Where To Cut Fresh Ski Tracks in Greater Columbus

Photo: Columbus Metro Parks

Head to the designated cross-country skiing trails of Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Snow days in Central Ohio are much like you’d remember them from childhood: rare.  And that’s what makes them that much more exciting. So when the white stuff falls in Columbus this winter, head to one of Metro Parks’ trail systems that are designated for cross-country skiing. 
Prairie Oaks Metro Park has two trails designated for classic cross-country skiing when conditions allow. That designation means that hiking, snowshoeing and dogs are not allowed in an attempt to keep the tracks clean. The trails are free to use, though not groomed, so arrive early (the park is open 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in winter months) if you want to cut fresh tracks. And pack your own hot chocolate; the only facilities on-site are restrooms and picnic shelters. Columbus Metro Parks do not rent gear either, so select the right skis for ungroomed trails.

Cross country skiiers ski with a dog Photo: Columbus Metro Parks

Recommended short route: Coneflower Trail 

The Coneflower Trail is on the west side of Big Darby Creek. The 2.5-mile loop is a mix of woods and fields, mostly flat (there are two hills) and wide. You’ll parallel Big Darby Creek on the eastern side of the loop—in winter, look for geese and ducks on the creek—and ski through open prairie land on the western side of the loop. 

Recommended long route: Bridle Trail 

Also on the west side of Big Darby Creek, the Bridle Trail allows you to tackle more mileage. All told, there are 5.7 miles of bridle trail dedicated to skiing when snow-covered. Most of the trail is a large loop with a connector trail in the middle if you decide to bail. The landscape is mostly through open prairie with some wooded sections. Be sure to add the spur portion of the trail that heads east and crosses over Big Darby Creek and then hugs the south end of Lake 2 of the Darby Bend Lakes.

Prairie Oaks is sort of a little sister to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park directly south, but it’s quite similar since it is just upstream and also anchored by Big Darby Creek. Battelle Darby also has a skiing-designated trail (Dyer Mill Trail) as does Highbanks (Coyote Run and Scenic River trails) and Blendon Woods (Sugar Bush Trail). 

Getting There 
Prairie Oaks is only 15 minutes west of downtown, just off the north side of Interstate 70. Access both trails described above from the park’s main entrance at 3225 Plain City-Georgesville Road. Drive to the last parking lot at the dead end; you can reach the start of both trails from there. Metro Parks keeps their roads plowed. No trail usage or vehicle fees apply. 

Refresh & Refuel 
Find an après-ski outdoor fire pit at Nocterra Brewing in Powell; try the Trail Break lager. RayRay’s food truck is on-site serving barbeque. 

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.