Cabin fever should be in full effect after a long winter and rainy spring - but Central Ohio has plenty of places to cure it.
Normal routine bringing whines and sighs? Board games turning into bored games? Television no longer doing the trick?
Cabin fever should be in full effect after a long winter and rainy spring - but Central Ohio has plenty of places to cure it. Hundreds of public parks and preserves lie within an hour's drive of Columbus, and many have trails perfect for first-time hikers.
Families itching to stretch their legs will find some of the best ones below:
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park (pictured above)
1775 Darby Creek Dr., Galloway
Length: Two miles
Highlight: Small herd of bison
Start at: Cedar Ridge Picnic Area
Six female bison were brought to a 30-acre pasture in February, and guests can see them from the flat, smooth Darby Creek Greenway Trail. From the Cedar Ridge area, you'll walk 0.6 miles north before the animals pop into view. On your way back, circle the nearby Hawthorn Loop Trail to round out your afternoon.
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve
Toboso Road SE at County Highway 278, Toboso
Length: Up to nine miles
Highlight: Ability to bike or hike
Start at: Main parking lot
This gorge will win you over with its good looks and the paved 4.26-mile Blackhand Trail that's suitable for walking, biking or even a sturdy stroller. Several loop trails spur from the main path to give you plenty of options and more of a challenge during your afternoon along the Licking River.
Hogback Ridge Preserve
2656 Hogback Rd., Sunbury
Length: About one mile
Highlight: Picturesque ravine crossing
Start at: Mary Barber McCoy Nature Center
Hidden within the Preservation Parks of Delaware County is this green gem with forests, meadows, ridges and ravines. It should take you less than an hour to do the Woodland Ridge and Pinegrove trails (0.4 miles each), which saves plenty of time to explore the 40-foot-long bridge that spans a steep ravine.
Sharon Woods Metro Park
6911 Cleveland Ave., Westerville
Length: 2.4 miles
Highlight: Lush, flower-packed prairie
Start at: Apple Ridge Picnic Area
From the parking lot, follow the Spring Creek Trail counter-clockwise. After walking through woods and over lovely bridges, you'll emerge into a truly marvelous meadow. Before completing your loop, explore the short connector that meanders through. Seeing this landscape awash with wildflowers, insects and lush summer greenery, you'll want to rename the park Sharon Prairies.
Slate Run Metro Park
1375 State Rte. 674 N., Canal Winchester
Length: About five miles
Highlight: Expansive prairies and wetlands
Start at: Buzzard's Roost Picnic Area
Take the western edge of the wooded Sugar Maple Trail to the Bobolink Grassland Trail, which meanders through wide, lovely fields. The northern spur eventually leads to the Kokomo Wetland Trail and a series of lakes and marshes beloved by local birds. Explore here for a bit, then return the way you came.
Rockbridge State Nature Preserve
11475 Dalton Rd., Rockbridge
Length: About three miles
Highlight: Ohio's largest natural bridge
Start at: Dalton Road parking lot
The foot trail leading from the parking lot into the Hocking Hills forest isn't that interesting. Be patient. About a mile in, you'll run into a rock arch that measures 100 feet long and parallels a gorgeous waterfall. You can walk across and beneath the arch - just be cautious if it's wet. Return the way you came.
A.W. Marion State Park
7317 Warner Huffer Rd., Circleville
Length: Five miles
Highlight: Quiet lake lined with trees
Start at: West parking lot
Rimming the small, quaint resort lake is the Hargus Lake Trail, a five-mile loop that traverses a good cross-section of Central Ohio terrain. You'll see dense woodlands, open meadows and secret backwoods lagoons. Boats use only electric motors, so you don't need to worry about being disturbed in summer.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve
2331 State Rte. 343, Yellow Springs
Length: Two miles
Highlight: Whitewater and wildflowers
Start at: Bear's Den parking lot
Western Ohio's best nature preserve is gorgeous in more ways than one, boasting rock formations carved over millennia by the Little Miami River. From Bear's Den, take the stairs down to the Gorge Trail. Walk west, stop at four observation points and find the Rim Trail, which will take you back atop a ridge. Terrain can be steep, and it's often slippery and rocky. You'll also need to watch little ones near the edges.