Photo: Steve Wartenberg

Columbus Cycling: Riding the Ohio to Erie Trail: Galloway to London

While it’s possible to cycle the entire length of the Ohio to Erie Trail, start with one of the most popular sections of the trail in central Ohio.

Back in 1991, Ed Honton had a dream: a paved trail from Cincinnati to Cleveland that “would be perfect for hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, cross-country skiers, even bird watchers,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2001.

Honton, a Franklin County engineer, passed away in 2005, but not before his dream, the Ohio to Erie Trail, had already begun to take shape. It has now lengthened and evolved into a 326-mile trail stretching from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland, and it’s paved for the vast majority of its length—with more paved sections in the works.

While it’s possible to cycle the entire length of the Ohio to Erie Trail (and many adventurous cyclists do just that), start with one of the most popular sections of the trail in central Ohio. From the Battelle Darby Creek/Camp Chase Trail parking lot (about 20 minutes southwest of downtown, located at 8465 Alkire Road outside Galloway), head straight west to the town of London and back—a total of 25 miles. It’s easy to tag on some additional options for those who want to cover more ground. The most obvious add-on is the Camp Chase Trail itself, a newer section of the Ohio to Erie Trail that leads east from the parking lot, paved all the way to downtown Columbus (minus one mile-long stretch).

Parking

The parking lot here is large and has a bathroom but no water fountain. This is also a launch point for Big Darby Creek, and with all the canoers, kayakers, and cyclists who use this area, the parking lot tends to fill up quickly on a sunny Saturday or Sunday morning. During the week, it’s less crowded.

If it’s more convenient to start in London, no problem: There’s plenty of on-street parking in town. Another option is to park behind the Madison County Senior Center at 280 W. High Street in London. There’s a bathroom, water fountain, and rest area here, all located next to the path.

Route

From the Battelle Darby Creek/Camp Chase Trail parking lot, head up the bridge and over Big Darby Creek. The trail then turns to run alongside some railroad tracks. Pass through the village of Georgesville and continue along the path. Intersections will come up every couple of miles; make sure to obey the stop signs, look, listen, and cross when it’s safe. Fortunately, there’s usually not much vehicle traffic on these roads.

Perfect for road bikes, this entirely paved section of the Ohio to Erie Trail follows old railroad tracks and canals, and it’s a straight, flat route through shady tree groves of trees and wide-open fields of corn and soybeans. When you emerge from under the trees and ride along the fields, be sure to look up: The blue sky seems to stretch endlessly. You’ll also pass a few massive grain mills as well as convoys of railroad cars waiting to be called back into action.

The path ends as you arrive in London (and picks up again just out of town on the other side). Once you reach town, follow the green bicycle route signs, many of which have a “50” on them. Make a right on Walnut Street, proceed carefully over the railroad tracks, ride past the big grain mill, and then make a left on East First Street. Ride past the London Public Library, a lovely 1905 structure that is one of the oldest libraries in Ohio, and then take a left onto South Main Street and into the center of town. 

Photo: C Blair/Columbus & Franklin County Metro Parks

Alternate Routes

Want to stretch your ride a little longer, or looking for something different? Try these alternatives.

South Charleston Route

If you’re just getting warmed up and want to ride another 12 miles (one way), follow the signs and continue on to South Charleston, another small town in the midst of sprawling farmland. On the western edge of town is a small park (with a bathroom) on the site of the old South Charleston train station. Once there, it’s easy to see how these rural Ohio villages and towns were dependent on trains to ship what local farmers grew and to get around the state.

Downtown Columbus Route

Another option is to ride from London back to Battelle Darby Creek and continue east to downtown Columbus, which is about 10 miles away. From the Battelle Darby Creek/Camp Chase Trail parking lot, ride down to the edge of Big Darby Creek and along the gravel trail that follows the creek for a couple hundred yards; you’ll arrive at the paved Camp Chase Trail section of the Ohio to Erie Trail. 

From there, the trail meanders through a forest and over some creeks for about a mile and then rejoins the railroad tracks as it passes through flat farmland. This section goes right past the Hollywood Casino Columbus. It’s less scenic than the Battelle Darby Creek-to-London route, but the payoff comes when you arrive in downtown Columbus at the confluence of the Olentangy and Scioto rivers.

A Note on Overnight Rides

It’s possible to leave your car overnight in the Camp Chase Trail parking lot. If you’re planning an overnight trip, fill out this registration card and drop it in the box near the ramp where the trail goes over Big Darby Creek. Cards are also usually available at the box.

Bison

Only about a mile away from the Battelle Darby Creek/Camp Chase Trail parking lot is the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. This park is worth a visit for its unique residents: a small herd of bison live here and amble about for all to see. 

Where To Eat

In London, look for the London Coffee Peddler, a bike-friendly cafe that serves assorted hot and cold drinks and light fare. If you’re looking for something more substantial, head to Phat Daddy’s Pizza near the library.

In South Charleston, the Shoemakers IGA grocery store is a solid refueling option. There’s a deli counter and prepared sandwiches in a refrigerated section. The store doesn’t stock sports drinks, but it does offer a variety of other beverage options. If you’re by yourself and without a lock, you can wheel your bike just inside the sliding doors and rest it against the windows to keep an eye on it while you wander the aisles. There are also two pizza shops in town: The Purple Monkey and Chillicothe Street Pizza.

If you ride to downtown Columbus, your first stop (at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers) should be The Boat House Restaurant, which has a great view of downtown. It’s also a good starting point, as you can leave your car here, ride to London or South Charleston and back, and then enjoy a nice meal with a view.

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.