You don’t have to be a dedicated birder to appreciate this mellow hike in Hogback Ridge Park—but seeing ospreys in the wild just might turn you into one. The short trail makes a great outing for families with young kids, and a connecting path to 40 miles of trails in neighboring Alum Creek State Park means hikers looking for a longer trek will find it. So pack binoculars and head to the park in Delaware County, just 30 minutes north of downtown Columbus.
Start your visit at the Mary Barber McCoy Nature Center, named after the woman whose estate donated the land for this park (open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays). Here you’ll find nature exhibits with a distinct birding focus, from a visual history of the ospreys nesting at Alum Creek Lake to the birdwatching room where you can comfortably observe birds at the feeders outside. Grab one of the bird guides at hand to help you identify them. Year-round regulars include nuthatches, cardinals, and various woodpeckers.
Recommended Route: Woodland Ridge Trail to Osprey Overlook
After a stop at the nature center, pick up a Hogback Ridge trail map (available at the trailhead kiosk, or snap a picture of the map on the bulletin board) and take the Woodland Ridge Trail to the connector Ravine Crossing to the Pine Grove Trail (junctions are marked). These combined trails total only a mile and make a rough barbell shape. Listen for bird calls, including the Woody Woodpecker-like call of the pileated woodpecker. A spur from the Pine Grove Trail leads to a bird blind where you can view wood ducks and snapping turtles on a small pond. Viewing slots at various heights accommodate adults and children.
Now add a trip to Osprey Overlook with less than 2 miles of additional hiking. When you return to the Woodland Ridge Trail, instead of heading back to the nature center, hop on the Connector Trail/Equestrian Trail and head west to Alum Creek State Park. Hike until you cross Hogback Road on the way to Alum Creek Lake. In the narrow stretch between Hogback Road and the lake you’ll find Osprey Overlook, a well-known but unofficial spot; look for a ridge between the lake and a parking pullout with an unobstructed view of several osprey nests on top of platforms in the middle of the water. Osprey reintroduction efforts here have been very successful. You’ll likely find a breeding pair inhabiting a nest between April and August. Eggs hatch in May and June and it’s mesmerizing to watch the adult ospreys dive for fish and bring them back to the nest. All told, you can hike the Hogback Ridge trails and add an out-and-back to Osprey Overlook in under 3 miles.
If you visit in April, check the park’s website for its annual Osprey Homecoming event. Bonus: In spring, you’ll also get to see wildflowers like hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, trillium, and mayapple. Got a boat? To get an even closer look at the ospreys, you can put in a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard at the Kilbourne Picnic Area launch just a mile north, off of Kilbourne Road, and paddle Alum Creek into Alum Creek Lake (this section is a no-wake zone).
More info: Hogback Ridge is open year-round; there’s no fee.
Getting there: The park is 15 miles north of the I-270 and I-71 junction.
Refuel: Hungry kids and thirsty parents? Restoration Brew Worx in Delaware offers everything from grilled cheese to house-brewed beers on tap.