A detail of running shoes on a trail

Run a Ribbon of Green (or White) in Urban Columbus

Utilize the scenic and easy-access Alum Creek Greenway Trail year-round as your go-to 5K or 10K training grounds.

Like all Columbus greenway trails, the one that traces Alum Creek along the east side of the city is designed for urban recreation and commuting. Unlike the others, this one encourages you to dream big: The 22-mile path, which winds its way through forests and prairies, past suburbs and near major highways, is a portion of the 326-mile Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET). So it’s a great local go-to whether you’re training for your first 5K or an ultra

Access is what the greenway trails are all about, and to that end Columbus Metro Parks plows snow off of the asphalt path in winter, making this a great four-season trail. Conditions can produce black ice, however, so be aware of hazards and run prepared. If you’re feeling the holiday spirit, end your run at the Franklin Park Conservatory and enjoy the Conservatory Aglow light show from late November through early January.  

Recommended 5K Route: Three Creeks Metro Park

Three Creeks Metro Park arguably contains the nicest section of the Alum Creek Trail. Its southern terminus is here (on the southeastern outskirts of Columbus in Groveport) , where it connects with the Blacklick Creek Trail. This portion of the path is forested and peaceful. Start at the Confluence Area of the park (the confluence of Alum, Big Walnut and Blacklick creeks) where there is ample parking plus year-round restrooms and water. Look between the trailhead kiosk and the bike repair station for the spur trail that takes you to the Alum Creek Trail. Run west and north, heading upstream. Pass Turtle Pond, then cross Alum Creek on a pedestrian bridge before paralleling the creek to the Madison Mills Area—turn around there for a 5K outing. It’s worth going a little farther, however, to Heron Pond and circling the pond (0.6 miles) before returning, for a roughly 4.5-mile outing. By continuing to Heron Pond, you’ll cross the creek again and get new views of a prairie plus water-loving birds like Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds and ringed gulls. 

A trail in three creeks Metro park

Recommended 10K Route: Heron Pond to Franklin Park Conservatory

Plan a shuttle and you can run from Three Creeks Metro Park to the Franklin Park Conservatory for closer to a 10K outing. Starting at Heron Pond, take in those views of prairie, forest and waterfowl as you run upstream, parallel to Alum Creek. The first half of the run is within Three Creeks Metro Park, where you’re surrounded by a large buffer of green space. Then start to interface with the more urban portion of the trail near Interstate 70. Continue north to Academy Park, where you’ll take a left off of the trail and run about a block to the Franklin Park Conservatory. (Local tip: If you plan a winter run, go in late afternoon or evening to take in the Conservatory Aglow holiday light show, which starts before Thanksgiving and continues through the first week of January.) Portions of the conservatory’s grounds are free and open to the public. To get the whole Conservatory Aglow experience, you’ll need to purchase a ticket (prices vary, a general admission adult ticket is $22). On the first Sunday of each month, admission is free for residents of Franklin County. More info: centralohiogreenways.com 

Getting There

Three Creeks Metro Park Confluence Area: From U.S. Route 33, take Hamilton Road south to Bixby Road. Turn right (west) and drive to the park entrance on the right. 

Three Creeks Metro Park Heron Pond Area: From U.S. 33, take Hamilton Road south to the first street on the right, Williams Road. Take Williams west to the Heron Pond Area entrance on the right. 

Franklin Park Conservatory: Franklin Park Conservatory is on East Broad Street, about 3 miles east of downtown right before crossing Alum Creek.

Refresh & Refuel

The Franklin Park Conservatory has a cafe, or just a couple of blocks south is Addella’s on Oak, which is open seven days a week and hosts live music. Try a taco (traditional or vegetarian) paired with an Ohio craft brew. 

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.