Posted in Hiking

Fairfield County: Overview of Hiking Trails

Fairfield County is not nearly as famous a venue for outdoor activity as it’s neighbor Hocking County. But the fact is, there are some great places to go hiking there.

Rhododendron Cove

State Nature Preserves


Wahkeena Preserve is located on the southeast edge of the county, near the border of Hocking County. It features 2 miles of hilly trails, a short boardwalk through a marsh, and a nature center with a knowledgeable and friendly staff. Dogs are not permitted. Wahkeena offers a variety of programs for adults and children.  See the Wahkeena events calendar for further information. Wahkeena is owned by the Ohio Historical Society and managed by the Fairfield County Historical Parks.

Rhododendron Cove

Rhododendron Cove is a well hidden preserve that is a 1/2 mile down the road from Wahkeena. It has a trail (2.25 mile round trip) that traverses a ridgeline after a steep climb and features interesting rock outcroppings and a view of groves filled with great rhododendron. Dogs are prohibited at this preserve.


Shallenberger Preserve off of US 22 near Lancaster features two unglaciated rocky knobs and trails that circle and ascend them. The knobs are wooded and also feature mountain laurel. The trails total 2.5 miles in length. Dogs are prohibited at this preserve.

Christmas Rocks

Christmas Rocks features 4.75 miles of well-marked hilly trails. The Jacob’s Ladder loop trail culminates in a spectacular cliff side view of the surrounding area. Dogs are prohibited at this preserve. If you visit, be sure to stop at the adjacent Mink Hollow Covered Bridge. Two additional covered bridges are located within short driving distance.

Columbus & Franklin County Metro Parks

The Metro Park system operates several metro parks that are outside Columbus and Franklin County. Four are located in (or partially in) Fairfield County. These parks offer a variety of nature programs ranging from hikes and wildlife viewing for adults, to educational programs for children.

Clear Creek

Clear Creek Metro Park is located in Fairfield and Hocking Counties. It features 9 trails with a total distance of over 14 miles. The trails range from flat creek-side trails to very hilly trails that go up and down surrounding ridgelines. A one mile portion of the Chestnut trail is available for pets who are prohibited elsewhere.

Chestnut Ridge

Chestnut Ridge Metro Park has 2.4 miles of trails in a large loop. The trail traverses one small ridge. An overlook provides a view of downtown Columbus in the distance. This park is equipped with restrooms and play equipment for young children. Dogs are permitted.

Blacklick Woods

Blacklick Woods Metro Park is located in Fairfield and Franklin County. It has 7.5 miles of mostly flat trails, some along Blacklick Creek. The park has play equipment for young children, restrooms, and a nature center. Dogs are permitted.

Pickerington Ponds

Pickerington Ponds Metro Park has 5.1 miles of trails on flat terrain bordering a variety of ponds and fields. The area is known for a diverse variety of birds, particularly during fall / spring migration. The park has several wildlife observation decks. Paved trails are popular with both joggers and families on bicycles. Dogs are permitted.

Blacklick Creek Bike Trail

The Blacklick Creek Trail follows along Blacklick Creek for a distance of 12 miles. It is still under construction, but the segment connecting Three Creeks Metro Park to Pickerington Ponds (with a pedestrian bridge over US-33) is open. Partial segments have been built that will eventually connect to Blacklick Woods. From Three Creeks Metro Park, the Alum Creek Bike Trail is open to I-670. When completed, you will be able to bicycle / skate / walk from Blacklick Woods to Pickerington Ponds, next to Three Creeks Metro Park and then on to Westerville and Galena – a distance of about 37 miles.

City of Lancaster Parks

Alley Park

Alley Park has 6 miles of hiking trails that go around two lakes and up into and around ridges surround the lakes. The park has a nature center, a covered bridge, and restrooms. Dogs are permitted.

Rising Park

Rising Park has a 1/2 mile (one way) trail that leads to a the top of Mount Pleasant – a 250 ft sandstone bluff with a stunning view of Lancaster and surrounding areas. The park has a pond and play equipment for small children.

Other Sites

Fairfield Heritage Trail

The Fairfield Heritage Trail is a 10 mile (8 miles paved) multi-use trail in Lancaster, OH. Trail map here.

Johns Trail

The Johns Trail is a 1.6 mile multi-use gravel trail in Amanda, OH. Trail map here.

More information on the above parks and preserves can be found in the TrekOhio Guide to Parks, Preserves, and Trails. Check out the guide’s entry for Fairfield County.

Additional information

More on Hiking Summaries

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

19 thoughts on “Fairfield County: Overview of Hiking Trails

  1. Very nice post. I think that Rhododendron Cove should be nice to explore.

    When we moved to country side in 1992, our first plants were Rhododendrons. Here is link to r Our garden. I would be happy to hear Your comment concerning our Coffee corner in our garden.

    1. You have a very nice garden. A few years back we were in the highlands of Scotland at a B&B. We complimented the owner on her Rhododendron. Mistake – she told us how much she hated the plant and was trying to get rid of it. Turns out, Rhododendron is considered a non-native invasive plant in Scotland and they are trying to eradicate it.

      Great Rhododendron IS native to Ohio – we caught the very end of the blooming season at Rhododendron Cove last year, but hope to do better this year.

    1. No, it’s still not green yet. However last year at this time I had already taken quite a few wildflower photos, and I haven’t even been looking for them yet. I better get out there!

        1. Too bad about the drowning part. I did get out this week to see if anything was blooming, but not much was happening here. I’m told it’s due to that late snow.

  2. You’re right about that — Stratford Woods is similar to Crane Hollow (a privately-owned, dedicated State Nature Preserve). I just wanted to let folks know that Wahkeena is owned by OHS, and managed by the Fairfield Co. Parks, not ODNR.

  3. By the way, Wahkeena isn’t actually an ODNR State Nature Preserve. It’s owned by the Ohio Historical Society, and managed by the Fairfield County Historical Parks.

    1. The Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves says that Wahkeena is “a dedicated State Nature Preserve” in this Facebook post. It could be that this designation puts them into a different category tax-wise, or guarantees that the property will remain a preserve in perpetuity. Similarly Stratford Woods State Nature Preserve is privately owned and managed, but it petitioned the state to be named a “State Nature Preserve”, and the state agreed to do so. As I understand it, the people at Stratford Woods wanted to make sure that when the property’s management passed on to others that the property would remain a nature preserve as opposed to being commercially developed.

      1. Let me add that Clear Creek Metro Park is also a “dedicated State Nature Preserve”, and is actually the largest one in the state. So it appears that the designation rides separately from the ownership, as you note with Stratford Woods.

  4. Deb,

    Just wanted to add that the Lancaster Fairfield Heritage Trail has nearly 10 miles of hiking/biking/rollerblading trail, about 8 of which are paved. You can access it at many places in Lancaster. Here’s a link to a map of the trail, including parking:

    There’s also a short trail in Amanda (about 1.25 miles).

    Just thought you’d like to add this to your list.


    1. Thanks, Roberta. We were just checking out some parks in Summit County last weekend, and we hope to provide more coverage of northern Ohio in the coming year. I can’t believe how lucky we were weather-wise. Saturday was a great day to be outside.

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