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For visitors and locals alike, the Olentangy Trail is the ideal way to explore Columbus, the dynamic capital of Ohio, as well as the surrounding communities. Named after the eponymous river it follows for much of its 17.5 miles, the trail serves as an important link between neighborhoods. Along the route, you can explore natural areas, pass through the heart of The Ohio State University campus, and use the trail as a base from which to travel onward to many of the city’s significant historical and cultural sites.
The Olentangy Trail begins west of downtown Columbus at a connection with the Scioto Greenway Trail on the south side of US 33; head north from there, using the well-marked crosswalk at the busy road. Once across the road, the route continues north on the west side of the Olentangy River. At some points, the path is very close to the river and flood warnings are posted. After passing under several highways, the trail becomes quieter, meandering along the riverbank under light tree cover. The sound of flowing water drowns out some of the city noise.
At Third Avenue, a bridge takes you to the east side of the river. At Fifth Avenue, find an upper and a lower route; keep left and follow the lower route to continue north. The upper trail provides access to nearby neighborhoods at Fifth Avenue and King Avenue and features an overlook with a large concrete deck jutting over the river. This vantage point provides a good view of a restoration area created after the removal of the Fifth Avenue dam.
As you traverse The Ohio State University campus—roughly 1 mile—you may want to dismount and walk if traveling by bike. Along the way, spot many trail connectors that provide access to the campus. A local landmark rises on the right side: Ohio Stadium, or the Horseshoe as locals call it, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. The trail then passes under the Lane Avenue Bridge, a striking structure with an amazing cable-stayed design.
Unmarked neighborhood paths periodically feed into the Olentangy Trail, and near mile 4, the university’s wetland research area flanks the west side of the route. Stop to take a self-guided tour of the native plants and wetland habitat. Just north of Clinton-Como Park, follow a short stretch on a well-marked route over city streets before rejoining the off-road trail again at Northmoor Park (near the corner of Olentangy Boulevard and Northmoor Place). Farther along, Whetstone Park offers restrooms and a drinking fountain at the Park of Roses, a 13-acre park within a park with more than 12,000 roses and other flora.
At Henderson Road, turn left and follow a wide sidewalk across the bridge to join the trail on the river’s west bank. Continue north to a loop around Antrim Lake; you can also cross under Olentangy Freeway (OH 315) to reach Antrim Park, where restrooms are available. After crossing under I-270, it’s about 0.8 mile to the trail’s end in Worthington Hills Park, where you will find benches, a picnic shelter, and access to parking.
To reach the northern trailhead in Worthington Hills Park, take I-270 to Exit 22, and head north on OH 315. In 0.5 mile, find the Olentangy Valley Center on your right. The trailhead and parking are located in the southeast corner of the shopping center.
Though no designated trail parking lots are on the south end of the trail, its northern half has numerous parking spots in the parks that line the route. Visit the trail's websites for details.
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