Views Along the Dripping Rock to Overlook Trail Loop at Highbanks Metro Park in Lewis Center, Ohio

Last weekend's Sunday day trip was a hiking outing to a couple of scenic trails at the Highbanks Metro Park near Lewis Center, a north suburb of Columbus, Ohio.  Most people do not really associate "scenic" when they think of Columbus.  It's even surprising to us that a 20-40 minute drive in nearly any direction from downtown gets everything from river views to slate cliffs.   This trip was to explore for some overlook views of the Olentangy River.  We opted to combine two popular trails at Highbanks:  the Dripping Rock Trail and the Overlook Trail to make a loop out and back from the park's Nature Center.


trees along a dirt hiking trail at Highbanks Metro Park new Columbus, Ohio

Highbanks Metro Park is a 1,204-acre park in Columbus, Ohio, that is home to a variety of hiking trails, including the Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop. This 5.4-mile loop combines the Dripping Rock Trail with the Overlook Trails--with a few offshoots to view a Native American Burial Mound, an observation deck and a wetland area. The Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop is a moderate hike that offers views of the Olentangy State Scenic River and the surrounding countryside.  

Getting to the Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop 

We began The Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop at the Dripping Rock Trail trailhead near the Nature Center at Highbanks Metro Park.  There is a large parking area, restrooms and picnic space available for visitors.

A Little About the Nature Center at Highbanks Metro Park.

We spent a little time exploring the Nature Center before we ventured out onto the trails. The Highbanks Nature Center is a 10,000-square-foot facility that houses a variety of exhibits about the natural history of the area. The exhibits include live animals, such as snakes, turtles, and fish, as well as interactive displays  that teach visitors about the geography, plants and animals of the park. 

The nature center also offers a variety of educational programs, such as guided hikes, nature walks, and storytimes. The nature center also features a natural play area, which is a great place for kids to explore and play in the natural world. 

Natural play area with a sycamore tree and educational materials in the Highbanks Metro Park nature center

In addition to live animals on display, like this turtle, visitors will also find an enclosed viewing area for observing birds and other wildlife.

aquatic turtle on display in a tank in the Highbanks Metro Park nature center

Hitting the Dripping Rock Trail to the Overlook Trail Loop.

The Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop is about 5.4 miles long. This area of the park is popular, so the trails were pretty busy during our summer Sunday hike!  The average hiker will take about 2 hours to complete the loop.With a few water breaks, a restroom stop, some downtime at the wetland observation area and the trail observation deck and the Adena Burial Mound--and taking time to stop for pictures, we spent about 2 hours and 42 minutes hiking the trails.


Dirt & wood stairs with rail on the Dripping Rock Trail at High Banks Metro Park near Columbus Ohio

The Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop is a moderate hike. The trail has some elevation gain, but it is not too strenuous. The trails are well-maintained, well marked and easy to follow.  There are well marked signs for the spur trails to the observation deck, the wetland area and the Adena burial mound--so finding all of the highlights of the trails is easy for hikers.

knotty tree along a trail at Highbanks Metro Park in Columbus ohio

The Wildlife

The combined trails wind their way through a variety of habitats, including forests, ravines, and meadows. Along the way, hikers will see a variety of wildlife, often including deer, turkeys, foxes, squirrels and a variety of birds.  Be on the lookout for snakes hitting the trail for some sun too!  


snake along the trail at HIghbanks Metro Park near Columbus OHio

We encountered this guy just minutes into the hike.  This is honestly one of the largest snakes I've seen "in public" in many years! I thought he was a tree root at first glance!

The Scenery

I could spend hours looking at some of the character filled trees and rocks in this park.  The trail features many spots to view the ravines and creek along the way.  

view down into a creek along the trail at Highbanks Metro Park

There several scenic overlooks, including the Observation Deck, which offers lovely views of the river valley below. 

The Observation Deck.

The observation deck is located 100 feet above the Olentangy River. From the deck, you can see for miles in every direction. The deck is a great place to watch for wildlife. You may see eagles, hawks, deer, and other animals. You may also see people fishing in the river below.  Seating is built into the multi level deck to give hikers a spot to rest and enjoy the scenery.


View of the Olentangy River and surrounding area of the Observation Deck at the Highbanks Metro Park near Columbus Ohio

You can also view a bald eagle's nest from the observation deck.  You may want to bring binoculars since the nest is a few hundred yards from the deck.  We noticed the nest--but, did not catch any glimpses of eagles during our visit.

The Adena Burial Mound.

As a history/anthropology/archeolgy nerd, with some Native American ancestry, I love finding unexpected sites like this on hikes.  The Adena Burial Mound is located at the end of a marked one-way offshoot from The Overlook Trail.  The Adena Burial mound is a 12-foot-tall, conical mound that was built by the Adena people over 2,000 years ago. The mound is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the park. 

Adena Indian Burial Mound and surrounding fence at the Highbanks Metro Park near Columbus, Ohio

The Adena people were a Native American culture that lived in the Ohio River Valley from about 1000 BC to 500 AD. They were known for their elaborate burial mounds, which were often built in conical or rectangular shapes. The Adena Burial Mound at Highbanks Metro Park is one of the more prominent Adena mounds in Ohio.

The Wetland Spur Trail.

The trail to the wetland viewing area is a 0.4-mile one-way trail off the Overlook Trail. The trail surface is dirt and gravel, and there are no significant elevation changes so it is pretty easy and accessible for all skill levels.  The trail begins at the Overlook Trail and winds its way through a variety of wetland habitats, including a marsh, a pond, and a bog. Along the way, hikers can see a variety of plants and animals, including frogs, turtles, and birds. The trail ends at an observation deck that offers panoramic views of the wetland. 


view of cattails and the wetland at the highbanks metro park near columbus OHio

Visitors should stay on the designated trail and not disturb the plants or animals. 

Tips for Hiking the Dripping Rock to Overlook Trail Loop at Highbanks Metro Park

Wear appropriate footwear for hiking.  The trails are dirt and gravel with tree roots and rocks to navigate.  As always, there were "hikers" in flipflops and sandals--but, I wouldn't recommend either for this trail loop.  

Bring plenty of water. There is a water fountain available at the nature center and near a cut-through that goes out from the Dripping Rock Trail to a playground/picnic area.  Several miles of the trail loop do not have water fountains (or restrooms) available.

Don't skip the restroom. As with a water fountain, there are restrooms available at the nature center and near a cut-through that goes out from the trail to a playground/picnic area.  You won't find even port-a-potties along the rest of the trail.  Be sure to hit the restroom before you start your hike!

Be prepared for the weather. The trails will get muddy at times and a bit slippery in spots when it rains.

Hit the trail early in the day.  Start early in the morning to avoid the heat (and some of the crowd!)   This is a popular park for families, so it does seem to have a steady stream of hikers/walkers traveling the trails in both directions.

Dogs are not allowed on the Dripping Rock to Overlook Trail Loop.  There are pet friendly trails in the park--even a couple accessible from Nature Center parking lot--but, this trail loop is not dog friendly.

Wear sunscreen and insect repellent.  Much of the trail is shaded as it goes through the trees.  Generally, I am not too bothered by insects while hiking--but, the bugs were abundant and aggressive during our visit!  I hiked wearing sunglasses even in the shady areas to keep the bugs from my eyes.  I would definitely recommend insect repellent.  

Bring a camera to capture the views.  I didn't find the park to have many jaw-dropping scenic views--but, I still pulled out the camera quite often. 

Take your time and enjoy the trail.  This will likely mean stepping aside to let faster hikers pass or waiting out large groups or families at the observations stops.  

Pinnable image for a post about the Dripping Rock to Overlook Trail Loop at Highbanks Metro Park

What did we think of the  Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop in the Highbanks Metro Park? 

The Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop is a nice hike that is perfect for those looking for a scenic escape near Columbus, Ohio. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, making it a great option for hikers of all levels.   

This trail loop is not handicap accessible--nor stroller friendly.  There are some safety rails at spots along the steeper portions of the trail, but parents should still be watchful of young children while hiking.

The trail loop is open year-round, but it is best to hike during the spring, summer, or fall months.  We have hiked part of the Overlook Trail in the winter and it gets a little icy and difficult to navigate. 

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To learn more about the site featured here:

Dripping Rock Trail to Overlook Trail Loop at Highbanks Metro Park. 

9466 Columbus Pike, Lewis Center, OH 43035

Highbanks Metro Park Website


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