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.
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.