barred owl in beech tree nest_Terry Peck

Holiday Hiking Events

Winter’s approach doesn’t mean it’s time to hide inside. These 2017 park system events promise fun and fascinating finds while enjoying the outdoors.   

12/9/17: Owls of Darby CreekBattelle Darby Creek Metro Park

This popular central Ohio park promises a hoot of a good time during a 2-mile night hike that hopes to treat guests to the sights and sounds of some of our state’s fascinating night flyers. 

“We walk a little bit and then stop and use a CD player to play owl noises,” says park naturalist Jen Rosa. “We are trying to call them in, and a lot of times, they will talk back to you.” 

Hikers are most likely to see screech owls and barred owls, but the walk may not be the best option for younger kids, as participants are asked to remain quiet while listening for the birds. 

“Winter is the perfect time of year to look for owls,” Rosa adds. “There is nothing better than getting to see an owl up-close or [have one] skim over the top of your head flying in the darkness.” Free; 5 p.m.; 1775 Darby Creek Dr., Galloway 43119, 614/878-7106,

12/5/17: Holidays Family Night Hike, 
Wildwood Preserve 

Metroparks of the Toledo Area’s Georgian Colonial Wildwood Manor House has hosted a holiday-season event since 1975, but a family night hike at Wildwood Preserve is a new addition for 2017. 

“We are expecting up to 30,000 people,” says park naturalist Kelly Milewski. “It draws a lot of people in, and we are just trying to give them a little something extra.”

The roughly 1-mile hike is geared for all ages, so young and old alike can spend some time together in nature.

“It’s great to bring the whole family to the park and get to enjoy being outside,” Milewski says, “just having the opportunity to bundle up and take a little hike.” Free; 7–9 p.m., 5100 W. Central Ave., Toledo 43615, 419/407-9700,

12/9/17: Christmas in Ash Cave, 
Hocking Hills State Park

A roaring fire, old-fashioned games and Christmas carolers are just some of the holiday traditions that await visitors on this family hike to one of Hocking Hills’ most popular and breathtaking caves.

“The best way to describe it, I think, would be a holiday stroll,” explains Hocking Hills State Park naturalist Patrick Quackenbush.

Park at the trailhead along state Route 56 and follow the candles that lead guests to the festivities, which also include refreshments, visits with Santa Claus and the chance to decorate an outdoor Christmas tree.

“It is only about a quarter of a mile walk back,” Quackenbush adds, “and people can come and go as they want.” Free; 5–7 p.m.; trailhead located along state Route 56 in South Bloomingville 43152, 740/835-6165,