A pocket of paradise amid urban sprawl

There’s a pocket of paradise amid urban sprawl on the Northwest Side of Columbus, where you’ll find rare plants in a wooded gorge and an impressive, 25-foot-high waterfall.

Located at 4335 Hayden Run Rd., near the intersection of Hayden Run Road and Riverside Drive, Hayden Falls has been drawing nature lovers and romantics for decades. Part of Griggs Nature Preserve, the small park offers spectacular rock formations, diverse plant life and a surprising waterfall, hidden from the nearby busy roads and close-knit homes.

The falls are visible above from two overlooks and below from a wooden boardwalk. For a close look, park in the little lot along Hayden Run Road, then descend a cliff by a wooden stairway. Walk the 150-foot boardwalk, alongside a sycamore-lined stream, toward the falls.

The stairway and boardwalk were added in 2006 to protect visitors from getting hurt and to protect the fragile ecosystem.

Water levels vary throughout the year – from trickling to gushing. For best views, visit after a hard rain in spring or during a cold spell when snow and ice turn the area into a winter wonderland.

There are no benches or bathrooms about, and a sign reads, “No swimming, wading, fishing, climbing or rappelling.” The sign also warns visitors to remain on the boardwalk or be prosecuted, although it’s evident that people disobey the sign. On a recent visit, I observed a tiny snowman near the falls.

The park, open daily from 7 a.m.-8 p.m., is managed by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

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