Photo: Tina Fronk/Columbus & Franklin County Metro Parks

Columbus Cycling: Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

See wild bison without leaving central Ohio on this prime gravel ride.

You don’t have to venture to Yellowstone to have an American safari. Bring your binoculars to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park and pedal right by a pasture that is home to a herd of a dozen bison, including five calves born in 2021. 

Just over 200 years ago, Ohio was home to not only deep forests, but also native prairies and bison. Though they were hunted to extinction, with the help of The Wilds, a Columbus Zoo-affiliated wildlife conservation center, bison were introduced to Battelle Darby in 2011. 

Darby Greenway Trail

Park at the Cedar Ridge Picnic Area and pick up the southern terminus of the flat, mostly crushed-gravel Darby Greenway Trail. The trail is in good shape but not recommended for skinny tires. Bike north and soon you’ll be traveling between the fenced Prairie Bison Pasture on your right and the Winter Bison Pasture on your left. Experience the unforgettable sight of a 1,000-pound wild animal up close, even if on the other side of a fence. If you don’t see any bison right away, take a left at the spur to the Nature Center and ask where they’ve been sighted recently. The Nature Center is worth checking out anyway, with its 45-foot living stream that replicates the aquatic life in the Darby creeks (open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. April through Sept., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. through March). You can even bring along your hammock and hang from the provided hammock posts outside.

The Darby Greenway Trail is a total of 5 miles in length, for a 10-mile out-and-back ride. This trail is situated among prairies and wetlands. Morning and evening are the best times to ride, when the blazing sun isn’t directly overhead, and when birds are most active. Late summer sees the height of prairie wildflowers. 

 

This trail and the bison are hardly the only thing Battelle Darby has to offer. Both the Big Darby and Little Darby creeks are state and national wild and scenic rivers. The Big Darby is well worth floating in spring and early summer when the water is high enough. Put in at the Alkire Road canoe access and paddle 5 miles to the Osprey Lake takeout. The park has 35 miles of multi-use and hiking trails; just to the east of the bison enclosure, start at the Wet Prairie Access parking and combine the Harrier Loop, Rail Way and Teal trails for a 3-mile loop through prairie and wetland. The park is also now home to the 10-mile Battelle Darby Creek Backpacking Trail; reservations are required and they fill up quickly. 

More Info

 metroparks.net

Getting There

Battelle Darby is just 20 minutes southwest of downtown; from Interstate 270, take Exit 5 for Georgesville Road and continue west to Alkire Road. 

Where To Eat

Don’t plan on much for eats near the park; try a sustainably raised bison burger back at Bareburger in the Short North Arts District.

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.