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When many of the Metro Parks were built, they existed in a netherworld -- what Downtown workers might once have considered "out there." Today, sprawl has closed the gaps between the urban core and the exurbs, surrounding many parks with development on all sides.

One of those parks is Sharon Woods, which has clung to its natural beauty in surprising ways. Even with its Westerville locale, the green space is a refuge with beautiful prairies, streams and, of course, woods.

Sharon Woods Metro Park 6911 Cleveland Ave., Westerville 614-891-0700 Homepage

View larger image From the Apple Ridge Picnic Area, take the Spring Creek Trail, one of the best trails in the county park system. It starts off in familiar fashion -- circling a parking lot, crossing a road -- then gets really good.

View larger image As soon as you hit the wooded area, you'll start to see wildflowers of all kinds -- oxeye daisies, asters, coneflowers and many others.

View larger image Sharon Woods isn't know for elevation change, so this small dip near a small pond is about as rough as it gets. There's a tiny bit of huffing on the other side, but nothing too bad.

View larger image The trail crosses Spring Creek twice, and both are points to stop and stare into the distance. The flow slows in the summer, so bring your bug spray.

View larger image After some decent forest scenery, you'll pop into a giant, sprawling field flush with flowers, berries, birdhouses and dense prairie growth. You could spend weeks trying to identify everything crowded together beneath the sun and big sky that explodes over the woods.

View larger image Here, the lovely prairie rose lines part of a connector that leads to the Edward S. Thomas Trail. Other more precious finds includes the Turks cap lily, which can be found closer to the woods.

View larger image A shadier section of the connector trail offers a respite from the sun that beats down onto the open prairie. Even if it's hot, be sure to do some exploring in the open country.

View larger image Daisies line much of the field trails, smiling into the sunshine.