Have you ever wished you could try out your backcountry hiking gear before you go? Do you wish you could sleep under the stars in a familiar place and see where your hiking equipment lacks before you are high in the mountains and unfamiliar with the environment? Have you wondered what trying out your gear looks like while NOT in your own backyard? Then you need to check out Scioto Grove Metro Park in Grove City, which is the place for average hikers to try out their backcountry gear.

Scioto Grove Metro Parks has five backcountry practice locations. These sites were created with help from REI with the central Ohioan in mind. Sites are available to use every other weekend, and you have to book in advance to reserve a site.  Backpacking registration opens in early Spring, and reservations will be for every other weekend until the end of October. Backpacking is free, and reservations can be made using sign-up genius.

Pro-tip: Stop in at the Grove City Guide + Gear store before heading into the woods to learn more about what there is to do in the area and grab a hammock to throw up at your tent site in the park. 


Our family went to Scioto Grove for an overnight backpack practice and stayed at site 1. Parking for your overnights is at the North Canoe Access area, and we were able to find that easily with the sign-off of the main road. When you arrive, you call the ranger on duty, and they meet you there to get you checked in. The process was very efficient, and we enjoyed talking with Ranger Draves before we began our hike to our site.

As we familiarized ourselves with our location and the park map, we found the primitive but immaculate bathrooms in the Hickory area within a short walking distance.  These are very nice, and I was personally glad they were so close to site 1.

Backcountry Site 1

The hike to site 1 is straightforward and is about a 1/2 mile from the parking lot. This site is tucked into a wooded area and right off the REI River Trail as you enter the Hickory section of the park. Mosquitoes were quick to welcome us as we began to set up, and the family was glad I had remembered the bug spray.

What is Provided at the Sites:

Site 1 and all the backpacking sites have two raised platforms for your equipment, a fire ring, two benches, and firewood. The firewood is provided for you from the metro park! BONUS!

Pro-tip: Emerald Ash Borer are invasive species that have come to Ohio and destroyed the Ash trees. Columbus Metro Parks are doing their part to keep this destructive species at bay by providing locally sourced firewood. 


Site 1 is the closest site to potable water, but it is a bit of a walk to get it. To get more water, you will need to pack in what you want to use or hike out to the Arrowhead parking area, where water and bathrooms are located. Please note that this is not a short walk, and it is at least a mile round trip from site 1. I packed in the water we needed and had plenty for the cooking and drinking that we had planned. If you plan ahead for this site, you won’t have any problems. 

If you want to practice using your water filtration systems, the Scioto River is a short walking distance from site 1. Take your system and work on it there on the river bank to see how to use it.

Pack In and Pack Out and Leave No Trace

Scioto Grove is a pack-in and pack-out camping area. What you take in, you must pack out. It is an excellent way to help you and your family learn the “leave no trace” ideology. We found if you pack in a white kitchen-style trash bag and put everything in there, you can easily pack out your trash to a receptacle. Our family likes to leave the sites cleaner than how we found them and hope you will adopt the practice.


Scioto Grove is not your average metro park. It has the backpacker in mind but also has much to offer to others. It has a 620-acre park along the Scioto River with mature forests and scenic bluffs, where you can enjoy the beauty of nature. It features more than seven miles of trails, two picnic areas with shelters, tables, grills, a kids’ play area, and several overlook decks.

It is a beautiful destination for canoeists, kayakers, anglers, and people wanting to see waterfowl and other wildlife. Scioto Grove recently added a new rentable facility called, The Grove, with beautiful views for its visitors.

Things to do at Scioto Grove Metro Park:

  • Archery
  • Backpacking
  • Biking
  • Canoeing/Kayaking
  • Disc Golf
  • Fishing
  • Pets
  • Picnicking
  • Sledding

Hours and Info

6:30 am to 10 pm

Phone: (614) 949-1078

Backpacking reservations: reservations@metroparks.net

Scioto Grove Metro Park Location

5172 Jackson Pike

Grove City, OH 43123

We had a wonderful evening at our site as a family. The gear was thoroughly checked out, the campfire lit and enjoyed, and a quick game of Roll For It was played. As with all weekend activities, it came to an end all too quickly, and we had to get out of the woods and back to “real life.” I encourage your family to head out to Scioto Grove and check out all it offers. 

Here are a few tips to remember about the backcountry camping:

  • Overnight parking area for backcountry campers only.
  • Two tents per pad and hammocks must be hung on the provided posts.
  • Do not bring firewood; it is provided.
  • Alcohol is prohibited within the park.
  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Potable water is at the Arrowhead picnic area at the drinking fountains.