Ohio’s most beautiful season is autumn (at least in my humble opinion). The trees are beautiful reds, greens, yellows and oranges. There are bonfires and jack-o-lanterns and flickering candlelight. The air is crisp and cool, just right for a light jacket. There are pumpkin rolls and apple cider and it’s soup season again. There’s very little about autumn in the Buckeye State that I don’t absolutely love.
This causes me to hit the internet, looking for new activities to get me outside in the fall. Marina and I discovered that Alley Park in Lancaster had an annual pumpkin hike and most importantly that we were both available that day!
Alley Park Lancaster
Charles Alley Park is located in Lancaster and is part of the Lancaster Parks and Recreation Department. It’s located at 2805 Old Logan Road and is the largest park in the system at 350 acres.
The park has several hiking trails, most rated as moderate. The longest trail in the park is the Alley Trail at 2 1/4 miles. Additionally, the park has a lake available for fishing.
There’s a nature center on the property that is fairly large. It’s available for rental and has a nice view of the lake. It is also used to host nature programs and special events.
Alley Park Pumpkin Hike
I was sure this Pumpkin Hike was going to be more of a pumpkin walk, so I persuaded my husband to go. He’s been struggling with a bad knee, but I imagined this to be a fairly short walk, probably, I thought, even on a paved trail.
Parking was across the road from the park entrance and there were attendants directing the traffic. It was a good thing, as this event was packed!
At first, my assessment of the event checked out. We walked along a paved path and there were scenes set up on either side as well as hundreds of carved pumpkins. I felt pretty good about dragging him along.
That’s what I was thinking right before the trail, no longer paved, headed us uphill and through the woods. We followed the path in the dark, pumpkins glowing on either side of the trail for about a mile. It was never scary as there were fellow hikers all around, but you did have to be cautious of your footing. The trail wound up and down, then long the backside of the lake to complete the loop.
The hike was moderate and there were many children making the hike. There were a few people with strollers and they were struggling along the trail with rocks and tree roots. If you have small children who can’t yet walk, I would recommend a sling or backpack style carrier instead of a stroller.
Alley Park Pumpkin Carving
The pumpkins along the trail were fantastic and many were intricately detailed. Where did they come from? Well, on the morning of the Pumpkin Hike each year, Alley Park hosts volunteer pumpkin carvers in the morning. For three hours troops of volunteers hollow out and carve hundreds of pumpkins for the hike. If you’d like to volunteer, bring your own tools and get ready to carve! Just make sure you check the website ahead of time for next year’s dates.
Bonfires in the Park
If you need a little snack before the hike, or you want to skip the hike all together, Alley Park offers bonfires and concession trailers within the park. There were several bonfires and it felt good warming up a bit before we headed into the woods.
You can bring your own hot dogs and marshmallows and roast them over the fires there. Just be sure to clean up your trash afterwards! If you don’t want to pack in your own food, they do have concession trailers nearby.
Alley Park Christmas
If you’re looking for other events at Alley Park, you may consider visiting during their upcoming Santa in the Park program. There are thousands of lights strung up through the park. They look beautiful reflecting off the lake! There are bonfires and concessions and you can crowd around the windows of the Nature Center to see Santa’s workshop. And, like the Pumpkin Hike, this event is completely free!
When the girls were small we did the Santa in the Park program one year. It was delightfully different from seeing Santa in the mall and they really enjoyed it. Be sure, though, to bundle up!
This year’s Santa in the Park is scheduled for December 7, 8, and 9. Be sure to check the web site ahead of time for details about the event.
There are so many things to do in the fall in Ohio! You can take a hike and see autumns beautiful colors. Consider vising Ash Cave, which is a fairly easy hike, or for a more challenging adventure, visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can visit your favorite pumpkin patch or check out some of Ohio’s rumored haunted destinations like the Moonville Tunnel.
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