There’s so much to love about fall in Ohio! With all of the pumpkin patches, apple orchards, back to school/sports events, and fall fun, it’s easy to stay busy. But don’t forget to stop and smell the autumn air and take in the beautiful fall color as the leaves change in Ohio!
With the cooler temps coming, the trees are about to transform with an explosion of vibrant red, orange and yellow. We can never predict the weather, but we can expect the leaves to change in October, before we get sucked into the long, cold gray of winter in Ohio. Make sure you enjoy the autumn colors while you can!
Whether you choose to walk or drive, there are plenty of places to view the beautiful fall leaves in Central Ohio. We aren’t experts, so please let us know of your favorite destinations for fall beauty.
As always, plan to complete your walk during daylight hours, walk with a buddy when possible, tell someone where you’ll be, and carry a charged cell phone and/or whistle or other noise-making device if you are by yourself (both for personal safety, and in case of injury or being lost).
Best Fall Foliage Nature Walks in Ohio
ODNR Fall Color
If you have some time on your hands and don’t mind driving for some fall beauty, head to a hiking trail in an Ohio State Park or Nature Preserve. As a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy the gorgeous autumn colors on your drive. Check out their Fall Foliage Forecast and Updates around Ohio.
Pick one with a fire tower to climb for the most spectacular view above a canopy of color. You’re going to want to take some photos while you’re up there! Five towers currently allow public access: Blue Rock, Hocking, Mohican, Shawnee, and Zaleski. Mohican offers a wheelchair-accessible alternative to the fire tower at the Gorge Overlook Picnic Area, and there are several wheelchair accessible paved trails. Note: we have not been able to verify yet if the fire towers are all open again this year.
Best Nature Walks for Fall Color in Franklin County
It’s no secret that we have AMAZING parks with the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. There are so many great options, and they will ALL be beautiful. Pick your favorite, or better yet, try a new one and just go for a walk! Find the parks here: http://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/.
The Ohio State University Chadwick Arboretum has 60 acres of gardens, trees, and a lake path. It’s calming, stunning, and free.
Check out this article with detailed nature walks and scenic hiking trails in Columbus that will be beautiful for autumn nature walks.
Best Fall Nature Walks in Delaware County
Preservation Parks of Delaware County consists of ten parks of various landscape. You’ll find plenty of fall color among the woodlands, prairies, meadows, streams and wetlands. They also offer guided hikes and educational programming.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Parks in Delaware County include Alum Creek and Delaware State Park.
Best Autumn Nature Walks in Licking County
Licking County offers a system of parks and trails that will be worth the drive. Check out the trail options and programming of the Licking County Park District.
Dawes Arboretum is a perfect choice to explore fall folliage – whether you plan to walk or drive (or a little of both). The paved trails (open to cars and walking) through the arboretum lead to a variety of ecosystems and gardens. Park at the beginning and spend a couple of hours walking, or drive from parking area to parking area and explore the nearby gardens. My top picks include the overlook over the valley, just past the visitor’s center, Dawes Lake and the Observation tower overlooking the hedge lettering, Garden Gateway (including the Japanese Garden), and Hikes through the Woodlands. Visits to Dawes now requires admission fees of $10 per adult, $5 per child.
Black Hand Gorge is a preserve within Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and comes highly recommended for its 10 miles of trails and 4 miles of bike paths. This is such a fun area to explore, so make sure you head there for some autumn hikes (I know I plan to!). The multipurpose bike path is wheelchair and stroller friendly. There are off-path trails to explore as well.
Best Scenic Overlooks in Ohio
TrekOhio has put together a great list of some of the best scenic overlooks in Ohio. Some that we recommend near Central Ohio are Dawe’s Arboretum Observation Deck (Newark), Ariel-Foundation Park Tower (Mount Vernon), High Banks Metro Park Overlook (Delaware County), and Mount Pleasant at Rising Park (Lancaster).
Best Fall Color for Foliage Driving Tours
Not up for a walk? Take a drive and enjoy the fall colors of Ohio. ODNR has put together fall color driving tours around the state that will maximize your fall foliage viewing! Whether you head NE, NW, SE, or SW, you’ll find a tour that will pair perfectly with a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Many of these routes go past state parks, forests and nature preserves for up-close views, so don’t hesitate to stop and stretch your legs at these sites! Click on the link for the map route!
Not up for a full-on tour or daytrip? One of my favorite places to see fall leaves on an everyday route in heading North on 315 after the highway ends. Once you get past Worthington Hills, the 2 lane road is like a canopy of fall beauty along the river.
Expert tip: DO NOT attempt this drive anywhere around rush hour. You will be miserable. Unless you want to sit and stare at leaves in a long line of traffic. In that case, it would be the best time to go.
Ohio Scenic Byways
There are 27 scenic byways spread across the State of Ohio, that feature maximum views and exploration. Check out all of the options at this link, or visit one of the below.
State Route 26 from Marietta to Woodsfield, Ohio. This scenic byway paralleling the Little Muskingum River showcases some of the area’s most beautiful scenery. It is a road that winds back through time to pastoral scenes with covered bridges and Mail Pouch barns. Don’t miss the scenery at Wayne National Forest.
The Mohican Valley Trail runs along the byway between Danville and Brinkhaven. Check out the old rail trenches that have been paved to make nature and sightseeing trails through the countryside, towns, and over rivers. Don’t miss the Bridge of Dreams, a National Landmark. This bridge is the second largest covered bridge in the United States, and spans 370 feet across the Mohican River. Continue on through Amish Country for beautiful scenery with lots of great stops.
From Ashley to Zanesville, the Drovers’ Trail Scenic Byway is named after the route by which early 19th century cattle farmers “drove” their cattle eastward to the market in Baltimore, Maryland, until the railroads became useful to them for transport in 1875. Portions of State Route 147 still be witness to the heavy animal traffic with deep trenches from hundreds of thousands passing through. This byway connects two other Scenic Byways (the Historic National Road and the Ohio River Scenic Byway)
This seems like an obvious choice to many in Central Ohio, but Hocking Hill is truly breathtaking in the fall. The road travels over hills and valleys past the six sites of the Hocking Hills State Park, Cantwell Cliffs, Rock House, Conkle’s Hollow, Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. Allow some time to visit at least one of the sites, as a drive to Hocking Hills isn’t complete without a little exploration – there are hikes appropriate for all ages and capabilities. Check out some of the many options here.
From NW Dublin to above North Lewisburg, the Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway runs through a prairie ecosystem from days long passed along Big Darby Creek. You’ll find parks, preserves, and river views, along with several covered and historic bridges, century farms, cemeteries, and homes of interest.
Know of any other great hiking trails or driving routes that are stunning with fall color? Let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook page so we can add them!