Running the Rocks and Roots Trail

Enjoy this central Ohio trail—made by and for runners—that hosts numerous races and highlights Alum Creek State Park.

As the name suggests, the Rocks and Roots Trail at Alum Creek State Park has both rocks and roots along the trail. But hey, that’s what makes it more fun than a run around the block. Thanks to the Rocks and Roots Trail Running Association, this figure-eight singletrack trail was built in 2013 by runners, for runners. Try one or both loops, which come in at just over 10K each. 

Despite the name, the trail is constructed to be smooth enough that you don’t have to look at your feet nonstop; instead you can enjoy the surrounding forest, wildflowers and views of Alum Creek Lake. 

Recommended Route: North Loop 

Both loops begin at the trailhead on Hollenback Road, which is 30 minutes north of downtown Columbus. They are pretty similar to one another. Start with the 6.7-mile North Loop and follow the orange blazes on this winding path, where you’ll get consistent views of the lake on the eastern half of the loop. The North Loop is generally run in a clockwise direction. The trail is mostly wooded and flat, but it can get muddy, so plan to run it after it’s had a chance to dry out after rain or snow. On the upside, all that rain produces wild mushrooms to look out for. White-tailed deer are common here and there’s a good chance you’ll see some. Also enjoy wildflowers, from phlox and mayapples in the spring to ironweed and aster in the fall. 
This is a multi-use trail, so expect to share it with hikers, dog walkers and anglers. Similarly, Alum Creek is a multi-use park. The closest state park to Columbus, it has a little something for everyone: camping, hiking, mountain biking, paddling and swimming (including your dog; the dog park has a beach).

Join a Race 

The Rocks and Roots Trail also serves as the course for a number of races every year sponsored by the Rocks and Roots Trail Association. Most races are 10K, half-marathon or 50K. Though the COVID pandemic threw a wrench into the normal plans, look for the return of flagship races like the Hoot (summer), the Firesquatch (fall), and, for the night owls out there, the Firefly (a dusk-to-dawn overnight affair). The races are millennial-ready: Everyone gets a medal. But, they are cool woodcut medals, and you have to do considerably more to earn a belt buckle: finish two 50K races.  
You can work up to a race through regular group runs and workouts with the Rocks and Roots Trail Association. And then you can give back by volunteering with them to help maintain and improve the trail.  

More Info 

Getting There 

From Interstate 71, take Polaris Parkway west to South Old State Road and head north 5.5 miles to Hollenback Road. Take a right to get to the trailhead parking.  

Refresh & Refuel 

The Porch is just 4 miles from the trailhead; try an authentic Venezuelan patacon, a sandwich made with fried plantains instead of bread. 

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.