We feel you, and we have a solution. It’s time to kick off those slippers and get outside because the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks’ annual winter hike series will be back a month early this year.
While the hikes typically begin in January, this year’s revamped, pandemic-appropriate version begins Dec. 1 and runs through the end of February. Instead of showing up on specific days, you can complete six hikes each month on your own time in any order you like during park hours.
This winter marks the 48th year for the hike series, which has historically attracted hiking crowds of up to 3,000 people, said Public Relations Manager Peg Hanley.
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This year, to maintain the safety of park visitors, the programming staff decided to offer a “Ticket to Travel” booklet featuring 18 different parks.
“We cannot let the folks down,” Hanley said.
Beginning Dec. 1, you can pick up a Ticket to Travel booklet from a featured park or download it online. The parks ask all guests to remember to observe COVID-19 regulations: mask up and travel in groups of 10 or less.
After hiking trails in any of the six parks highlighted for the month, you can find a park staff member to stamp your travel ticket. Upon completing a hike in at least seven of the 18 included parks, tear off and send the stamped page to 1069 W. Main St., Westerville, Ohio 43081 or email a photo of the page to [email protected] to get a 2021 Metro Parks Winter Hike patch mailed to you.
Also new this year is the #cbusparkie selfie station, which Hanley said is currently on the Greenway Trail at Blacklick Woods Metro Park in Reynoldsburg. It will rotate through six different parks from December through February.
If you’re hoping to see some wildlife, the changes to this year’s hike series could give you an advantage. Hanley said more elusive animals such as foxes or groundhogs could be more likely to show themselves without the large crowds of years past.
Hoping to spot some white-tailed deer? Your best bet is to hike at the start or end of the day, Hanley said, when these beauties are more likely to be seen bounding across fields.
Blendon Woods and Sharon Woods metro parks offer views of turkeys, Hanley said, while cardinals, woodpeckers, squirrels, and chipmunks can be seen most anywhere.
Which park are you most looking forward to visiting this winter? Let us know in the comments below!