(Posted Dec. 2, 2021)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Go on your own time or join other hikers at designated times–or do both! The 49th Annual Winter Hike Series offers lots of options for getting out into nature during the year’s colder months.
Hosted by Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, the upcoming hike series encourages folks to visit some or all of 18 parks in the system, three of which cross over into Madison County. The program runs from December through January.
While participants can hike any park at any time during the three-month period, the park system is highlighting certain parks each month and offering opportunities to gather with other hikers.
In December, the featured parks are Battelle Darby Creek, Blacklick Woods, Highbanks, Homestead, and Inniswood. Participants can enjoy twinkling light displays and hot chocolate from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sundays at these parks. Additionally, evening lantern walks and hot chocolate will be offered at Chestnut Ridge Dec. 17-18.
In January, the featured parks will offer refreshments from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on certain days: Blendon Woods (Jan. 8, chicken noodle soup), Sharon Woods (Jan. 9, shredded chicken sandwiches), Scioto Audubon (Jan. 15, hot dogs), Clear Creek (Jan. 22, doughnuts), Prairie Oaks (Jan. 23, cinnamon rolls), and Three Creeks (Jan. 29, sausage biscuits).
In February, the featured parks are Glacier Ridge, Pickerington Ponds, Rocky Fork, Scioto Grove, Slate Run, and Walnut Woods. Participants can search for and take home wooden ornaments on trails at these parks, plus enjoy campfires from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Anyone who completes hikes at seven or more of the parks earns a hiking patch. It’s a new patch this year, featuring a fox design. Anyone who completes all 18 hikes and signs up to be a Friends of the Metro Parks member ($10) earns a hiking stick and a medallion for the stick. To track completed park visits, pick up a hike card at any of the parks featured in December, then flag down a park ranger to stamp the card after each visit.
Patches, sticks and medallions will be distributed at the end of the series during a celebration at Blacklick Woods Golf Course. During the event, planned for Feb. 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors can hike the trails at the course, enjoy hot chocolate and a campfire, and borrow skates to glide around the ice rink.
For more information about the Winter Hike Series and directions to each park, visit www.metroparks.net/events/.
The three parks that cross over into Madison County are Battelle Darby Creek, Glacier Ridge and Prairie Oaks.