this dates me, but I can still hear Keith Jackson saying “along the banks of the Olentangy” while broadcasting home games. The cadence of his voice was memorizing, and seeing Ohio Stadium filled with 100,000 scarlet-clad fans and innumerable tailgaters sent shivers down my spine every time. I can still hear Jackson’s unique way of saying ‘The Granddaddy of Them All,” too. Even though he was speaking about the Rose Bowl, it also applies to the Olentangy Trail.

The Olentangy Trail is Ohio’s first rail trail dating back to 1967. It’s where I fell in love with Ohio and biking, and it is one of the most popular trails in the state, with over 1/2 million annual visitors.

Over the last 50 years, it has integrated into the parks and community along the river and trail. The community and park pairings from south to north are roughly:

  • Short North / Goodale Park
  • Ohio State Campus / Oval – Mirror Lake
  • North Campus / Tuttle Park
  • Clintonville / Whetstone Park – Park of Roses
  • Worthington / A continual system of parks from Antrim Lake to Olentangy Parkland

What I love about the Olentangy Trail is the dense tree cover in the Worthington Park System and the eclectic trailside dining including:

  • Understory – A converted historical schoolhouse with direct trail access, an expansive patio, live music, craft beer, and delicious hot-baked cookies
  • Worthington Tavern – Connected to the trail via bike lanes and sidewalk along 161 with pub food and an amazing charred cheesecake
  • The Hills Market – A market perfectly located at the end of the trail with cold drinks and wood-fired pizza

Casual riders will love riding short out-and-backs through the Worthington section with ample parking at Whetstone Park, Antrim Lake, or Olentangy Parkland. Serious riders can take advantage of the parking and trail to access the parking-constrained campus and downtown areas. They can also add an out-and-back or loop ride through Upper Arlington to a downtown-centric bike trip like staying at Hotel LeVeque for a festival or an add-on to the Ohio to Erie Trail.

Goodale Park Columbus Ohio
Antrim Lake
Olentangy Trail Columbus Ohio
Olentangy Trail Columbus Ohio

Upper Arlington (10 miles – neighborhood streets)

While not technically a bike trail, the tree lined streets of Upper Arlington are generally easy to ride. In general, stay off Lane, Riverside, Fishinger, and Henderson, and you’ll be ok. There’s lots of shade, beautiful houses, and quiet suburban streets.

I put together a 10-mile route from the end of the Scioto Trail to a pedestrian bridge that connects to Whetstone Park over 315 and the Olentangy River. It’s a nice ride through the mansions of old Arlington and the riverside road along Griggs Reservoir.

I used to run the mean streets of Arlington as a kid and biked to Jones Middle School from the Wickliffe district whenever the weather permitted. This route takes you past my childhood home and first job, so I might be a bit biased in including Upper Arlington in this bike guide. In any event, it’s the third leg in a Scioto – Olentangy – Upper Arlington loop which is reason enough to include it.

Upper_Arlington,_Ohio_Triangle Park via WikiMedia Commons
Upper_Arlington_mansion via WikiMedia Commons

Alum Creek Trail (24.5 miles – paved)

Alum Creek Trail runs from Westerville to Three Creeks Metro Park, with roughly a dozen creek crossings. It’s not just the quantity of bridges but the quality and diversity. There are historic truss bridges like the Whipple Truss of Beech Road Bridge and the Pratt Truss of the Bridgeview Bridge, a modern arched wooden bridge (ironically in Bridgeview), and a suspension bridge in Wolfe Park. Many of these bridges were relocated to the trail, making this area a bridge museum of sorts.

On the southern end, Alum Creek Trail connects directly to Blacklick Creek Trail in Three Creeks Park, making the two a single contiguous trail. Farther north, there is still a road connection to the Westerville Bikeway portion of the Ohio to Erie Trail around Schrock Road. However, Alum Creek Trail continues 3.5 miles north of Schrock Road to Polaris Parkway, where it joins the Big Walnut Trail.

With connectors at both ends, you can ride as far as you want on Alum Creek Trail. However, the bridges and chain of parks from Innis Park to Franklin Park make this my favorite 7-mile portion of the trail. This is especially true if you pedal to the new East Market in the Trolley district for a bite to eat along the ride.

Innis Park
Alum Creek Trail Columbus Ohio
Alum Creek Trail Columbus Ohio- Wolfe Park Suspension Bridge
Alum Creek Trail Deer Columbus Ohio

Blacklick Creek Trail (16 miles – paved) 

I’ve never been on a paved trail that was as twisty and windy as the Blacklick Creek Trail. It roughly follows Blacklick Creek from Three Creeks Metro Park to Blacklick Woods Metro Park. Sometimes you’re creek side. Others, you’re connecting through roadside paths in suburbia.

I loved the twists and turns, but I wished the trails in Blacklick Woods Park were paved, and the trail corridor stayed in greenspace and out of subdivisions. This trail is a great resource for nearby residents, and there’s a potential public bus-aided 33-mile point-to-point ride from Westerville Park and Ride to Blacklick Woods. However, I think that destination riders would be best served considering this trail as extra miles on the south end of an Alum Creek out-and-back.

Blacklick Trail Columbus Ohio
Blacklick Trail Columbus Ohio

Downtown Connector Trail (5 miles – paved)

Regarding trails for out-of-towners to avoid, let’s talk about the Downtown Connector Trail. It’s a rough trail through a rougher neighborhood with drab scenery and a lot of broken glass.

As the name says, this trail connects you to downtown. It’s a vital link in the OTET system to get downtown during heavy traffic and connects impoverished neighborhoods to good jobs. It’s an incredibly valuable trail section but not fun for recreational riding.

Downtown Connector

Camp Chase Trail (12.5 miles – paved)

After a short on-road connector through a quiet neighborhood, Camp Chase Trail picks up and runs almost arbitrarily westward. It turns into Robert’s Pass Trail after 15 miles and reaches London seven miles later. A short road connector in London allows you to get a snack before hopping on the Prairie Grass Trail that goes another 29 miles into the Xenia Station trail hub.

Camp Chase is a long straightaway free from the congestion of the Olentangy Trail. It’s a place where riders can open up and feel the wind in their hair as they zip by farm fields and open countryside, especially past 270. As you pass through Battle Darby Park, a short gravel section might encourage cyclists with skinny tires to turn around there.

Camp Chase Bike Trail Columbus Ohio
Camp Chase Bike Trail Columbus Ohio

Darby Creek Trail (4.9 miles – crushed gravel)

I’m putting Darby Creek Trail in this guide for several reasons. One, it completes the biking coverage of Columbus Metro Park Greenway Trails. Also, I want to clarify the trail length. The Battelle Darby Creek portion of the trail is 4.9 miles, with an additional, but entirely unconnected, 3.4 miles of trail in Prairie Oaks Metro Park. Also, there is no direct biking trail connection to Camp Chase Trail. There’s a hiking trail, but riders must go about .8 miles on Darby Creek Road to connect.

Gravel riding in the park is very pleasant and suitable for most hybrid bikes. The nature center is phenomenal, and there’s a chance you’ll see the park’s herd of bison out in their pasture.

Battelle-Darby-Creek-Metro-Park_photo-by-OSP

Heritage Trail (6.1 miles – paved)

The Heritage Trail is the final metro greenway and the final trail in this guide. It runs 6 miles straight from Old Hilliard to Plain City. The ride is pleasant but perhaps a little short with a couple of road crossings. Some resorted depots and old train cars accent the scenery along the way, but the strength of this trail is the trail towns at the end.

Old Hilliard has delicious modern food concepts, like the Center Street Market food hall as well as a splash pad and a summer concert series. Plain City is more old school, with the iconic Der Dutchman Restaurant and Farmers National Bank, allegedly the last bank John Dillinger robbed.

Heritage Rail Trail Columbus Ohio
Old Town Hilliard Columbus Ohio

3-Day Columbus Bike Itinerary

One might ask, with all these options, what’s the best 3-day biking itinerary in Columbus, Ohio? Don’t worry. We have you covered!

  • Friday Night (Day 1) – Arrive in Old Hilliard for a short shakeout ride on the Heritage Rail Trail and dinner. Check into your downtown hotel, maybe the iconic Hotel LeVeque, with its styling Keep Kitchen and Liquor Bar.
  • Saturday (Day 2) – Ride the Scioto-Arlington-Olentangy Loop (route). This is presented as a 36-mile loop, but you can shorten it by not going as far north on the Olentangy Trail or making it an out-and-back only on the Olentangy Trail. You can also lengthen it by adding as many miles as you want on the Camp Chase Trail. Either way, make sure you enjoy some of the trail stops along the Olentangy, like breakfast in the Short North at the Guild House, watching the sunset over the Scioto River, or exploring German Village and watching Shakespeare in the Park at Schiller Park.
  • Sunday (Day 3) – Ride the Alum Creek Trail. Park at The Historic Trolley District: East Market and ride neighborhood streets to the Alum Creek Trail. From there, pick an out-and-back plan that gets you as many miles as you’re looking for. My favorite section is bridge-a-riffic 6 miles up to Innis Park, which makes for a 20-mile day, or make it a 30-miler by going down to Three Creeks Metro Park as well. Lock your bike to your car when you return and enjoy lunch at the East Market.
East market Columbus Ohio
Franklin Park Conservatory Columbus Ohio
Schiller Park Columbus Ohio
Understory Columbus Ohio

Wrapping up the Best Biking in Columbus Ohio

We hope you enjoyed reading about the best bike trails in Columbus and that we’ve inspired you to make a trip soon. Columbus has so many fun things to do in the summer that we’ve just scratched the surface with biking. Luckily, these trails are fun enough that you’ll want to come back again and again to see new things and try new places.

Disclosure: A big thank you to Experience Columbus for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out their InstagramFacebookTwitter, and YouTube accounts.

As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.

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Ace biking in Columbus Ohio
Bike trail in Columbus Ohio
Ed biking the Alum Creek Trail

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