LEWIS CENTER — Highbanks Metro Park has two upcoming “Elf Hikes” for youngsters.
Each hike is at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 and Dec. 20, starting at the park’s Nature Center, the first right after entering the park.
“Oh no, the elves have escaped!” said a post on the Highbanks Facebook page for the Dec. 20 event. “Help us find the missing elves on a 1/2-mile hike. Entire program outdoors. Dress for the weather. Ages 2-6. Repeat of the 12/7 program.”
For visitors unable to park at the Nature Center, there is additional parking at the nearby Oak Coves Picnic Area, with a paved trail to the Nature Center.
For those who are 50 or older, there will be a 2.5-mile “Hike to the Overlook” event at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4. The moderate-to-difficult hike goes through the forest to an observation deck overlooking the Olentangy River. Parking is at Oak Coves Picnic Area, first road on the left after entering the park. Hikers will meet the naturalist near the playground.
On Nov. 20, the park hosted an evening stroll for families bearing flashlights along part of the Dripping Rock Trail.
According to the Highbanks Facebook page, the Metro Park is “named for its 100-foot-high shale bluff towering over the Olentangy State Scenic River. Tributary streams cutting across the bluff created a number of deep ravines in the eastern part of the 1,200-acre park.”
Three miles of the Olentangy River runs along Highbanks’ western boundary, the park’s brochure said. Fishing and canoeing are permitted.
The park is also notable for having two Adena burial mounds, Cole Culture earthworks, and has had bald eagle nests in its Edward F. Hutchins Nature Preserve. Highbanks has two picnic areas, two sledding hills, eight trails and two paths. The trail lengths vary from 0.3 miles to 3.5 miles.
In addition to the bluff and bedrock, the park contains “woodlands, fields and wetlands,” the brochure said. “The forests include oak, maple, hickory and beech trees.”
Highbanks is the only Metro Park in Delaware County, although Rocky Fork is on the Delaware/Franklin County line, with a Westerville address. Highbanks is at 9466 Columbus Pike, Lewis Center. From October through December, the hours are 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
There are now 20 Metro Parks in central Ohio, consisting of more than 28,000 acres, 230 miles of trails, 2,400 species of plants and animals, and visited by 14 million people per year. Metro Parks headquarters is in Westerville. For more information, visit Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks at metroparks.net.