I could hike a trail 10 times in the summer, come back in the cold months and get lost. That's the beauty of winter: Like a magician pulling away his cape to reveal a surprise, the forest has shed its leafy cover to display a hidden world beneath.

I could hike a trail 10 times in the summer, come back in the cold months and get lost. That's the beauty of winter: Like a magician pulling away his cape to reveal a surprise, the forest has shed its leafy cover to display a hidden world beneath.

It might seem scarier to trek through cold woods, but the Metro Parks has your back with its annual Winter Hike Series. Each weekend through Feb. 27, naturalists will lead hikes and offer refreshments at a different park.

Here are my three favorite to hit in snow season.

Easy

Park: Slate Run

Date: 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20

Location: Carroll

Hikes: 2 or 4.5 miles

In short: The historical farm grabs most of the attention, but I prefer the diverse habitat to the north and west. The Five Oaks Trail, a must, takes you to dense woods and delightfully babbling brooks, while the Kokomo Wetlands Trail winds around ponds and sturdy wooden boardwalks.

Winter wonder: The uncovered contours of Slate Run Creek

Fun fact: There's no exposed slate in Ohio, making the name Slate Run a misnomer. The gray rock lining the creek beds is actually shale, slate's softer and more brittle cousin. It was misidentified by the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers who settled the land in the 1800s.

Intermediate

Park: Chestnut Ridge

Date: 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 31

Location: Carroll

Hikes: 1.4 or 2 miles

In short: A fly-over park for most in Columbus, this acreage is serene and secretive. The namesake ridge rises 150 feet above the countryside, which makes the one-mile Ridge Trail a decent feat. Just before sundown, be sure you're walking the elevated Meadows Trail. It's quite lovely.

Winter wonder: Clear views of the countryside from atop the ridge

Fun fact: People have long lived on Chestnut Ridge, which is considered the first ridge in the foothills of the Appalachians. Trails show remnants of homesteads, orchards and a sandstone quarry. Also, author David Rains Wallace immortalized the ridge in Idle Weeds: The Life of an Ohio Sandstone Ridge.

Difficult

Park: Clear Creek

Date: 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 23

Location: Rockbridge

Hikes: 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 miles

In short: Already the most rugged and challenging Metro Park, Clear Creek might be the prettiest in winter, too. The mile-long Lake Trail leads to silent Lake Ramona, and the more adventurous should try one of the awesome loops starting from the Creekside Meadows Picnic Area.

Winter wonder: Crossing tiny bridges beneath a tunnel of snow-capped trees

Fun fact: Since the 1900s, the valley was recognized for its ecological and geological importance. Scientists have studied everything from erosion to the Allegheny woodrat. If you look closely, you can see cabins and observation towers left behind.

Take a Hike

Here's the full schedule for this year's Winter Hike Series.

Blacklick Woods

10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 2

2 or 4 miles

Sharon Woods

10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9

1.5 or 3.5 miles

Scioto Audubon

10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16

2 miles

Prairie Oaks

2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17

1, 3 or 5 miles

Clear Creek

10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 23

1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 miles

Inniswood

2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24

2 miles

Three Creeks

10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 30

1, 3 or 5.6 miles

Chestnut Ridge

10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 31

1.4 or 2 miles

Blendon Woods

10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6

2, 4 or 6 miles

Highbanks

10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 13

2.5 or 5 miles

Glacier Ridge

2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14

2 miles

Slate Run

10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20

2 or 4.5 miles

Battelle Darby Creek

10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27

2, 4 or 6 miles