Monday, July 28, 2014

Cleveland Hiking Trails for All Interests, Abilities

Ask and most people will say they like hiking, and they want to do more of it. But when? And where? By the time you find hiking trails in your area, you might find you're out of time to hike! Time constraints affect us all and hiking is like everything else: if you're going to do it, you need to find the time. To help you plan a hike near you, select from the best local hiking trails to suit your interests. Get started with this list of trail treasures in Greater Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.
East of the river 
(The Cuyahoga River, that is - which has long been the unofficial dividing line between East- and West-siders.)
Hiking with kids?
During the summer months, hit the beach! Fairport Harbor Lakefront Beach Park, a Lake County Metroparks property, has family-friendly appeal thanks to its sandy beach, seasonal canoe/kayak rentals, and food concessions. Hikers can traverse an approximately 1.5 mile loop on a variety of surfaces - some sidewalk, some sand, some dirt trails - almost all of which offers lakefront views. Bonus: visit the Fairport Harbor lighthouse museum, and if your kids like ghost stories, be sure to ask about the cat.
For beautiful scenery:
Tucked inside Bedford Reservation, not far from the I-271/Forbes exit, hikers can gasp (and take great photos) at Ohio's "grandest canyon." Trail terrain varies, from paved all-purpose trails to mulch-covered bridle paths and quite a few stairs. Gorge Parkway Trail is more than 6 miles long, and hikers are rewarded with views of gorgeous Bridal Veil Falls, but there's good news for less-ambitious hikers: you can park right by Gorge Overlook and enjoy the view just a few steps from your car.
Wheelchair/stroller accessibility:
The Gorge Overlook at Bedford Reservation can be accessed by most sturdy strollers and some wheelchairs.
West of the river
Hiking with kids?
Every Cleveland family should be required to visit Rocky River Reservation, if only to get a look at the life-size fossil replica of the Terrible Fish, Dunkleosteous, displayed inside the Nature Center. Bonus: a short loop hike around the nature center offers great views of Rocky River, and decent aerobic exercise thanks to a 100-foot climb to the top of the stairs.
For beautiful scenery:
Rocky River is hard to beat, but for totally different terrain, visit Findley Lake State Park, which boasts 16 miles of rustic trails, including a fair portion of the Buckeye Trail. Like to walk and roll? Mountain bikes are permitted on some trails at the park.
Wheelchair/stroller accessibility:
Try an urban jaunt, rolling on sidewalks along Oberlin's historic streets, and find out why some call it 'the town that started the Civil War.'
Southern edge of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Hiking with kids?
Visit Park Place on State Route 303 in Peninsula. Yes, it's a gift shop, but it's more. As the park's newest visitor center, it's full of fun, educational activities. From there you can stroll along the Towpath (up to 40 miles, if your clan has the stamina) or just enjoy walking on the sidewalks through Peninsula's thriving restaurant/shopping district. Both the sidewalks and Towpath are accessible by most wheelchairs and strollers.
For beautiful scenery: 
It's hard to beat Bath Nature Preserve, located off North Cleveland-Massilion Road. The paved North Fork Trail zips north and south through the property, with half-a-dozen rustic footpaths leading hikers east and west through several environmental habitats. Beautiful seasonal wildflowers make great backdrops for family photos. (Please, remember: 'Take only pictures, leave only footprints.')
The bottom line:
Just go! Hiking is a fun, free, healthful activity that benefits almost everybody. Cleveland's trails offer points of interest for nature lovers, photographers, history buffs, architecture aficionados, just about everyone. Sure, you can buy expensive hiking boots and other gear, but you don't have to. In Cleveland, you can hike for many enjoyable miles in a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes. So, go! Take a hike, right here in Cleveland!
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This  article was originally published in 2011 in Yahoo! Voices, a now-defunct channel of the family of websites and other experiments. Surprisingly, my byline hasn't changed a lot since then. (I'm sure I haven't either.)  - - - - -  Diane Stresing is a commercial freelance writer and the author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Cleveland. She admits it's hard to find time for hiking and biking on Cleveland-area trails during her kids' soccer seasons. For the latest trail news and more pictures of Ohio's gorgeous scenery, visit the book's Facebook fan page

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