Sunny days, cooler nights and a bit of rain have ignited Ohio's fall color season, which state forestry experts believe should be quite good through October.

Sunny days, cooler nights and a bit of rain have ignited Ohioís fall color season, which state forestry experts believe should be quite good through October.

If changing leaves are your excuse to take an impromptu trip this weekend, head to the hilly forests, rolling farmland and beautiful rivers of North-Central Ohio.

Because Mohican State Park is so massive (and impressive in other ways), start there with a 90-minute drive northeast from Columbus. The park map can appear a bit like a plate of spaghetti, so hit the dam at the southeastern corner of Pleasant Hill Lake. Park, then catch the breath stolen by a sprawling aerial view into Clear Fork Gorge.

In this riparian valley, hemlocks and pines provide an evergreen counterpoint to hardwoods dressed in cloaks of scarlet, russet, ochre and brown.

Head down the dam to the Pleasant Hill Trail, which tracks the river and ends at a covered bridge. On your way back, take the Lyons Falls Trail into the hills and past two stellar rock formations with seasonal waterfalls.

Elsewhere in the park, mountain bikers will find a rugged, demanding 24.5-mile loop, and paddlers can put into the lake from a small marina on its northern shore. An 80-foot fire tower south of the river provides a unique vantage of the treetops.

Provided you donít blow your entire day there, head back south to Mt. Gilead State Park, a fairly forgotten little pearl just west of I-71. Circle the water on the Lakeside Trail and explore several short loops that wander into higher ground.

An extra dose of homespun fun comes during the parkís Apple Butter Festival, running Friday-Saturday, Oct. 7-8. If youíve got time, toss in a line from the banks of the lake for good chances at bass and panfish.

Even closer to home sits Highbanks Metro Park, among the best for leaves in our county system. See the towering, riverside sycamores and their elegant yellow hues from either the 2.3-mile Overlook Trail or the 0.6-mile Scenic River Trail.