Trails and Ales: Columbus

We’ve rounded up five hikes from the Buckeye State and paired them with the perfect post-adventure brews
June 9, 2019Words by Charles Moodispaw

Most people might envision Columbus, OH as a quintessential Midwestern city with a football problem. And they’d be right. Home to The Ohio State University Buckeyes, most of the people who live here bleed scarlet and grey. And if you yell out “O-H,” you’ll almost certainly receive an “I-O” in reply, no matter where you are.  

However, Columbus boasts more than just football. It’s home to the world-renowned Columbus Zoo, the famous Arnold Sports Festival, and is the birthplace of Food Network legend Guy Fieri. Plus, as of 2016, it’s home to Huckberry’s second headquarters. 

So, for our latest installment of the Trails and Ales series, it only made sense to tap Columbus for the task. Lucky for us, Columbus has undergone a beer revolution over the past decade and there are now more than 40 breweries in the greater Columbus area. And what’s more? There’s even an Ale Trail Passport that will help guide your travels to each one. So, we’ve rounded up five hikes to get you out of the city and paired them with our favorite post-adventure bevies.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Photo: Rachel De Rosa

Valley Trail to Buckeye Trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

How to get there from downtown: 2-hour drive via I-71 N

Hike: 4 miles (out and back), easy to moderate

Beer: HiHO Brewing Co.

Yes, Ohio has a national park. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River caught on fire due to the extreme amount of pollution that flooded its waterways. Now, this wasn’t the first fire, nor was it the biggest. But the incident finally inspired change, including the establishment of the park five years later, which now protects 22 miles of the river. The park has since come to be an example of environmental stewardship. Just two hours north of the city, Cuyahoga is a perfect weekend getaway. Reserve one of the five primitive campsites, and soak in some of the best Ohio has to offer. From your campsite, we recommend taking the Valley Trail to the Buckeye Trail. This hike will lead you through the forest, down a gulley, and culminate at the base of Blue Hen Falls. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a packed lunch, skip a few rocks in the stream, and take in the forest landscape. Pro tip: if you schedule your trip accordingly you can also catch a show at Blossom Music Center, an outdoor concert venue located in the park.

To cap off your weekend adventure, drive just fifteen minutes south of the park to HiHo Brewing Co. Originally from the Cuyahoga area, owners Ali and Jon Hovan moved out west to become teachers. During their time in Denver, they developed a strong passion for the world of brewing. So when they decided to return home, they knew it was finally time to start their very own brewery, which, to them, represents a combo of west coast mountain mentality and homegrown OH pride. We recommend the Glens Trail Pale Ale. It pairs perfectly with the brewery pretzel and HiHO beer mustard. Sit back, relax, and reflect on a great hike.

North Rim Trail in John Bryan State Park
Photo: Charles Moodispaw

North Rim Trail in John Bryan State Park

How to get there from downtown: 1-hour drive via I-70 W

Hike: 4 miles (out and back), easy to moderate

Beer: Yellow Springs Brewery

Nestled just outside the small hippie town of Yellow Springs, John Bryan State Park is one of the most scenic areas in Western Ohio. The park contains a limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami River, a portion of which is designated as a National Natural Landmark. The North Rim Trail will guide you along for the duration of the hike. From the trailhead, you will immediately be led into the woods and down to the river. On the hike out, we recommend taking the lower portion of the trail which runs alongside the river. Once you’ve reached the adjacent State Nature Preserve, turn left up the hill and follow the trail to the base of the cliffs. For the hike back, you can follow that cliff line the entire way. This portion is a bit less traveled and you might even run into some rock climbers roped up along some of the public routes that have been established along the cliffs. Near the end, you’ll find yourself at the base of a small secluded waterfall. Sit on a boulder, take in the view, and stick your head under the falls. Trust us, it’s the perfect way to cool off after the hike.

Once you get back to your car, drive two miles back into the small town of Yellow Springs. The quaint little village, that looks straight out of the ‘70s, seems to have a special ability to draw in unique, creative, brilliant, and overall interesting people—it even gave rise to Dave Chappelle. You’ll find no shortage of small artisan shops, comic and record stores, and even some street performers. There’s even a fairy garden. Grab a fresh baked muffin and an iced coffee from Spirited Goat Coffee House and meander around the town. Once you’ve had your fill of hippie vibes, just cut a few blocks over and you’ll find Yellow Springs Brewery. From the outside, the warehouse-style building might not look like much, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised once you enter. We recommend the Zoetic, an American pale ale that is both flavorful and refreshing. 

Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls
Photo: Old Man’s Cave

Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills State Park

How to get there from downtown: 1-hour drive via US-33 E

Hike: 6 miles (out and back), moderate

Beer: Rockmill Brewery

Southeast Ohio is the entrance point to Appalachia. Rolling hills and glacial cut gorges give way to some breathtaking scenery that is only an hours drive from Columbus’ city center. Park at the Old Man’s Cave parking lot and head down into the monster cave named after hermit Richard Rowe who lived in the large recess of the cave gorge around 1800. From there, the trail leads away from the cave, where you’ll be accompanied by a stream on the right and towering cliff faces on the left. Along the route you’ll pass waterfalls, large boulders, and probably a few cairns left by previous hikers. The turnaround point will be at Cedar Falls, a small yet picturesque waterfall that flows into a large pool. It’s an ideal spot for soaking your feet in the cool water before making the hike back.

However, the adventure doesn’t end there. Halfway back to Columbus, you’ll run into Rockmill Brewery. Though a half hour outside of the city, this hidden gem is an absolute favorite among beer and nature enthusiasts alike. Rockmill is located on a former horse farm, so it’s no wonder that they specialize in delicious farmhouse ales. Yes, the main barnhouse building is cool, but if you step out the back patio you’re greeted by a small slice of paradise. There’s a fire pit, a large pond, a few roaming barn cats, and even some trails that run through the woods and along a stream. If available, we recommend grabbing a 750 ml bomber bottle (yes, we said bomber bottle) of En Plein Air, a Belgian-syle pale farmhouse ale, and a set of glasses. It’s the perfect complement to relaxing by the pond or wandering around the grounds after your hike.

Dripping Rock Trail
Photo: Metro Parks

Dripping Rock Trail in Highbanks Metro Park


How to get there from downtown: 25-minute drive via OH-315 N

Hike: 2.5 miles (loop), moderate

Beer: Nocterra Brewing Co.

Home to Native American burial grounds and nesting Bald Eagles, Highbanks is a popular destination located just eighteen miles north of downtown. The 1,200-acre park offers a little something for everyone (even cross-country skiing in the winter months). However, during the warmer days of summer, we recommend either a hike or a trail run. Park at the Nature Center parking lot (get there early—it fills up fast on the weekends) and hop on the Dripping Rock Trail, a 2.5-mile loop that meanders its way through the forest and passes steep ravines. Be sure to stop at the overlooks where it’s not uncommon to see deer and down near the streams where frogs and salamanders abound.

Once you exit the park, turn left and then left again. This will lead you into the heart of downtown Powell and right to Nocterra Brewing Co, the perfect place to grab a post-hike brew. A relative newcomer to the Columbus beer scene, Nocterra has quickly gathered a core following, and for good reason. With a motto like “Beer + Outside = Nocterra,” how could you not be interested? The brewery boasts a laidback adventurous vibe, which is reflected in everything from their decor, moth logo, outdoor beer garden, and even in their beers, which are usually named after a trail or rock climbing term. We recommend grabbing a pint of Tjikko, a Spruce-Tip IPA named after a 9,561-year-old Norway Spruce, located on Fulufjället Mountain in the Dalarna province in Sweden. Fun fact: the brewers hand-picked spruce tips from the trees in their backyards for this beer. And trust us, it is seriously good. You may also find yourself striking up a conversation with owners Bryan and Bruce, or any of the Nocterra team, about rock climbing, mountain biking, or paddle boarding.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park
Photo: Scioto Audubon Metro Park

Scioto Audubon Metro Park Greenway Trail

How to get there from downtown: 5-minute drive via S High St

Hike: 4 miles (out and back), easy

Beer: The Daily Growler

Located just on the city’s edge, Scioto Audubon Metro Park has loads of activities that you can take advantage of. You can fish, kayak, visit the nature center, or tackle the obstacle course. It’s also a great spot for running and biking. Take the Scioto Greenway Trail as a warm-up, an easy going route that follows the Scioto River. Then, shake out your legs and head over to the main reason we visit the Audubon, the rock climbing wall. The park offers a free public 35-foot climbing wall, which features bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing. And with four auto-belays to use, all you need to bring is a harness and shoes. From the top of the wall, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of downtown CBUS. We recommend going earlier in the morning to escape the summer heat and the crowds. Trust us, the routes fill up quick on the weekend. And if you’re like us and need a little caffeine before you hit the park, we recommend swinging through Fox in the Snow and grabbing a delicious New Orleans iced coffee.

After your legs are tired from your bike ride or run and your arms are fully pumped from climbing, head up the road to Columbus’ historic German Village. If you’re in need of some grub, cruise down 3rd Street and stop by Katzinger’s Delicatessen, a classic New York-style deli that’s been slinging award-winning, made-to-order sandwiches since 1984. After you’ve had your fill of their famous pickles, check out the Book Loft, a favorite destination among locals, which boasts 32 different rooms to explore all of your literary endeavors. Now the beer. Located on High Street a beer lovers paradise awaits: The Daily Growler. With over 60 different beers on tap, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. But they have something to please everyone’s palate. IPA’s? Of course. Lagers? For sure. Hefeweizens? Naturally. Porters? Check. Even sours? They have those too. Grab a pint or try a flight. From local Columbus breweries to microbrews from the west coast, they’ve got plenty to choose from. And as the name implies, they won’t be offended if you opt to take a growler to go.

Banner Photo: Experience Columbus

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