Here’s something you can start with your dog right away. It’s easy, doesn’t need special equipment, and will make a difference in your life right away. All you need is your dog, his dinner, and a dog bed (loosely defined as any area with an edge that your dog is allowed on).
#7 Blue Hen Falls Cuyahoga Valley National Park Mar 10: 20 minutes, 0.2 miles, out and back Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 Interest: 1 2 3 4 5 Surface: Dirt
I finally made it to a National Park! It was just a baby did-it-to-say-it’s-done hike on my way to return boarding dog Mikasa to her owner, but it still counts. There are lots more trails in the area, of course, including ones that are really great bike trails. But the forest is really pretty and it leads to a little waterfall. I can’t wait to come back and explore more of the park.
#6 Olentangy Trail Columbus, Ohio Feb 21: 30 minutes, 3 miles (bike), out and back Feb 28: 30 minutes, 3 miles (bike), out and back Mar 04: 40 minutes, 4 miles (bike), out and back Mar 12: 30 minutes, 4 miles (bike), out and back Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 Interest: 1 2 3 4 5 Surface: Paved
Olentangy Trail is a multiuse trail that runs along the Olentangy River. There’s a tree line, but you never forget you’re in the city. Often the trail runs right up against the back of an apartment building. It’s a nice trail, but it’s too busy for my taste. Even in bad weather, there are lots of cyclists and runners. In good weather, there’s cyclists and runners plus lots of families with small kids. Just after Como Park in Clintonville there is an open field that often has off leash dogs and several times they’ve chased me and my dogs while we bike.
There are a couple places where the trail splits off for a mini loop and those are interesting. Just north of Dodridge St there’s a loop that goes through some wetland preserves and just south of the same there’s a loop that goes through some denser forest. Both are very short though, just about two minutes on bike.
#5 Rocky Fork Off Leash Dog Trail Rocky Fork Metro Park Feb 14: 0.5 hours, 0.6 mile, loop Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 Interest: 1 2 3 4 5 Surface: Gravel and dirt
Even though it’s short, this is my favorite trail in Columbus. It’s officially sanctioned off leash legal! And even so, I rarely see other dogs. More often if there are others they go to the fenced in dog park the trail starts from. It’s a very short loop through some forest, but there’s a spot to go out to some wetland with a little pond.
#4 Mudsock Trail Hilliard, Ohio Feb 7: 0.5 hours, <1 mile, loop Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 Interest: 1 2 3 4 5 Surface: Paved
A great find! This little trail is tucked behind the Spindler Dog Park in Hilliard. It’s paved and flat, which makes it easy, but it goes through so much different kinds of terrain. There is prairie, forest, farmland, and lots of ponds! It’s very very pretty. The whole trail goes farther, but we just did the small loop because I was short on time. It’s very quiet; the trail gets close to some housing developments but they’re well hidden by trees.
#3 Sycamore Plains Trail Loop Prairie Oaks Metro Park Jan 20: 1.5 hours, 3 miles, loop Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 Interest: 1 2 3 4 5 Surface: Grass and dirt
Mud! It rained the day before and the trail was VERY MUDDY. It starts with a big down hill and I slipped immediately, while taking a picture of how steep and muddy it was. It’s a great trail through the forest, there are lots of branching paths and interesting features. I much prefer unpaved trails, and most of the pet trails in the metro parks are paved, so this is one of my favorites.
At the end of the loop you climb out of the forest into a big prairie. It’s a good place to let dogs off leash even though it probably isn’t officially allowed. You can see people coming from a long way off and they can only come from one direction so you can leash up before they come close and if you stand at the top of the hill you can keep an eye on your dog even if they’re far ranging.
#2 Ironweed Trail Glacier Ridge Metro Park Jan 13: 1.5 hours, 2.5 miles, out and back Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 Interest: 1 2 3 4 5 Surface: Paved
The Ironweed Trail is an easy trail, but remote. It’s a little removed from the rest of Glacier Ridge Metro Park, but that’s a feature I enjoy. There aren’t many people there and apart from a little traffic noise near the start of the trail it’s really quiet. The trail runs all the way up to the rest of the park, but we turned back at Mitchell-Dewitt Road because it was getting dark. The section we hiked is mostly prairie and farmland. There was lots of wildlife, we heard a lot of birds and something much larger rustling! I wasn’t able to catch sight of it, but it was larger than a squirrel. My guess is probably a fox or coyote.
#8 Ironweed Trail Glacier Ridge Metro Park Mar 13: 1.5 hours, 2 miles, out and back
Pilot and I came back to this trail for some biking. Turned back at the road again due to time constraints. I’d like to hike the whole way sometime!
#1 Blacklick Creek Greenway Blacklick Woods Metro Park Jan 7: 1 hour, 2 miles, out and back Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5 Interest: 1 2 3 4 5 Surface: Paved
Our first hike of the year! Unfortunately it was kind of boring. The trail is paved with a few hills at the start. It’s potentially very long, but it was too cold and getting dark for us to go very far before turning around. We started from the last trailhead in the park and walked south, and once you leave the park the trail runs under some highways and there isn’t anywhere that you can’t hear traffic noise.
Last year my trainer-and-outdoors friend Amanda of Cloud Nine Canine posted about a hiking challenge on social media. New to the area and missing how easy it was to get outdoors in Wisconsin, I used it as a motivation to explore more of Columbus’ green spaces. The 52 Hike Challenge is pretty much what it says on the tin: a challenge to hike 52 times in a year. As competitive as I am, it doesn’t bother me much that I didn’t even make it halfway to my goal. I still spent a lot of time with my dogs traipsing around in the outdoors.
It’s back for 2017! This year I also want to showcase some of the dog friendly trails in Columbus. I’m a big fan of the Columbus Metro Parks and they include 62 miles of dog friendly trails. My goal is to hike every step of them this year.
- Blacklick Creek Greenway (Jan 7)
- Ironweed Trail (Jan 13)
- Sycamore Plains Trail Loop (Jan 20)
- Mudsock Trail (Feb 7)
- Rocky Fork Off Leash Dog Trail (Feb 14)
- Olentangy Trail (Feb 21)
- Olentangy Trail (Feb 28)
- Olentangy Trail (Mar 4)
- Dog Safari Hike (Mar 5)
- Olentangy Trail (Mar 7)
- Olentangy Trail (Mar 9)
- Blue Hen Falls (Mar 10)
- Olentangy Trail (Mar 11)
- Ironweed Trail (Mar 13)
- Ironweed Trail (Mar 28)
- Sycamore Plains Trail Loop (Apr 11)
- Dog Safari Hike (Apr 22)
- Dog Safari Hike (May 13)
- El Dorado, Wisconsin Wildlife Area (Aug 10)
- 5 Waterfalls (
1, 2, 3, 4, 5) 1 Forest 1 National Parks, Monuments, Preserves, Recreation Area or Historic Trail
- 2 Hikes to bodies of water: Lakes, Rivers, or Ocean (1, 2)
- 1 Stewardship hike
- 1 Group hike
- 1 Introduce someone new to hiking
- 1 Sunset or Sunrise hike
- 1 Hike from your Bucket list (somewhere you have always wanted to go)
- 3 Reflection hikes (journal at the beginning, middle, and towards the end of your challenge).
Mikasa is our guest for a couple weeks from Marcato Shepherds. She’s here for some problem solving in the breed ring and skill building for competition obedience. Mikasa is like a lot of the dogs we work with, she’s had a little bit of training at home but her owner struggles with making progress in training.
Reward based training is really hard with unmotivated dogs, so the first thing I always do with a new dog is develop great rewards! Here’s a video of Mikasa learning a game called “Scatter.” It’s a pretty simple treat tossing game but there are lots of benefits.
Scatter is a game with food that acts like a game with toys. I use Scatter so I can get started teaching dogs the things they need to know before our toy games are developed to a point where I can use them as a reward in training.
It’s a simple game, but there’s a lot going on. After eating a single treat, the dog has to turn back to you to see where the next treat is tossed. Turn away from distractions and look at you for what to do next is exactly what you want your dog to do in busy environments. One of my favorite easy training games is to play Scatter in every new place I take my dog as soon as we get out of the car (on leash!). It dials the dog in to paying attention to you.