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7 Unique Outdoorsy Day Trips Within 3 Hours Of Columbus

Originally published 7/21/17. Updated 9/11/19.

Hiking in the Hocking Hills? Been there, done that, and I know I’m not the only one. So what’s next?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Hocking Hills and would gladly go for a trek through their forests anytime. But lately, I’ve been feeling the need to break out of my comfort zone. I need some new ideas for an outdoor adventure.

It’s easy to slip into a comfortable routine, but sometimes, you just have to spice life up a little bit. Ready to join me in trying something new? Here are 7 unique day trips within a 3-hour-drive of Columbus.

1. Explore an epic castle.

Distance: 89 miles

Loveland Castle is one of Ohio’s most awesome destinations. Construction on the castle began back in 1929 by a WWI veteran who was inspired while living in France and wanted to create a beautiful castle of his own. It costs $5 to get in and explore, but kiddos 5 and under are free, so it’s the perfect place to check out as a family! Of course, this isn’t the only castle in Ohio worthy of a road trip. Here are 8 more in case this one isn’t up your alley.

2. Hunt for the elusive Bigfoot.

Distance: 90 miles

If you’ve ever watched Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot, you know that Ohio’s blessed with sasquatch territory. Salt Fork State Park is reportedly full of these bipedal cryptids. The park hosts monthly night hikes to go out and find Bigfoot. Salt Fork is also where the annual Ohio Bigfoot Conference takes place.

Check the Salt Fork State park Facebook page for details about the next hike.

3. Take a hot air balloon ride over southwest Ohio.

Distance: 82 miles

Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Company has been lifting people and their spirits for over 35 years. They can float you across the countryside or you can take an aerial tour of Cincinnati or Dayton. A standard balloon ride with Gentle Breeze can take up to five passengers.

Flights start at $200, but sometimes there are sales and you can score an even better deal. It’s probably a good idea to find some friends that would want to join you and split the bill. If you’re ready to take to the sky, book your ride here.

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4.Go kayaking at East Harbor State Park.

Distance: 167 miles

Drive up to Marblehead, Ohio and rent a kayak from Lakevue Marina. This part of Lake Erie is beautiful year-round, but especially during the warmer months. It’s a good idea to bring sunscreen, a hat, and a bottle of water. And don’t forget to do some stretching and snap on a life jacket before launching your kayak.

$40 will get you two hours on a single-person kayak, but they’ve got all sorts of options depending on whether you want to sit inside or on top of the kayak, paddle or pedal, or go tandem or alone.

Head to Marblehead Galley when you’ve paddled the day away and worked up a killer appetite. They’re known for their perch and homemade desserts. The drive from the marina to Marblehead Galley will take you less than 10 minutes.

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5. Stroll through Cedar Bog.

Distance: 50 miles

Cedar Bog Nature Preserve is a protected wetland in Champaign County. It was left behind by the glaciers that carved through much of the state of Ohio. Boardwalks go through the wetland so you won’t need to pack your rain boots.

The bog is a beautiful place to visit year-round, but photographers, florists, and gardeners will all enjoy the beauty of the lady slipper orchid when it blooms in May.

To help with park upkeep and preservation, there is an entrance fee. Adults pay $5, kids 6 to 12 cost $4, but kids under 6 are free.

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6. Take a treetop tour at Holden Arboretum.

Distance: 165 miles

The canopy walk and emergent tower at Holden Arboretum will give you a whole new perspective on trees, literally. The Judith and Maynard H. Murch IV Canopy Walk takes you 65 feet into the air so you really are one with the trees. If you can make it to the Kalberer Emergent Tower before you discover a crippling fear of heights, it will take you up a total of 120 feet above the ground. You’ll be so high up you can see Lake Erie.

It will cost $12 for adults, $8 for kids ages 3 to 12, kids 2 and under are free. The canopy tour is an additional $4 for adults and $2 for youths. See admission details here.

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7. Spend an evening stargazing at John Glenn Astronomy Park.

Distance: 57 miles

On a clear night, visitors can have a one-of-a-kind experience at the brand new John Glenn Astronomy Park. In addition to weekly programming, the park is also open to stargazers who want to plan their own evening. Visitors can come to the park any time, as it’s open 24/7, so it’s perfect for all of you night owls out there.

There’s no admission fee and you don’t need tickets to visit. But when you’re attending a program, the park asks that you reserve a parking spot that way there is plenty of room for everyone! You can do that here.

Looking for other ideas? Visit one of Ohio’s ancient earthworks, explore the caves and caverns of our state, enjoy the breathtaking sights of Ohio’s waterfalls, go glamping, or camping!

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