By Rick Palsgrove
Metro Parks’ popular Winter Hikes Series will continue this year, but in a different format.
“Due to COVID-19, we are extending the winter hike season and giving people a chance to hike on their own from December to February,” said Metro Parks Assistant Manager of Interpretation and Education Jill Snyder. “Instead of welcoming visitors to one park each Saturday and most Sundays in January and February as in previous years, we will highlight six parks each month. Visitors can hike any trail at any time during that month to complete the winter hike at that park and have their ticket to travel booklet stamped. This means visitors can hike in their household unit and not gather in groups. We will also not serve food and drinks after the hikes.”
Snyder said this year’s Winter Hikes Series features 18 parks, an increase from the usual 13. The parks and hike months are:
•December – Blacklick Woods, Chestnut Ridge, Highbanks, Homestead, Inniswood, and Scioto Grove.
•January – Clear Creek, Prairie Oaks, Rocky Fork, Scioto Audubon, Sharon Woods, and Walnut Woods.
•February – Battelle Darby Creek, Blendon Woods, Glacier Ridge, Pickerington Ponds, Slate Run, and Three Creeks.
“We want to offer hikes in as many parks as possible and allow people to stay close to home,” said Snyder. “In December, parks, except Chestnut Ridge, will be lit up in the evening to make things special and give visitors something special to enjoy. The January hikes feature parks with more strenuous hikes either in distance or hills. The February parks look great in the snow!”
People can hike any time at any of the parks for the month. The travel ticket booklets with instructions and park information are available at www.metroparks.net or can be picked up from a park staff member. The hike series runs December to February. If people complete seven hikes, they will receive a unique 2020-21 Winter Hike patch. Participation is free.
According to Snyder, attendance has increased in the parks throughout the pandemic.
“The Winter Hike Series gives visitors a way to continue to enjoy the parks and explore new trails,” said Snyder. “People are looking for a place to escape the stress of work from home, remote learning, and so on. It’s a great way to travel around the city to see new parks and places while remaining safe. We didn’t want to cancel this tradition, especially since it can be done safely. This is the 48th year for the Winter Hikes, yet another reason not to cancel the hikes.”
Park visitors are asked to follow COVID-19 safety recommendations: stay six feet apart, wear a mask especially if hiking with people outside their household, limit group numbers to less than 10, and frequently wash hands. Metro Parks continues to sanitize restrooms and high touch areas.
New this year to the Winter Hikes Series is the selfie station where people can take photos to document their hikes.
“The selfie station will move to different parks every two weeks from December to February,” said Snyder. “Who doesn’t love a selfie! We hoped to kick off the selfie station earlier this year, but with the pandemic we decided to wait. The Winter Hikes are the perfect time to get the selfie station moving around the parks.”
The selfie station locations:
•Dec. 1–14: Blacklick Woods Metro Park, located across from stretch racks on multipurpose trail from nature center parking lot.
•Dec. 20 – Jan. 3: Inniswood Metro Gardens, located near evergreen trees inside entrance just past the circle garden.
•Jan. 8–18: Scioto Audubon Metro Park, located in front of the climbing wall.
•Jan. 22 – Feb. 1: Sharon Woods Metro Park, located near the stretch racks at Maple Grove parking lot.
•Feb. 5–17: Slate Run Metro Park, located near the covered bridge.
•Feb. 19 – March 1: Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, located near the playground at Cedar Ridge.
Follow Metro Parks on social media to get more information about the hikes and selfie station or visit metroparks.net
“We plan to offer a few guided hikes and programs during the Winter Hikes and those will be advertised through social media,” said Snyder.