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Layne Gibbons

APR 18, 2019

With miles and miles of wooded areas and waterlife, Cleveland’s trails are calling our name.

Come on – hiking is basically just walking anyway, except you’re in nature with boots on and granola in your pockets. Plus, hiking is a free. So, what are you waiting for?

Step away from the TV, leave Pokémon Go behind, and get outside to hike these 16 hiking trails!

Hike more and worry less along the trails of Black River Reservation, the star of the show of Lorain County Metroparks! Just 35 minutes south of the city, here’s your chance to engulf yourself in nature’s simplistic beauty. Find your way towards the Bridgeway Trail where you can run, walk, hike, or scooter across the 1,000-ft. bridge with views of the river. Then, take a breather at some historic resting spots before hitting the trails again.

Next time you have an open day, hop in the car and go adventure seeking at Ledges Hiking Trail inside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can start by the Happy Days Lodge (where you will eventually loop back to) and follow the 2.7-mile path towards the 50-ft. deep Ice Box Cave (the chilly temperatures will surely cool you down!) Okay, you can bring your phone…but only for the flashlight and camera function for the caverns and ledge views.

It’s kind of crazy to imagine 390 acres of lush greenery and thousand-year-old rocks just 25 minutes outside of hectic downtown. But it’s real – get the fresh air you need while hiking along Chapin Forest Reservation of the Lake Metroparks. Pass by the Historic Standard Quarry (quartz pebbles in sandstone) while embarking on the 6-mile trail. Come back during the winter for some snowshoeing and cross country skiing! (Rental equipment supplied)

Here’s your fun fact of the day: Cuyahoga Valley National Park has over 240 species of documented birds and has been named an Important Bird Area. Hear that? Important. Bird. Area. Observe these different species while discovering new paths around Beaver Marsh Boardwalk, an area that runs along the Erie Canal. Aside from the birds (which are important), keep an eye out for waterlife (like turtles and beavers) while the croaking frogs create the ultimate hiking soundtrack.

The Huntington Reservation Trail, right off the shores of Lake Erie and west of downtown is one of Cleveland’s greats. Where many people hit up Huntington Beach in the summer months, they can also hit the trails next to the beach. Here, there are beautiful views of botanicals, the lake, and if you look hard, you can even see Cleveland’s skyline. Bring the whole fam for an evening on the beach after a long day exploring the woods.

Hiking makes us think of the mountains. But the Scenic Park Loop Trail of the Cleveland Metroparks is literally just flat. Call it hiking for beginners. This loop along the river is just under a mile with plenty of shaded areas. As you work your way around the loop, you’ll see plenty of people kayaking and paddle boarding off into Lake Erie. And hey, if you need to cool off from your hike, join others by renting a kayak or paddleboard from 41 North.

In the 19th century, a man named Richard Rowe settled inside this rock shelter in what is now Hocking Hills State Park. It is believed that this quiet (and now quite old) man is buried beneath the caved area which is now called Old Man’s Cave…thus the name. This historic one-of-a-kind cave is practically a mile long and decorated with waterfalls, ledges, trails, and rock bridges. Uncover the beauty of this area while getting a history lesson at the same time.

Take a trip towards Akron and Summit Metroparks to hike through the Gorge! This trail is – shall we say – gorge-ous? Plus, it’s a mean hike – ranked a #3 (out of 3) by the park’s difficulty rating.  So if you’re ready for a challenge and a good sweat – take on the gorge! Nevertheless, there are also wooded trails along the aged rock that are wheelchair and stroller accessible, making the Gorge a trail for hikers of all kinds!

This next trail is pretty self-explanatory, folks. The massive rocks and boulders that were once covered by water thousands of years ago has salt residue embedded within them. And because it’s a mineral many tastebuds appreciate, deer travel along the 3.9-mile trail to get a lick of these rocks (Want a taste? Knock yourself out.) The overhang of sandstone make it the perfect rugged hiking stop in every season. Plus, you might get lucky enough to see these herbivores in action!

We learn to appreciate the natural beauty that the Cleveland area presents us, like our own Lake Erie. And now you can see it in a whole new way along the paths of Lake Erie Bluffs. There are 600-acres of open spaces for hiking, fishing, and beach bumming. Spend the entire day discovering new views and waterbodies on the bluffs to see the Lake like you’ve never seen it before. Hiking with a view? You got it.

The Mentor Marsh Nature Center is a prime area for hikes and wildlife observatories (not to mention an area to rent binoculars to truly see those birds up close!). Get out and uncover this 700-acre marsh land owned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Nelson Ledges Quarry Park is a 50-minute ride southeast of downtown. It’s one of the only parks that is open 24/7 with 250 acres of ledges and meadows to hike through. That, and they’re packin’ 400 campsites, swimming areas, snorkeling activities, and so much more. With so many trails and woods to get through, staying the weekend could be the best option for you, your friends, and hey, why not a family reunion?

The “towpath” gets a lot of chatter around Cleveland. But what is it? We know! It’s an 85-mile route that travels along the Ohio & Erie Canal with the help of the Cuyahoga River. And hiking along the Towpath Trail will give you the opportunity to see plenty of landmarks, streams, bridges, and, of course, beautiful woodlands.

Thanks to Walter C. Best’s (former sand corporation owner) love of the outdoors and waterlife, his family donated the lake to the Geauga Park District in the late 60s and it has been on our hiking list ever since (well, since we were old enough to hike). The 1.5-mile trail is great for you, kids, and gram and gramps; it’s completely wheelchair, stroller, and cane accessible. The hiking trail surrounds the water where you will find fishing platforms, wildlife observation areas, and a beautiful view of the prairies and water.

Four hiking trails, a dog park, fishing, disk golf – is there anything this park doesn’t have? Crowds…and that’s a good thing. Portage Lakes State Park can be found in Akron and has everything for an outdoor day of fun! There are over 8-miles of trails to explore before cooling off in Turkeyfoot or Rex Lake. And if that’s not enough, you can take the boat out on the water, have a picnic and sweat it out playing some volleyball before hiking back to your starting point.

If you can picture this, thousands of years ago the cliffs and ledges that surround this park were once the beaches of Lake Erie. My, my, things have changed! Check out modern day Princess Ledges Nature Preserve, a perfect wooded area that is rarely disrupted in order to protect the wildlife and greenery. The preserve is over 1,000 feet long with rows of wildflowers and dirt trails. And come back here in the winter to see the icicles hanging from numerous ledges (but not from directly below them.)