Hikes in Lancaster, Ohio and Surrounding Area

Fairfield County, Ohio, is home to some absolutely stunning hikes, and if you’re looking for somewhere to get outside for adventure, this area is a perfect place for you to go. Matt and I recently spent a few days in Lancaster, Ohio, and we made sure to get some time on the trails. Don’t bypass these amazing locations to #optoutside and try out these 10 Great Hikes in Fairfield County Ohio.

Ohio State Nature Preserves

Fairfield County boasts 4 great Ohio State Nature Preserves. These locations have diverse areas of land that can contain remnants of Ohio’s pre-settlement past, rare and endangered species, and wonderful geologic features. When hiking a state nature preserve, be prepared for harsh conditions. For example, the trails are often unimproved narrow paths and can become muddy and slippery depending on the weather. Additionally, poison ivy, ticks, mosquitoes, and deer flies can be an issue, so make sure to be prepared for that. In other words, plan ahead and dress accordingly to enjoy the natural beauty that these Ohio’s State Nature Preserves offer. And lastly, for you dog lovers, please note that dogs are not permitted in nature preserves.  

Wahkeena Preserve

Wahkeena State Nature Preserve is located on the southeast edge of Fairfield County, just off of State Route 33. It features 2 miles of hilly trails, a short boardwalk through a marsh, and has a beautiful nature center with knowledgeable and friendly staff. There is some great history here at Wakeena, and you will want to take time to get a map and read about each location as you hike. I enjoyed the well in the spring, the history of the buildings, and learning the meaning of Wakeena. (Wahkeena is a Yakama Indian word meaning “most beautiful,” named after a waterfall along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.)  


Wakeenah State Nature Preserve

2200 Pump Station Rd
Sugar Grove, OH 43155

Rhododendron Cove

Rhododendron Cove is a well-hidden preserve, and I do mean well-hidden! You will not be able to see the sign for the preserve from the road so make sure you put the address into your GPS and follow it exactly. There is a small gravel lot right next to the gas pipes that are in a fenced in area.  Rhododendron State Nature Preserve has a trail (2.25 mile round trip) that treks a ridgeline after a steep climb with multiple switchbacks. The trail here offers rock outcroppings with honey combing and a view of groves filled with beautiful rhododendron. According to the ODNR, “Rhododendron Cove is likely the home of the largest native population of this native rhododendron in Ohio. Peak blooming is typically during late June and early July.” Matt and I hiked here in September and it was still a wonderful time on the trail even without the blooms. 

Rhododendron Cove location:

2730 Pump Station Rd SE
Lancaster, OH 43130

Shallenberger Preserve

Jay M. Shallenberger wanted to see the land both preserved and open for the enjoyment for all people. Upon his death in 1971, the land in Shallenberger State Nature Preserve began its journey to be open to the public, and the ODNR now manages it. 

Shallenberger Preserve has two unglaciated rocky knobs that have trails going around and over them. The knobs are wooded, and the lower trails have a mix of open and wooden areas. Trails here total 2.5 miles and are open 365 days a year. I’ve read that the plant life here is pretty amazing such as the mountain laurel that can be found within the preserve’s borders. 

Shallenberger Location:

2470 Beck’s Knob Rd
Lancaster, OH 43130

Christmas Rocks Preserve

Christmas Rocks is a wonderful hike any time of the year but are especially smashing in the fall. There are 4.75 miles of well-marked hilly trails in this preserve, and all of them are moderate by Ohio standards. The well-known Jacob’s Ladder loop trail climaxes in a spectacular cliffside scenic view of the surrounding area, and it’s absolutely stunning. We would say it is definitely with the effort. 

It is notable to mention that there are covered bridges nearby this preserve, and they are great to stop and see. I would highly recommend Rock Mill Bridge. This is one of the last remaining mill and covered bridge combinations in the US. At one time, a photograph of Rock Mill Bridge was displayed in every US Embassy in the world. We absolutely fell in love with the beauty here. Rock Mill Bridge is located at 1429 Rockmill Place NW Lancaster, Ohio 43130. 

Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve location: 

2340 Meister Road
Lancaster, Ohio 43130 

City of Lancaster Parks

Alley Park

Alley Park is located just outside of Lancaster, Ohio. It boasts 6 miles of lakeside hiking and trails that take you up along the wooded ridgelines. We appreciated seeing the covered bridge here at Alley Park and enjoyed the fresh air as we hiked the outlying areas. Loretta Lake is gorgeous and serene so take a moment to drink in the beauty after a hike around the park. There are also great picnic areas with shelters, so grab a picnic to bring along on your trip. 


Alley Park location:

2805 Old Logan Rd SE
Lancaster, OH 43130

Alley Park

Rising Park

While this 1 mile up and back trail is short in length, it’s big on offering amazing views of Lancaster and the surrounding areas. Mount Pleasant’s sandstone bluff greets you at the top and you are able to imbibe in the beauty of nature from its peak. Before embarking on this short but delightful hike, we recommend grabbing something from The Well or Bob’s Backyard Barbecue for an enjoyable picnic experience.

Rising Park location:

203 E Fair Ave
Lancaster, OH 43130

Columbus Metro Parks

Fairfield County brags 4 of the best parks in the Columbus Metro Park system. These 4 parks all have their own bragging rights, and each one deserves a visit; however, you’ll need more than one day to get to all of them. 

Clear Creek Metro Park

If you want to hike the crown jewel in this area, you need to hike Clear Creek Metro Park. Spanning 5,300 acres and boasting 14 miles of amazing trails, you will be able to spend a couple of days here. Hemlock and fern-lined trails draw you deeper into the forest as you traverse through the canopy. This is one of our favorite metro parks for hiking, and we come here as often as we can. 

Things to be aware of:

  1. There are only vault toilets here
  2. Bring LOTS of water
  3. Mosquito repellent is necessary

Clear Creek Metro Park location:

23233 Clear Creek Road

Rockbridge, Ohio 43149

Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

Spanning 486 acres, Chestnut Ridge has 2.4 miles of moderate trails that take you to a ridge where you can see the beautiful Columbus skyline. Trails are lined with Ohio’s beautiful deciduous trees that create a  beautiful canopy of greenery over you. While the hikes here are not long, they are definitely worth the visit. Pack a picnic to enjoy the park after your trek because there are great picnic spaces.

Chestnut Ridge Location:

8445 Winchester Rd NW

Carroll, Ohio 43112

Blacklick Woods Metro Park

There are 4.8 miles of designated trails within the park, but when you count the 14 miles of the Black Creek Greenway, you can be going for a while! All the hikes within this park are flat and easy. This park is also ADA compatible and very family-friendly. You will enjoy the stroll through the lush woods, sprawling fields, seasonal swamp ponds, and small Ohio prairie. This is the perfect place to spend the day with your family and friends.

Blacklick Woods location:

6975 East Livingston Avenue,

Reynoldsburg, OH 43068

Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

Pickerington Ponds is known for its ability to attract birds! This park is amazing in the spring and fall for bird migration making your hikes here colorful and exciting. The 5.1 miles of trails traverse around the ponds and have bird blinds located throughout. These blinds are created to give you moments to pause your hike and check out our feathered friends. All the trails here are easy and family-friendly, with most being grassy or gravel. 

Pickerington Ponds location: 

7680 Wright Rd 

Canal Winchester, Ohio 43110 

Pickerington Ponds location:

7680 Wright Rd

Canal Winchester, Ohio 43110

Read more about Columbus Metro Parks here: Ultimate Guide to Columbus Metro Parks

Each of these hikes offers something different and exciting. When you take time to enjoy nature, you never know what you are going to encounter. Perhaps you’ll see a beautiful butterfly or a gorgeous flower in the spring and summer. In fall, you will be treated to the foliage of the tree canopy changing from green to the rustic colors of autumn. Winter here is nothing to shrug your shoulders at because there are ice formations at Clear Creek and frozen ponds at many of the parks. Every season in Fairfield County offers something that will amaze you while you are hiking in this delightful region. 

Happy Adventures,

Matt and Brandy

Other GREAT hikes in Ohio!

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All these parks are GLEASON FAMILY APPROVED!

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Looking for other great hikes in Ohio? Check out our list here at Ohio Hikes