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).
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.
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.