By Chad Heald
It is always fun and exciting to explore a new trail. Something that harkens back to childhood and playing in the woods; that raw anticipatory response to a soon-to-be-had adventure. Thankfully, Delaware County is incredibly fortunate to have an abundance of options for trail runners (many of which you may not be aware)! While we all have our favorite trails, chances are, we'd also love to hear where other folks in our trail running community get their trail miles! So, in an appeal to you, dear reader, to share your fave running spots with the rest of us, we've put together some of our can't-miss trail runs.
1) Delaware State Park (duh...): There really are some fun routes which you can take that are only limited by your imagination. The most obvious choice is to park at the Marina and start with the Mink Run->Briar Patch->Lakeview->Bigfoot for a nice 10 mile out and back (you can download a trail map here) . But have you ever started your run at the Dam parking lot and run the levee wall to the North or East? There are some wonderful trails in the Wildlife area on the Eastern shores of the lake and are absolutely worth exploring. Did you know that with a quick jaunt through the campground roads, you can access another 2.5 miles of dirt road? If you are new to the park, please don't hesitate to post a request on Facebook or Twitter asking for someone to show you the ropes...chances are there are folks running there every weekend! Remember, DSP is over 2,000 acres in size, so there is plenty of opportunity to explore!
2) Alum Creek: If you live in Southern Delaware County or in Franklin County, chances are you are more familiar with Alum Creek for trail running, and with good reason! On the Western shore of the lake, you have the Peachblow Road trailhead, which has several miles of nice meadow and singletrack. On the Eastern shore, there is the Multipurpose trail with approximately six miles of meadow and wooded trails. Additionally, you have several miles of mountain bike trails. If you are up for a more technical and vertically challenging run, you can head to the Bridle trails on the Northern half of the lake. Typically, it is easiest to park at the Howard Road boat launch and pick up the Winterhawk Bridle trail heading North towards the village of Kilbourne. The trail exits into the small village of Kilbourne on the East side of the lake and you can pick it up on the West side of the lake and head back South. Keep in mind, that this trail is only open on Sundays during hunting season and during the fall can be somewhat difficult to navigate (pay close attention to blazes, flags and permanent course markings). Also, remember that horses have the right of way on the bridle trails. If you encounter a rider, stop, step off the trail and ask how they would like you to pass. No one wants to spook a huge animal and potentially cause injury to the horse or its rider! A trail map for Alum Creek can be downloaded here.
3) Highbanks: We know, Highbanks isn't what you might call a technical trail running experience (with the exception of the .4 mile Wetland spur), but what it lacks in technical singletrack it more than makes up for in hills! It also happens to have miles of well groomed incredibly runnable trails. We typically park at the Krueger Nature center. From there, you have access to enough trail to easily string together a 10+ mile "loop," and use your car as an "aid station" if you are doing multiple loops. You also have nice bathroom facilities, and water fountains (seasonally) on the big meadow loop. A trail map for Highbanks can be downloaded here.
4) Delaware Preservation Parks: If you aren't from Delaware you may be unaware of the incredible local park system which we have available to us in the form of the Delaware Preservation Parks. The Preservation Parks, presently consist of eight (8!) beautiful preserves, each of which has their own trail system, adequate parking, bathrooms and water fountains (seasonally). Understand that these trails are not long, but they are immaculately maintained and a really nice change of pace, particularly if you are interested in running loops (loops!). Once again, you have multiple opportunities to return to your car so no need to carry much in the way of aid. Our favorites are Gallant Woods Preserve (Trail Map here) where there is a nice 1.5ish mile loop through meadow and woods and Deer Haven Preserve and the adjacent Havener Park trails, where you can easily put together a 3-3.5 mile out and back (Trail Map here).
5) Mohican/Cuyahoga Valley National Park/Hocking Hills: The equivalent of Disneyland for trail runners. Too many options to really review here (they may each get their own blog post:) Needless to say, if you are going to be making a running pilgrimage to one of these parks, put a post on the facebook page(s) and chances are you can find some company!
So there you have it! Some of our favorites trail running spots...not an exhaustive list, but certainly a good start for anyone new to trail running. We hope to see you out there soon!