Photo: Thomas Webb/Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

Columbus Mountain Biking: Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

Find something for everyone at this 10-mile trail network.

Whether you’re just starting out or have been mountain biking for years, finding the right trails is the key to happy riding. Fortunately for Columbus-area riders, central Ohio has become a mountain biking hub, in large part due to the work of the Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization (COMBO). The group’s approximately 250 members build and maintain several trails (and they’re always looking for more volunteers). What to target first? The 10 miles of trails at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park. “What I love about Chestnut Ridge is that it offers something for everyone, from the beginner, to the more advanced, to the expert who wants to try More Cowbell,” says Mollie Berberich, president of COMBO. “We tell people: ‘Choose your own adventure.’”

The trails are interconnected through a stacked loop system, which is great for offering multiple route options, but can be a bit of a maze for first-timers. Color-coded signs (green = beginner, blue = intermediate, black = advanced) help keep you on track, and the trail system isn’t huge so even if you get confused you’ll eventually find your way out.

Chestnut Ridge, which rises to just over 1,000 feet in the foothills of the Appalachians, is home to black oak, shagbark hickory, and northern red oak trees on the upper slopes, with plenty of sugar maples and American beech on the lower slopes. Short hiking trails wind through the woods as well, which is great if you come with a mixed group of hikers and bikers.  

Ease In

The beginner loop is about 2.5 miles, and has just enough twists, turns, small bumps, and tree roots to make this a challenge for beginners and a nice warmup for more advanced riders. Attention beginners: Not only is this trail great for learning, COMBO is dedicated to sharing the sport and offers introductory classes (more on this later).

Step It Up

You can connect to the intermediate/blue route from the beginner loop. This wooded loop is about 8 miles long and includes the opportunity to perform some front- and rear-wheel lifts, roll-down lunges, high-speed cornering, a couple switchbacks, and some climbing. There are a couple of forks in the trail; pay attention if you don’t want to accidentally end up on a black route (it will reconnect with the blue route). 

Photo: Rick Jordon/Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks

Go Big

The black-route offshoots from the blue route have names: Sasquatch and Fireball. They contain more advanced features like berms (banked turns), table tops (flat-topped hills you can jump over), and rollers (the mountain biking equivalent to a series of speed bumps).

And then there’s More Cowbell, a gravity/flow, half-mile expert loop. COMBO completed the course in 2016 and it’s a doozy. It starts at one of the highest points in the park, on top of Chestnut Ridge, and “you can pedal if you want to, but you don’t have to,” Berberich says of the super-fast, technical loop.

More Trails Coming

Berberich said she and the COMBO team are working on adding a couple of more miles of trails at Chestnut Ridge, and are also creating a new-and-improved map (the current map can be a bit confusing).

Take a Class

COMBO offers classes for beginners (Dirt School), intermediates (Shred School), and even for experts (Flight School). Classes are held monthly, from April to October.

Refuel

Head to BrewDog (a taproom, restaurant, and hotel) at 96 Gender Road in Canal Winchester, about four miles away from the park. You can’t go wrong with a pint of Elvis Juice and a Fast Joe (burger). Staying the night? One of the features of the hotel is a tap in every room. Follow the same advice as with More Cowbell: Be careful.

Getting There

The park is less than 30 minutes southeast of Columbus via Highway 33. The easiest access to the trails is from the parking lot on Mason Road NW, located along the northwest corner of the park.

Park Information

Chestnut Ridge Metro Park 

Club Information

COMBO 

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.