I have visited Highbanks twice since I moved back, and can’t believe I never discovered this little gem in my previous Columbus life. Highbanks appeals to me because it’s close to where I live, is easily accessible, safe and has many trail options to choose from. Logistical info here: http://www.metroparks.net/parkshighbanks.aspx
The first time I went alone, on a weekday morning, following the entrance road over to where it loops at the Big Meadows picnic area, and got on the Dripping Rock trail. This is a 2.5 mile loop laid upon rolling hills and can easily be combined with one-mile Big Meadows Path for a longer hike. The dirt trail stays in the woods and has views of shale bluffs and the ravine.
I passed several other hikers/joggers on the path, but definitely had large breaks where it was just me and the whistling birds. I had the privilege of finding myself arm’s length away from two pileated woodpeckers, dancing around a tree, who immediately flew off at my excited (and accidental) shriek. I also saw a toad. When I finished my hike I sat in a nearby peaceful meadow and sketched the wildflowers pictured above.
For the second visit I brought my hubs on a sunny, Saturday morning. We decided to hike the Overlook Trail because word on the street (literally, signs along the trail) is that there’s a Bald Eagle who resides near the overlook. We combined the trail with the Wetland Spur for a three mile hike. There were plenty of other hikers/joggers, but again the park is large enough that it still felt peaceful. Overlook has many climbs and descents, staying mainly in the woods but also winding through beautiful meadows spattered with wildflowers. It connects with the Wetland Spur, which brought us to a bog rife with budweiser-commercial frogs, cattails and red-winged blackbirds. This is a great place for beginner hikers or hikers who feel uncomfortable being out in the middle of nowhere all by your lonesome.
Sadly, we didn’t encounter Mr. Eagle, but it was still a great way to kick off the weekend!