2008 Popcorn 100 cyclists ride through wildlife area on St James Road. (photo courtesy of Harley Hoover)

Marion County's 12 Best Bicycling Roads
By Dan Sheridan
Originally Published in
Marion Star July 26, 2009

Each year I plan the route for the MGH Popcorn 100 Bicycle Tour. It's hard to go wrong, as Marion County is blessed with many country roads that are perfect for bicycling.

Just for fun, I
've listed my favorite Marion County bicycling roads. The list is in reverse order, ending with my top choice. Most of these roads are “chip and sealed” every few years, and may not be passable on a bicycle for a few months afterward, but are otherwise wonderful.

Lawrence Road: This L-shaped farm road south of Claridon travels from Marion-Edison Road to Whetstone River Road. I've been surprised by deer several times while riding on this narrow, peaceful road.

Powell Road, in northern Marion County: Cyclist Stephanie Langley recommends this quiet road as part of a scenic loop ride from Morral.

Cardington Road, just south of Whetstone River Road: This road dips into a wooded valley, curving across two beautiful bridges and passing a horse pasture.

Salem Road, in southeastern Marion County. This road is so sparsely travelled that it's almost like riding on a rail-trail. I especially enjoy the wooded stretch just south of St. Rt. 529.

Holland Road: This quiet country road, starting on Rt. 309 just west of Marion, will soon become a popular bicycling destination for locals and tourists. The much-awaited first mile of the Marion County Park District's rail-trail will begin 1.7 miles west of town at 2093 Holland Road.

Prospect-Upper Sandusky Rd (from Prospect to Green Camp): This road follows the Scioto River, passing peaceful cemeteries, an old quarry, a Christmas tree farm, and a pasture with some unusual animals. Riders can visit ice cream shops in both Prospect and Green Camp.

Larue-Green Camp Road: This quiet farm road follows the Scioto River for ten miles. Riders can detour into New Bloomington for ice cream on the way back.

Gast/River Road south of Prospect: Gast Road branches off Rt. 203 just south of Prospect, and becomes River Road at the Delaware County line. This road is a favorite with Columbus cyclists, who park near US Rt. 42 and follow the river to Prospect. Unfortunately, road condition will suffer for the next few years, as it's a designated route for trucks working on a new upground reservoir for Columbus.

East River Road (from St. Rt. 529 to Newmans-Cardington Rd.). The northern section of this 4 mile stretch is especially beautiful, as it gently rolls and curves through a wooded landscape along the Olentangy River. Moving south, the road passes the Richland Township Hall, an old one room school house.

Wyandot-Marion Rd (west of Prospect-Upper Sandusky Road) This quiet road follows the southern edge of the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, next to large ponds that serve as way stations for migrating waterfowl. I often see bald eagles while riding on this road, and sometimes stop to chat with birdwatchers from distant parts of Ohio.

Whetstone River Road: This scenic road follows the Olentangy River (known as the Whetstone until 1833) for 11 miles as it winds southwest from Caledonia on its way to Ohio Stadium. Terradise Nature Preserve, on both sides of the river at the northern end of this road, has beautiful forest and wildflowers. Moving south, riders enjoy the gently rolling terrain, light traffic, scenic views, and a smooth road surface.

St James Road: This four mile lane is a cyclist's delight. Riders who start at the north end cross a beautiful steel grate bridge (for safety, please walk across), then climb a short, steep rise. They pass a golf course, a bed and breakfast, and a beautifully restored Grange Hall that is now a private residence. Continuing south, the road gently dips and rises before winding through a wooded wildlife area. Riders can turn right onto Waldo-Fulton Road to cross a scenic bridge, and perhaps continue into Waldo for an ice cream cone or fried bologna sandwich.

These are some of my favorites. I'd love to hear what roads you enjoy the most

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2008 Popcorn 100 cyclists ride through wildlife area on St James Road. (photo courtesy of Harley Hoover)