Posted in Central Ohio, Hiking, Park review

Highbanks Metro Park

Located in Franklin and Delaware counties, Highbanks Metro Park is 1,159 acres in size with over 10 miles of hiking trail, including a 3.5 mile, mowed path that’s available for dog walking and cross-country skiing. The park is bounded on one side by the Olentangy River, and it’s crisscrossed by small streams flowing in ravines.

One of our favorite attractions is an observation deck that’s perched on a shale bluff 110 feet above the Olentangy river. For a number of years a pair of eagles have nested in a large sycamore tree just upstream from the observation deck. We’ve watched from the deck as an eagle flew over the river beneath us. If you direct your attention upstream, you can often spot an eagle perched on a tree on either side of the river. The eagles have become the park’s most famous residents. It’s easiest to catch sight of them before foliage appears on the trees, and for a better view I recommend bringing binoculars, or a spotting scope.

Bald eagle on a tree across the river from the observation deck.

An eagle showing off its awesome talons.
Look off the right-hand side of this deck to see the nest.
The arrow points to the tree where the eagle’s nest is located.

As you can see, the nest is some distance from the deck. However the eagles may choose to perch in a tree that’s closer to the deck, or to fly in the region of the deck. To help people get a better view, park officials periodically bring a spotting scope to the observation deck. Similarly birders often bring their own spotting scopes, and many of these are happy to share their scopes with other visitors.

A closer look at the nest.

Highbanks encompasses the 206-acre Edward F. Hutchins State Nature Preserve, as well as several historic sites:

  • Two Adena Mounds built by the native Americans over 2,000 years ago.
  • An earthen, fort-like embankment enclosing the bluff where the eagle observation deck is. Native Americans of the Late Woodland period (Cole Culture) constructed this earthwork between 700 and 1,300 years ago.
  • Gravestones of the Pool family, pioneers who settled in the area some 200 years ago.
This gently sloping mound is an Adena burial mound.
There is a moat along the outer wall of the Cole Earthworks. Water gathers here when the snow melts and becomes a breeding pond for Jefferson salamanders.
Interpretive sign showing an aerial view of the Cole Earthworks.
Tombstones of the Pool family, who settled in Central Ohio in 1820.

Highbanks is one of four parks in the Columbus and Franklin County metro park system that has a nature center (the others being Blendon Woods, Blacklick and Battelle Darby). The nature center at Highbanks features a library, bird feeding stations, terrariums and exhibits including fossils from the Devonian period about 400 million years ago. Highbanks also has picnic areas, playgrounds and a sledding hill. In addition to the observation deck overlooking the Olentangy River, there is another deck in the park with a bird blind overlooking a pond.

View of the rear of the nature center at night.
Black rat snake in one of the Nature Center’s terrariums.
One of the bird feeders to the rear of the nature center.
View of the pond through the blind.

Our favorite hike begins at the nature center on the Dripping Rock Trail,then turns off onto the Overlook Trail. The Overlook Trail winds through the Edward F. Hutchins State Nature Preserve and ends at the observation deck that overlooks the Olentangy River. Depending whether you take any of the side trails, the round trip is about 3 to 4 miles. Small side trails include one that leads to an Adena mound and another that leads to the Pool Family gravestones.

Due to the popularity of the eagles, there are signs along this path directing hikers to the observation deck where the eagles can be seen. Although the signs make it easy to find the observation deck, you can’t rely on these signs to get back to your parking lot since there are signs directing people to the observation deck from every parking lot. Here are some views along the trails.

There are many species of spring wildflowers at the park.
Barred owl snoozing beside the trail.
Trail in summer
One of the organized winter hikes

We’ve been to the park in all seasons and have participated in a number of winter hikes there. Winter hiking at Highbanks can be enjoyable but footing on some hilly trails can be treacherous when covered with snow and ice. We recommend wearing special winter footwear for added traction (such as YakTrax) under these conditions.

Snow angel taking a break at Highbanks Metro Park

Numerous programs are offered at this park to deepen your understanding and appreciation of nature and the outdoors, including programs for home schoolers.

Additional information

  • Address: 9466 Columbus Pike (US Rt 23 N), Lewis Center, Ohio 43035
  • GPS Coordinates: 40.1320893, -83.0062937
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

More on Franklin County

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

3 thoughts on “Highbanks Metro Park

  1. at High Banks Metro Park Near the Mansion shelterhouse, by the little bridge are some stone ruins that included two sets of steps, a bench and what appears to be a rectangular fountain. Does anybody know the history of these?

  2. very nice photos thanks for sharing, just gotta love those big birds the eagles, seen a documentary about the harper eagles of south american, wow what a bunch of beauties.

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