If you’re driving down Columbus Pike from Delaware, you may have noticed two places for recreational walking — Highbanks (one of the Metro Parks of Columbus and Franklin County) and Orange Township’s Bridge Park. Yet there’s a third place, tucked between Hyatts Road and U.S. Route 23 — Preservation Parks of Delaware County’s Shale Hollow Park.
Turn onto Olentangy Crossings and right at Artesian Run, and you’re in the park. If you walk the trail at the first parking lot on the right, you’ll be on Great Horned Owl Trail. This is a gravel trail that pets are allowed on, and people frequently take their pooches. For 1.1 miles, you go through half open areas, some wooded areas, and you get a view of shale-filled Big Run Creek. This is a tributary to the Olentangy State Scenic River. If you stay on the trail, you can circle back to where you parked.
Yet, there’s another area of the park, tucked further back by a second parking lot. It’s called the Overlook Trail. Cross a bridge over the creek, and go right and upward at the cliff warning sign. It’s a short, but strenuous climb on an undeveloped dirt path crossed by tree roots atop a wooded ridge. While not technically difficult, some hikers felt they needed walking poles to traverse the trail. Go far enough, and you’ll come to a meadow. This is a portion that dogs are allowed on, but one has to enter it from the north on a trail near Hyatts Road.
If you circle around the 1-mile Overlook Trail, or decide not to take it when you cross the bridge, there is a floodplain area to the left for what the parks system calls “off-trail exploration.” It features a natural play area for kids, with wooden structures like a table and chairs, and a hanging bridge. One can look at an outcropping of brittle shale, or wade in the creek. On a recent visit, one family had their youngster look for critters in the creek with a small net.
On the way out next to the parking lot (with the morning sun’s rays warming the still-damp from two days’ rain bridge railing so that steam rose from the wood), there is a building that has fountains, restrooms, and a well-marked native plant garden.
Shale Hollow was acquired gradually from 2004 to 2015 with a combination of grants, levy funds and loans. There are plans to add to Shale Hollow’s trail system to go south of the meeting space behind the Olentangy Crossings residential area.
“We continue to work with various entities to finalize plans for new trails in the southern half of Shale Hollow Park,” states the Preservation Parks website.
The Great Horned Owl Trail in Shale Hollow Park.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.