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.