Highbanks Metro Park – Columbus, OH

After I had a job interview go nowhere, I decided it was time for me to go hiking again. Hiking is a very spiritual and healing experience for me, so when life becomes too stressful, I turn to nature (it’s the only time I feel completely at peace).

I’m usually more eager to visit places I’ve never hiked before, so I looked for nearby parks I haven’t visited yet.

Map of the Columbus Metro Parks system

Sharon Woods and Blendon Woods were the closest, but Highbanks wasn’t much farther out of the way and looked more interesting from the pictures online, so I decided to check it out instead. I’m really glad I did.

Seeing such a hilly area in the middle of Columbus was a pleasant surprise, especially one that was so educational and with such a rich history. Since I visited in winter, the geography was even more apparent.

The trails I went on (Dripping Rock and Overlook) weren’t particularly difficult; they were well paved and had mild inclines and declines. The real experience was in the surroundings, and learning the history of the area.

10,000 years ago, glaciers cut across the state of Ohio, carving out limestone and forming valleys and rivers and hills. As animals died and became fossils, concretions formed around their remains, creating uniquely bizarre round rocks that are common in the park. It was in one of these unique geometric formations that the fossilized jawbone of a prehistoric fish (dinichthys) was found, and the same jawbone is still on display at the park’s nature center.

Image from the Metro Parks website.

The first notable landmark I came across was the southernmost Adena burial mound. While I know what burial mounds are and that there are many in Ohio, such as the Serpent and Alligator mounds, this was my first time seeing one in person.

While it wasn’t very large, I love when nature and history intersect like this. It was a bit cool (and kind of surreal) seeing something that was formed by other humans who lived thousands of years ago.

Not much further down the trail was a small, fenced-off square of graves, belonging to the Pool family. Nearby was a number of large, eerie oaks that surrounded their tombstones.

These however, are not their original graves. In fact, their true burial spot is unknown. These graves were simply moved here because this is where their farm was originally.

After hiking further down the Overlook trail, just before reaching overlook deck, was another fascinating piece of Native American history – a circle of prehistoric earthworks created by the Cole culture between 800 and 1300 CE.

The earthworks have thankfully stayed largely intact. The land was never used for farming and the two only excavations have been minimal, only to determine its origin and history. It’s unknown exactly what they used it for, but it was possibly used as a wall to protect their village. In the spring, the ditch bordering the earthworks fills with water, creating a moat.

Very close nearby is the end point and highlight of the hike: the Olentagy River outlook.

The stars of this outlook are the bald eagles that nest within view of the deck:

Image taken from the Metro Parks website.

While I could see the nest, I unfortunately did not spot the eagles. On the way back I did see a pileated woodpecker. That counts for something, right?

Overall, Highbanks Metro Parks was a great hike, and a cool educational experience. Definitely recommend detouring if you’re in the area!

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