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Top 10 Places to Run in Columbus

Columbus is an exciting city full of fascinating architecture, history, culture, and stunning natural areas. If you’re headed out for a run in this area, there are plenty of exciting routes to explore! Check out these top 10 places to run in Columbus, Ohio.

1. The Olentangy Trail

Cable-stayed bridge bridge over the Olentangy River at Lane Avenue.

The Olentangy Trail is very popular among runners and connects downtown Columbus to Worthington. It follows the Olentangy River and passes through the heart of the Ohio State University Campus and several neighborhoods along the river. The 14-mile trail is the busiest in Ohio and has trailheads at several major city parks, making it easy to customize your running route and explore other areas of the city along the way. Stop at one of the following Columbus parks along the route to extend your run or enjoy the park: Worthington Hills Park, Olentangy River Parklands, Antrim Park, Whetstone Park, Northmoor Park, Clinton-Como Park, Tuttle Park (OSU Campus), and Confluence Parkland.

Tips: The Olentangy Trail has a trailhead near the Worthington Farmers Market, where you can enjoy a run and participate in a Yoga on the Green event.

2. Scioto Mile

Scioto Mile Park at dusk.

The Scioto Mile is a premier downtown Columbus destination, featuring more than 175 acres of parkland. It’s nestled along the waterfront of the Scioto River, stretching from the vibrant and active Arena District to the naturally beautiful Whittier Peninsula. This system of parks, boulevards, bikeways, and running/walking paths is perfect for a scenic run through the city, and the trails are always beautiful and well-maintained. Nearby, you’ll find plenty of options for food, drinks, and activities for the kids (if you run with them), including a giant splash pad. There are also plenty of green spaces for yoga, stretching, or just relaxing on a picnic blanket after your run.

Tips: After your run, you may also want to check out the Columbus Cultural Arts Center at the Scioto Mile. It offers many exciting program opportunities like workshops, classes, lectures, free monthly gallery exhibits, and more.

3. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

A mixed forest of second and third growth trees near the American Bison range at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park spans about 13 miles along the Big and Little Darby creeks and is home to more than 7,000 acres of forests, prairie, and wetlands. It provides relatively flat running routes with a variety of trails to explore. Some routes are more appropriate for trail running, while others are more gentle for an easy jog through the park. Some favorites for running include The Darby Creek Greenway (5 miles) and the Edgewood, Lake & Prairie Way (2.3 miles) trails. The park also offers an expansive day-use area featuring grills, tables, restrooms, and a trailhead.

Tips: Bison roam freely in this park, so don’t be surprised if you see some! They are completely enclosed inside two different pastures, so you don’t have to worry about up close and personal run-ins with them.

4. Ohio State University Campus

Welcoming sign at Ohio State University.

The Ohio State University (OSU) campus is just three miles north of downtown Columbus and, at 1,700 acres, is one of the largest university campuses in the country! It’s one of the area’s best spots for running due to its expansive pathways, wide streets, and spacious sidewalks, many of which are well-shaded. Many runners prefer to run in the central part of OSU’s campus (near the Oval), although exploring the entire thing on foot offers a great workout! From the campus, you can also quickly get onto the Olentangy River Trail and run further north or south toward downtown Columbus.

Tips: You can also extend your run by heading to the University District and Old North Columbus northeast of campus. This area offers quiet and shady residential streets that are great for running.

5. Blendon Woods Metro Park

Welcome sign at Blendon Woods Metro Park.

Blendon Woods Metro Park is a 653-acre park in northeast Columbus, home to Walden Waterfowl Refuge and its 11-acre Thoreau Lake. The park is full of beautiful beech-maple and oak-hickory forests and hundreds of birds, ducks, and other wildlife who seek refuge here. Seven different trails also offer plenty of options for running routes, with some paved, gravel, or natural surfaces. If you’re down for a good challenge, check out the Sugarbush Trail (2 miles), or for an easier run, try the Goldenrod (1.3 miles), which passes through meadows filled with wildflowers in the Spring.

Tips: If you enjoy bird watching, Blendon Woods Metro Park is an excellent place to do it! Keep your eyes peeled while you run the trails, or take some time to visit one of the park’s two elevated observation shelters, complete with spotting scopes.

6. Victorian Village

Aerial view of Victorian Village.

Columbus also has some tremendous residential areas for running. One of which is the Victorian Village. This beautiful neighborhood is just north of downtown and runs along Neil Avenue, south of the Ohio State University campus. It features stunning homes of several interesting architectural styles, including Second Empire, Italianate, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne, which are fun to look at while you run. Within the neighborhood, you’ll also find Goodale Park, one of the city’s most popular downtown parks. If you need more distance, you can easily extend your run by heading to the park.

Tips: After your run, refuel at Basi Italia, a local favorite tucked between Victorian homes. It doesn’t open until 5 p.m. and is a popular date night spot, so we recommend heading home to freshen up before heading to this eatery.

7. Highbanks Metro Park

Shaded & Wooded path at Highbanks Metro Park.

Highbanks Metro Park is a 1,200-acre park in northern Columbus, named for its 100-foot-high shale bluff, which stands tall over the Olentangy River. The park is home to 10 different trails for running and exploring, offering several different ways for runners to get out and enjoy nature without venturing too far from the city. For a more gentle running venture through Highbanks Metro Park, try the Multi-Use Trail (2.3 miles), which is also pet-friendly. Or, for a more challenging run, check out the Overlook Trail (2.3 miles), which passes through a state nature preserve and ends at an observation deck 100 feet above the Olentangy River.

Tips: Highbanks Metro Park is also home to two ancient burial mounds, known as Adena Mounds. You can learn more about the local natural and cultural history (including Adena Culture) by visiting the park’s Nature Center.

8. Lower Scioto Greenway Trail

Scioto Mile aerial from the north.

The Lower Scioto Greenway Trail is one of the most popular running routes in the Columbus area. It runs east and west along the downtown Scioto riverfront before connecting some of the most popular neighborhoods in the city. The trail, in its entirety, is more than 10 miles long and connects with the Olentangy Trail, opening up even more options for expanding your running route. If you only want to run the downtown section of this trail, you’ll still enjoy an excellent 5.5-mile run!

Tips: The Lower Scioto Greenway Trail also serves as the trailhead for several major Columbus parks, including Scioto Audubon Metro Park, North Bank Park, Bicentennial Park, and Battelle Riverfront Park.

9. Three Creeks Metro Park

View of path and pond at Three Creeks Metro Park.

Three Creeks Metro Park is a 1,100-acre park named for the junction where Alum, Big Walnut, and Blacklick creeks join. The park is known for its incredible bird watching, and more than 100 species of birds have been sighted. Runners who come here enjoy an extensive trail system featuring some long-distance running options, as well as shorter and more gentle trails. The Alum Creek Greenway is a popular 24.5-mile paved trail that runs along Alum Creek and crosses a 300-foot bridge before continuing north to Westerville. Alternatively, the paved 16-mile Blacklick Creek Greenway connects several metro parks and other small parks from Reynoldsburg to Groveport. For a shorter run, the 1.2-mile Sycamore Fields and Smith Farm Trail loops around athletic fields, with a spur that crosses the Alum Creek Greenway and leads to Smith Farm.

Tips: You can also canoe, kayak, and fish at Three Creeks Metro Park, and there are several green areas for picnicking.

10. German Village

Aerial view of the German Village.

German Village is another popular residential area for running in Columbus. This neighborhood is south of downtown and east of the Brewery District. As you run through the area, you’ll notice plenty of interesting Italianate architecture, and the brick sidewalks and historic buildings only add to the unique experience. German Village is also home to the popular Schiller Park, which offers an additional 0.5 miles of running trails. And since it’s so close to downtown, you can combine a running tour of German Village with a quick run downtown.

Tips: If you plan to run through the German Village neighborhood, get out early before the shops open! There’s lots of pedestrian traffic in this area, so it’s easiest to run before the day gets started.

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References:

  1. https://www.columbus.gov/recreationandparks/trails/Olentangy-Trail/
  2. https://www.sciotomile.com
  3. https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/battelle-darby-creek/
  4. https://greatruns.com/columbus-ohio-state-university/
  5. https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/blendon-woods/
  6. https://columbusneighborhoods.org/neighborhood/victorian-village/
  7. https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/highbanks/
  8. https://www.columbus.gov/recreationandparks/trails/Scioto-Trail/
  9. https://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/three-creeks/
  10. https://greatruns.com/columbus-german-village/ 

Photo Sources:

Derek Jensen (Tysto), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
levlaz, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Sixflashphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Sixflashphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Jsjessee, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
J. Jessee, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Jsjessee, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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