Fall in the Forest: Northeastern Ohio Hiking Hot Spots
Fall is one of the most breathtaking times of year in Northeastern Ohio. While the lush landscape is blanketed in green throughout the spring and summer months, as the cold weather creeps in, bright hues of yellow, orange and red transform the foliage into a rainbow of colors. A combination of factors determine the colors of the leaves, bringing excitement into the fall season. Each year the leaves change differently, surprising their spectators with a unique collage of colors.
This hub is a reflection of the many colors of fall documented throughout Northeastern Ohio in September and October of 2014. The aim is to shed light on some of the best places to experience the fall season, specifically in Northeastern Ohio. As a frequent hiker of the area, I have watched the leaves turn from bright green to an array of reds and yellows, both on main roads and in the untouched woods. In this hub I will share some of the beautiful places to see the fall landscape where I grew up, an area with hidden gems that go undiscovered. Pictures give an accurate idea of what these places look like, but cannot capture the crisp breeze, warm sun and fresh fall air. For this reason, I encourage you to get out there and experience this short lived season while it lasts! I hope you find beauty and wonder in Mother Nature's creations, especially during this magical time of year.
1. Mosquito Lake State Park
Close to my home, and right off of Route 305 heading into Cortland is Mosquito Lake State Park. Mosquito Lake is a 7,850 acre managed reservior with a 600 foot beach and over 15 miles of hiking trails. The park includes 2,483 acres of protected woodlands and marshes. There are 218 campsites with electricity and water, and 16 non-electric sites. Countless picnicking sites are scattered throughout the park as well as a dog park and disc golf course. Mosquito is an easily accessible, quiet, and beautiful location to witness the changing of the seasons.
Mosquito Lake State Park
Where To Go
One of the best ways to see the lake is to hike along one of the two designated trails, either the West Side Trail or the East Side Trail. The West Side Trail functions as a hiking, snowmobiling and bridle trail whereas the East Side Trail is hiking and snowmobiling alone.
I prefer the East Side Trail, or "Turkey Run," located where Main Street dead ends into the designated parking lot. The trailhead for Turkey Run is off to the right of the parking lot when you face the lake, at the corner of the cemetery. The trail expands along the lake for 2.3 miles through forest, marsh and meadow land. There are several spots along the trail that offer a secluded clearing perfect for admiring the lake and surrounding trees and wildlife. The trail passes two ponds and many bird houses that get frequent use. While the trail itself is in need of some maintenance, it is well mapped out and easy to follow. If you begin at the trailhead at the bottom of Main Street, the trail will end to the north on Route 46.
If you don't plan on leaving the pavement but still want to see some great views, there are several parking lots surrounding the lake that offer easy access to the lake. One of these locations is the Dog Park shown on the map above. This is also the location of the beach, the disc golf course, several docks, and a popular spot for fishing. Here you can wander along the beach, through the woods of the disc golf course, or along the pavement.
For more views of the lake and surrounding foliage, visit:
- Imagination Station Park and Playground--3372 Warren Meadville Rd, Cortland, OH 44410
- Lakeview Recreation Area-- off 305
- Causeway-- 2233 Greenville Rd, Cortland, OH 4441
Map of Mosquito Lake Trails
2. Mill Creek Park
Mill Creek is a beautiful, well-kept and popular park tucked away in the middle of Youngstown, Ohio. The bustling industrial city is neither present nor missed in the park where visitors can escape the city to hike along trails and enjoy the many lakes and waterfalls that run throughout. The park covers around 4400 acres, including 20 miles of drivable roads and 15 miles of foot trails. Mill Creek is one of the largest metropolitan-owned parks that exists inside city limits. First time visitors will be shocked to find that they are driving through a city one moment and through a lavish, secluded park the next.
Where To Go
While the park can be enjoyed from the inside of a car, I recommend heading out on foot to enjoy the 12 acre Fellows Riverside Gardens and surrounding trails. Visitors can enjoy a snack in the Garden Cafe and walk through the modern, state of the art Visitor Center. Make sure to walk up the viewing tower and take in the expansive, birds eye view of the park.
Mill Creek Park can take days to explore, so if you are trying to see as much as possible in a short amount of time, I recommend driving through the park. There are many parking lots and pull-offs throughout the park where visitors can walk around, take pictures, and explore the surrounding area. Mill Creek is a definite must-see if you are visiting the greater Youngstown area, especially in the fall. Here are some hot spots you don't want to miss if you find yourself in the park, listed from north to south:
- Fellow's Riverside Gardens
- Davis Education and Visitor Center
- Lake Glacier-- Old Log Cabin & Ice House Dam
- Lily Pond-- Wall Garden
- Ford Nature Education Center
- Lake Cohasset
- Lanterman's Mill and Covered Bridge
- Lake Newport
3. Cleveland Metroparks
With over 21,000 acres to explore, Cleveland Metroparks is a historic, expansive system of several reservations that wind around the city of Cleveland. In its enormity, the Metroparks include 19 reservations, including the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and 8 golf courses. The parks are patrolled by the Ranger Department, an excellent resource for guided tours throughout the parks and park history information. One of the most visited attractions in the state of Ohio, Cleveland Metroparks is another must-see during any season.
Where To Go
One of the biggest reservations in the park covering 2,206 acres, Bedford Reservation is a hilly, wooded section of the park along Tinker's Creek. This location provides a breathtaking view of Tinker's Gorge, land that was nearly turned into a lake. The protected land is covered by massive trees that are nearly 200 years old, and peaceful trails along Tinker's Creek, a National Natural Landmark.
I recommend driving from Tinker's Gorge to Bridal Veil Falls and hiking at least half a mile of the trial to view the waterfalls. At this location, the Buckeye Trail, a 1,444 mile hiking trail that loops around Ohio passes through the park. You will find this trail in great shape, well-travelled, and a beautiful portal into the untouched forest.
4. West Branch State Park
With a 2,650 acre man-made reservoir at its center, West Branch State Park covers 5,379 acres of woodlands and meadows in Ravenna, Ohio. It is located on the west branch of the Mahoning River, giving it its name. The land is predominantly boggy wetlands created by glaciers, with a unique beech-maple forest and variety of plant and animal life. There are 14 miles of trails that pass through the park, including a section of the Buckeye Trail. West Branch is located right off of Interstate 76 and easily accessible from Route 5 (Ravenna-Warren Rd). In between Youngstown and Cleveland, West Branch is a great intermittent visit that won't disappoint.
Where To Go
My favorite trails provide frequent views of the lake, steep inclines throughout the woods, and a variety of different types of trees that fill the forest with bright colors during the fall. Wild Black Cherry Trail and Club Moss Trail veer in two different directions from the same starting point, covering 1.8 miles of the forest. Though the trail doesn't cover much distance, it provides an expansive view of the forest and many different lookout points over the lake. I would classify the trails as moderate because of the unsure footing and short but steep inclines that weave through the woods. At times the trail edges a precipice that, depending on the water level, drops off into the lake about ten feet below. The Wild Black Cherry Trail will loop back to the trailhead where you can then hike the Club Moss Trail or vice versa.
The two trails are located across the street from the park office off Esworthy Rd.
Overview: Northeastern Ohio Hiking Hot Spots
Here is an overview of the sites discussed in this hub, aimed at casting light on some of the less common but equally worthy parks in Northeastern Ohio specifically. I encourage everyone to get out there and check a few of these off your list. In order to see the true beauty in Northeastern Ohio, you have to work a little bit to find it. Most of these locations are easily accessible, though you wouldn't necessarily stumble across them without a some foresight. As a Northeastern Ohio native, I hope others can find the same beauty in the neck of the woods where I grew up. Enjoy!
1. Mosquito Lake State Park --Turkey Run Trail
2. Mill Creek Park-- Fellows Riverside Gardens
3. Cleveland Metroparks, Bedford Reservation, Tinker's Creek Gorge & Bridal Veil Falls
4. West Branch State Park-- Wild Black Cherry & Club Moss Trails
5. Nelson Ledges
6. Mohican-Memorial State Forest
Click for more information on Mohican:
- Backpacking at Mohican-Memorial State Forest
Insider tips on where to hike for a short day trip and a longer over-nighter, Park trail vs. Forest trail comparison, details on park and pack campsites, and another reason to visit Central Ohio!