As the Scioto enters Columbus, Ohio from the northwest, several small streams feed into the river. Two of these streams, Hayden Run and Indian Run, provide Columbus with an added benefit: picturesque waterfalls. These waterfalls go far toward destroying the myth that all of central Ohio is a flat and boring landscape. Both falls have their charms, and those who would like to explore them are in luck. The falls lie close together in northwest Columbus, making it easy to enjoy both in a single afternoon.
Hayden Falls is located in the northern reaches of the Griggs Reservoir Park, just south of Hayden Run Road on the west side of the Scioto River. From road level, visitors descend into the gorge that Hayden Run cut, reaching the bottom just at the mouth where the stream flows into the Scioto.
The falls are a few hundred feet upstream. Be sure to look around as you walk toward the falls. The cliff walls and greenery are beautiful, and the slow, shallow waters are often used by ducks and geese as hatching grounds. It is still a rare treat, but bald eagles have been spotted more and more frequently in this area, soaring-and probably fishing-along the Scioto River.
As you approach Hayden Falls, the traffic noise diminishes rapidly. It is replaced by the rushing waters tumbling approximately 25 feet to the gorge floor. The falls empty into a large pool that is ringed by a rocky shore. Several large, smooth rocks to the right of the path have long been favorite perches for those watching the falls or just enjoying nature around them.
Starting in 2005, the Columbus Parks Department has made some improvements to the area surrounding Hayden Falls. They have installed a large staircase down the gorge and a boardwalk over the area most susceptible to flooding. These improvements greatly improved the access to the falls. However, in 2009 they took these projects too far. The boardwalk, complete with chest-high railings, now extends from the bottom of the stairs all the way to the falls. This has cut off access for visitors to the falls to the natural world around them, and to the popular rock seats. Hayden Falls itself is still worth a visit, just do not expect to be as enthralled as you would have been a year or two ago.
Indian Run Falls is located just north of State Route 161 in Dublin. From 161, turn north onto Shawan Falls Drive, toward the post office, and the trailhead can be accessed from a parking lot immediately to the right. The falls themselves drop about 25 feet over the course of two cataracts and one large drop. The trailhead offers visitors an immediate choice: stay on the near side of the stream or cross over to the far side.
The trail on the near side of the falls follows Indian Run downstream to several observation decks that overlook several of the features of Indian Run Falls. The farthest of these decks overlooks the large drop in the falls. Along this trail there are also several picnic areas, perfect for a lunch in the woods or just a snack on your way.
The trail on the far side of the stream follows Indian Run past the falls, offering similar overlooks before continuing downstream. Views from this side of the stream are better for the cataracts, but not as good as the near side for views of the large drop fall. Near the bridge across the stream, a sharp-eyed visitor can spot the remains of a foundation that appears to have been part of a mill operating off the power of the stream. The trail ultimately comes out at Indian Run Cemetery, home to several restored gravestones from the early days of Dublin.
Both trails provide access points where visitors have worked their way down to the stream. These well-worn footpaths may be treacherous in points, especially during rainy or icy conditions when the falls may be most attractive.
If You Go
Both Hayden and Indian Run Falls are highly variable in terms of water-flow. Both are at their most impressive after several days of decent rainfall. However, do not overlook the beauty they provide with a backdrop of brilliant fall leaves or bright winter snow. Take care off the developed trails in these conditions, and even the boardwalk can be treacherous in icy conditions.
Because traffic on Hayden Run Road can be heavy at times, it makes sense to visit Indian Run Falls first. From I-270, take exit 17A, eastbound on 161. Turn left at the second light (onto Shawan Falls Drive) and right into the parking lot. To get to Hayden Falls from there, turn left onto Shawan Falls Road. Turn right (westbound) onto 161, then take a left at the next light (southbound on Frantz Road). From Frantz Road, turn left onto Hayden Run Road. The parking lot will be on your right, just before the bridge across the Scioto.