A forest view of Scioto Grove Metro Park

Columbus Backpacking: Scioto Grove Metro Park

Photo: Tina Fronk/Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

Ease into backpacking just outside the city.

A backpacking trip to Scioto Grove Metro Park is perfect if you’re a beginner, if you’re bringing the kids, or if you’re simply short on time. It’s also an ideal venue to test out any new trail gear, whether that’s boots, a tent or your entire backpacking system before you tackle a more committing multi-day trip. 

A stone’s throw from Interstate 270 on the south side of Columbus in Grove City, Scioto Grove opened its 620 acres in 2016. Metro Parks immediately set to packing the park with infrastructure for canoe access, hiking, disc golf, archery and fishing. But the most distinguishing feature is the backpacking trail—one of only two places to backpack local to Columbus (the other is Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park). Backpacking sites are reservable every weekend April through October. Free reservations fill up quickly, but check back for cancellations. 

Recommended Route

All parties must check in with the ranger between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., then park and begin at the Scioto River North Canoe Access. From here, hike south (downstream) along the REI River Trail to one of five backpacking sites, all located on the river-right, west side of the river (no crossings necessary). Site No. 1 is just a half-mile down the trail. From there, continue another half-mile to Site No. 2, followed closely by Site No. 3, both of which are close to the Arrowhead Picnic Area, with water and restrooms. Hike downstream to the Mingo Trail and find the most secluded site at Mile 2 (Backpacking Site No. 4), situated near a bend in the Scioto and the farthest from any trailhead or parking. To get the most mileage while carrying your pack, continue on the Mingo Trail and reserve Site No. 5, 2.4 miles from the trailhead. Out-and-back and loop hikes are available to and from all campsites. 

You’ll be sharing your camp with day-hikers, dog walkers and anglers until the park closes for day-use (10 p.m., April through September; 8 p.m. in October). Then you’ll have the place to yourself. The campsites themselves are somewhat deluxe. Site Nos. 2-5 are close to the river, wooded with stands of water-loving sycamore and silver maple. All sites are outfitted with two tent pads, a fire pit and firewood. Bring your hammock—you can use hammock posts where available or nearby trees otherwise. The sites are pet-friendly and your dog can go off-leash after the park closes (remember to bring poop bags). There are no trash cans, so be ready to pack out what you pack in. 

A backpacking bag sits next to a trail sign Photo: JJ Domiano/Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

Canoe Camping Option

It’s possible to reserve Site No. 5 and put in at the trailhead, which is at the Scioto River North Canoe Access. Float 2.5 mellow river miles and camp—call the park beforehand to make sure the water level is good for paddling. It’s easy to arrange a shuttle downstream of Site No. 5 at the Scioto River South Canoe Access—or just leave the canoe there at the parking lot for pickup after you hike back to your vehicle. Site No. 5 is located right at the river’s edge; you’ll want to repack and float the few hundred yards to the South Canoe Access to take out.

More Info


Getting There

From the junction of I-270 and I-71, take I-71 south about a half-mile to Exit 100 and Stringtown Road. Take Stringtown to SR 104 and then head south to the park entrance on your left. 

Where To Eat and Drink

Hey, you’ve just backpacked up to 5 miles! Reward yourself at Grove City Brewing Company, which has tasty eats and a wide variety of beer (plus wine and hard cider crafted on-site). 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.