That might be all the info you need on the newest Metro Park in Columbus; it’s the first park (of now 20) to feature one, after all. But there are plenty of other adventure opportunities worth your attention at Quarry Trails beyond Millikin Falls. Think: downhill mountain biking, paddling, plus a ‘via ferrata’ climbing route. Most features are open or are scheduled to open by the end of 2022.
It’s hard to miss the (now) natural 25-foot plunging waterfall on Roberts Millikin Ditch, where water was diverted for quarrying operations (meaning: there’s usually decent flow). An observation deck provides nice views of the park centerpiece, though you can walk down a flight of large, limestone steps to the pool beneath for an up-close-and-personal view (wading is allowed).
Aside from the waterfall, the park’s name offers another unique aspect: There’s still a working quarry northwest of the 180-acre park operated by American Aggregates Co., which was once part of one of the country’s largest limestone quarries. The rock excavated here helped build the Ohio Statehouse and Ohio Stadium—not to mention the park steps down to the waterfall. Removing millions of tons of limestone from the landscape also created the long, rocky cliff that stretches around sections of the park. It’s rugged geography that belongs somewhere much farther west.
As a work in progress, Quarry Trails had a “soft opening” in November 2021, as several amenities have yet to be built. This will allow regular visitors over the next few years to watch Quarry Trails mature, grow and continue to come alive. Go find your adventure now before it gets truly discovered.
Bike Big Drops
Already completed is one of central Ohio’s most technically challenging mountain-bike courses. The Mountain Bike Area is set in a bowl, surrounded by limestone cliffs. Bomb down from the cliff line into the bowl and then hit some features including a banked turn, three bridges and a 15-foot drop. Coming next: a beginner-friendly mountain bike course with technical trail features including a berm turn, zigzag and a variety of ramps.
Loop the Park
The park’s main entrance is at the intersection of Roberts and Dublin roads, where there are two large parking lots surrounding the Mountain Bike Area. This is the best place to park, as the smaller parking lot near the waterfall (located at 2158 Old Dublin Road) fills up fast.
From the two parking lots, you can bike, run or walk south on a newly paved path that skirts around the top of several of the cliffs and then descends to a non-paved (and sometimes muddy) trail that leads to Turtle Cove and then the bottom pool of Millikin Falls. There are currently about 6 miles of trail in the park with more being developed; from the parking to the falls and back comes in at under 3 miles.
Paddle Two Lakes
Two unnamed lakes that make up the heart of the southeastern portion of the park are open to paddling. There are two boat launches—one is ADA-accessible—for kayaks and standup paddleboards. Right now, the lakes are good for flatwater paddling, but future plans call for a whitewater feature and for connecting the two lakes.
Climb a Via Ferrata
Quarry Trails will be home to Ohio’s first via ferrata, a fixed-cable climbing route that will traverse over the quarry pond and feature an 85-foot suspension bridge before topping out at the cliff line above. All told, the route will be more than 1,000 feet long. It’s being touted as the world’s first urban via ferrata.
Fish Turtle Cove
The waterfall feeds a lake, much of which has been carved out by the removal of limestone. This is a great place for fishing for bass, bluegill and catfish. Another amenity is a floating dock that stretches out into Turtle Cove and is a popular hangout for visitors with a rod and a reel, though you can fish without a license (catch and release only) from anywhere along the shore. Near Turtle Cove is a cemetery from the early 1800s that was discovered and protected during development.