Columbus Mountain Biking, Close to Home

Photo: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Ride the expanding singletrack network at Alum Creek State Park.

Sometimes just enough is enough. In the case of central Ohio’s Alum Creek Phase 1 (P1) mountain bike trails, they’re just close enough (less than a half-hour north of downtown Columbus) and just long enough (6 miles total with bailouts) for a perfect after-work ride. 

Start at the parking lot on Lewis Center Road and tackle all or part of the 6-mile P1 Trail (note that parking fills up fast on weekends, so get there early or wait until afternoon). P1 is well designed with plenty of armoring (where wet sections are paved with stone) and boardwalk-style features to keep it in good shape. The trail system is one-way, but with bailout trails in case you can’t or don’t want to complete the entire system. It’s more technical (i.e., root-laden) than flowy, and though there are no major uphills or descents (this is Columbus, after all), it’s not strictly flat since the trails are built around the drainages. And leave the sunscreen at home—it’s almost entirely in the woods, but still with some nice views of Alum Creek Lake.

Trailhead amenities are port-a-potties and a bike repair station; no water. These free, public trails come to you courtesy of the Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization (COMBO), so give them some love—whether it’s a donation online or at the trailhead, or by becoming a volunteer. Finally, give the trails themselves a little love by letting them dry out before riding. Visit COMBO’s website and click on the trail conditions tab before you head out. Alternately, you can walk or run the trails, but be sure to stick with the one-way direction and leave your best friend at home—dogs are not allowed.

Mountain bikers ride a trail in Alum Creek SP Photo: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

If you’re a beginner or have kids with you, check out the Gnomewood skills park and the 1.7-mile Beginner Loop trail right across the road. If you’re looking for more advanced mileage, 5.5 miles of the P2 trails are just a five-minute drive up Africa Road, where there is also seasonal trailhead water and restrooms. COMBO’s hope is to build a trail connecting the separate trail systems. More info:

Getting There

From Interstate 270, take I-71 north 15 miles to Africa Road to Lewis Center Road.

Refresh & Refuel

Who knew you could do both a bait shop and pizza well? Cheshire Market Pizza is nearby and open until 10 or 11 p.m. daily. In the summer, save room for ice cream at Sticky Fingers, just a one-minute walk from Cheshire Market.

Leave a Trace

You are allowed to bring a garden gnome to add to the Gnomewood Skills Park. You can simply leave it at the trailhead kiosk and volunteers will install it along the trail. 

Gnome – ones are essentially donated … you can put it wherever … 

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.