Cleveland Metroparks Inaugural Trail Challenge!

Blog Date
Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

2017 Trail Challenge

The Cleveland Metroparks (@CleveMetroparks) introduced their new Trail Challenge on National Trails Day, June 3, 2017!! It was very appropriate, since the Trail Challenge reflects the spirit of National Trails Day by encouraging people to enjoy the great outdoors and to explore trails in the Cleveland Metroparks.

If you are not familiar with National Trails Day, see the information on the American Hiking Society (@AmericanHiking - #NationalTrailsDay) website. Here is the PDF of the 2017 National Trails Day Report.

National Trails Day Sponsors & Partners
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I actually missed the announcement of the new Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge, since I was celebrating National Trails Day by taking my second-longest backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail, in southern Virginia (@AT_Conservancy). Fortunately, on July 18th, I saw Derek Meister's (@agent3012) tweet about the 2017 #TrailChallenge.

Former Cuyahoga Challenge & Famous Hiking Spree

I completed the annual Cuyahoga Challenge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (@CVNPNPS - @forcvnp) many times, and had read about the famous Summit Metro Parks (@Metro_Parks) Fall Hiking Spree in the Akron area, so I was interested in learning what the Cleveland Metroparks had planned for their inaugural Trail Challenge.

After completing it so many years, I continue to be very disappointed that the Cuyahoga Challenge was discontinued by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 2012. I have talked to both Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park employees about getting it restarted. The Cuyahoga Challenge was an excellent program that had me hiking many trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that I would not have visited otherwise.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park's 2011 Cuyahoga Challenge
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Summit Metro Parks' "annual Fall Hiking Spree is the largest and longest-running event of its kind in the nation." If you live in the Akron area, I recommend you visit the Summit Metro Parks website to learn more about both their Fall Hiking Spree (which has been running for 54 years), and their Spree For All, which celebrated its 14th year this past summer.

Summit Metro Parks' annual Fall Hiking Spree
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Summit Metro Parks' annual Fall Hiking Spree hiking staff with award shields
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Cleveland Metroparks' 2017 Trail Challenge Information

The 2017 Trail Challenge is presented by Cigna Health Insurance (@Cigna). Upon completion of the Trail Challenge, Wayside Furniture (@Wayside_Akron) provides a free picnic lunch voucher for their Wayside Furniture Cafe. Thank you to these Trail Challenge sponsors for kicking off this new program which encourages exploring the Cleveland Metroparks.

2017 Trail Challenge presented by Cigna
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Here are my first @sos_jr tweets and retweets as I learned about the Cleveland Metroparks' 2017 Trail Challenge.

In this blog post, I will share information about my journey on the 10 required trails (and beyond!!), for the 2017 Trail Challenge through:

  • My @sos_jr tweets/retweets

  • My comments about what I observed

  • Information about the parks featured in this first Trail Challenge.

2017 Trail Challenge Trail List
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Here is a PDF of the 2017 Trail Challenge brochure
with all the information about the program:
Trail Challenge Brochure


Trail #1) Saturday, July 29, 2017 - Bedford Reservation

Bedford Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Egbert Picnic Shelter

  • 1-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Take the Volunteer Spirit Trail on this purpose built singletrack best experienced by mountain bike.

As a person who has been following the white blazes backpacking on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's (@AT_Conservancy) Appalachian Trail since the age of 13, it always feel strange to be on the Cleveland Metroparks' Volunteer Spirit Trail, which is also marked with white blazes. I am conditioned to think that a white blaze means that I am walking either toward Maine or Georgia!

In addtion to hiking one of the listed trails for the 2017 Trail Challenge, my wife, my son, and I also visited a different section of the Bedford Reservation, which I had only learned about a year ago, on March 13, 2016. I highly recommend Viaduct Park, which was created in partnership with the City of Bedford (@CityofBedford).

Here are some other tweets about the 2017 Trail Challenge, that I saw in early August:


Trails #2 & #3) Saturday, August 5, 2017 - Garfield Park Reservation

Garfield Park Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Garfield Park Center

  • 1.2-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Enjoy the beautiful stone work along the Iron Springs Loop.
  • 2-mile trail, paved, rating: moderate
    Park at the Center and cross the entrance road and enjoy the all-purpose trail around the park – it makes for a challenging loop on a bike!

My wife, Julie, joined me in exploring the Garfield Park Reservation. Like the the former Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Cuyahoga Challenge, the incredible value of the Cleveland Metroparks' Trail Challenge is that it gets us to explore and learn about parks we have never visited. As you can see in the photos I shared on Twitter, the Garfield Park Reservation is a real gem and has a very interesting history.

While in Garfield Park Reservation, we learned that Cuyahoga County’s tallest waterfall (48 feet) -- Mill Creek Falls -- was in the park. It is great that that the Cleveland Metroparks is managing this resource.


Trails #4 & #5) Sunday, August 6, 2017 - Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation

Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at CanalWay Center

  • 2-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Ride or hike the mountain bike trail for this quick loop bringing you back to where you started.
  • 8-mile trail, paved, rating: strenuous
    Start to the left of the Center heading down the hill towards the canal. Turn left and head south, on the path along the canal down to Rockside Road. Enjoy the historical and informational kiosks along the way.

Note that, before you go to the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation mountain biking trail, you need to read the park's Mountain Biking web page. While the Trail Challenge lists two easy miles, a more accurate description appears on the Mountain Biking web page: "...a short loop of about 1/2 mile for beginners with minimal mountain biking skills and a 1 ½ mile long loop with some steep terrain for the more experienced intermediate rider..." I enjoyed the adventure of the longer loop with its steep route, but since I don't have a mountain bike, I wisely walked my bike where it felt dangerous.

After the mountain biking trail, I next rode down in the Cuyahoga Valley on the Towpath Trail. I have ridden my bike on this section of the Ohio & Erie Canalway (@OECanalway) before, and I think it is great how it connects the Cleveland Metroparks' Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (@CVNPNPS - @forcvnp). If you are interested in learning more about this area, see my two blog posts about this section of the valley:



Trail #6) Sunday, August 6, 2017 - Bedford Reservation

Bedford Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Egbert Picnic Shelter

  • 3-mile trail, paved, rating: strenuous
    Turn right onto the APT for a hilly trip parallel to the parkway to Bridal Veil Falls. A short side hike to the falls rewards you with scenic cascading waterfall views

I have visited Bridal Veil Falls in the past while hiking a section of the Buckeye Trail (@hikethebt), but the 2017 Trail Challenge had me explore the area in a new way via the bike trail from the Egbert Picnic Shelter. See my photos and video of the young deer that came right up to me on the bike trail.


Trails #7 & #8) Monday, August 7, 2017 - Rocky River Reservation

Rocky River Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at the Rocky River Nature Center

  • 1.3-mile trail, unpaved, rating: strenuous
    Enjoy the new Fort Hill stairs by starting at the Nature Center and hiking up the energy burning steps, continuing on the Fort Hill Loop.
  • 10-mile trail, paved, rating: moderate
    Take the all-purpose trail south to Wallace Lake and enjoy some ice cream or a snack before you head back

I have been to the Rocky River Nature Center many times, but by biking in the Rocky River Reservation, I saw new areas. Julie and I rode to Wallace Lake which is on the north end of the Mill Stream Run Reservation.

The last time Julie and I were at the Rocky River Reservation on July 16, 2016, the Fort Hill Stairs were under construction. Improvements were made, and the new stairs opened in November 2016.

We had not plannrd to climb the Fort Hill Stairs and take the Fort Hill Loop trail, since we needed to pick up our son from the airport. However, our son's flight was delayed, giving us the opportunity to do the loop as a night hike. It was still light out as we did the 155 stairs 90 feet up the hill, but the rest of the journey was kind of spooky in the dark, as you can see from the photos in our tweets.


Trails #9 & #10) Thursday, August 10, 2017 - Lakefront Reservation (Wendy Park and Edgewater Park)

10th trail completed! The 2017 Trail Challenge has been met!

Wendy Park Driving Directions Map

Edgewater Park Driving Directions Map

Start at Edgewater Park

  • 1.5-mile trail, paved, rating: moderate
    Start in the lower parking lot and make your way up to the Cleveland sign for a great overlook of the city and a great spot to grab some photos.

Start at Wendy Park

  • 1-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Hike out to the Coast Guard Station via the gravel access path passing by the volleyball courts.

Thursday, August 10, 2017, was the perfect day to do my last of the ten required Trail Challenge trails for 2017! After enjoying the great views from Wendy Park, Julie and I attended the final Edgewater LIVE concert for 2017, featuring The Spazmatics (@SPAZMATICS).


If you have never attended an Edgewater LIVE or Euclid Beach Live concert, you should give them a try!! Here is information about these free concerts from the Cleveland Metroparks website:

Edgewater LIVE
Guests can expect to enjoy live musical performances, an array of local food trucks, recreational activities, and a couple of new additions. New this year, the event will kick off at 4:30 p.m. on the Centennial Plaza at the new Edgewater Beach House with performers from the Tri-C Creative Arts Program. Then from 6 - 9 p.m., this region's favorite headlining acts perform on the RTA Main Stage. Grab a bite to eat from a rotating lineup of more than a dozen local food trucks each week, and enjoy a new view on happy hour from the second level of the Beach House featuring spectacular views of Lake Erie and Cleveland's skyline.


The Euclid Beach LIVE concert series brings the community together for a picnic in the park with great live music, food trucks and fun for the whole family. New this year, take a photo at the brand new "Cleveland" script sign! Set to be installed by Destination Cleveland in time for the kick off of Euclid Beach LIVE, the larger-than-life letters have become an iconic visual and draw interaction from Cleveland residents and visitors alike. The signs are a way for visitors to share their Cleveland pride.


Here is a very interesting Rock The Lake (@RockTheLakeCLE) video about how Visitors to Edgewater, other Cleveland lakefront parks, jump after Metroparks take over:


Beyond the requirements for the 2017 Trail Challenge - more fun exploring the Cleveland Metroparks


Trail #11) Saturday, August 12, 2017 - West Creek Reservation

West Creek Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at the Watershed Stewardship Center

  1. 1-mile trail, paved, rating: easy
    Take the all-purpose trail for a loop around the park, passing by Bluebird Point.

Julie and I visited West Creek Reservation for my 11th trail on the 2017 Trail Challenge. The Centennial Art Show -- a juried art show commemorating the Cleveland Metroparks' 100th Anniversary -- was on display at the Watershed Stewardship Center. In the evening, we attended the Peak Perseids Peeking program at Bluebird Point Overlook, where park naturalist Patti Donnellan shared information about the Perseid meteor shower. We saw three meteors.

I want to recommend going to the West Creek Conservancy's website to learn more about the West Creek Reservation and its Watershed Stewardship Center. The Watershed Stewardship Center was made possible by a great partnership between the West Creek Conservancy (@West_Creek) and Cleveland Metroparks (@CleveMetroparks). The Watershed Stewardship Center is a very interesting resource.


No trails completed, but did visit Lakefront Reservation's Wendy Park on Sunday, August 20, 2017

Wendy Park Driving Directions

Start at Wendy Park

  • 2-mile trail, water, rating: strenuous
    Paddle towards the Coast Guard Station and then out towards the break wall; stay inside the breakwall paddling counter-clockwise back towards the beach

I did not complete the Wendy Park water trail, since I did not secure a watercraft. I wanted to include the following tweets, since I saw an incredible sight the day I was exploring Wendy Park! See these videos and photos of a Water Jet Pack!


Trail #12) Saturday, September 2, 2017 - Euclid Creek Reservation

Euclid Creek Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Highland Picnic Area

  • 2.5-mile trail, paved, rating: easy
    Take the all-purpose trail south to Quarry Picnic Area before turning around and heading back.


Trail #13) Friday, September 15, 2017 - North Chagrin Reservation

North Chagrin Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at the North Chagrin Nature Center

  • 0.4-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Take the Sanctuary Marsh Trail circling around the pond.

Julie and I enjoyed a picnic before this hike, and took an extra walk to Buttermilk Falls.

Here are some other tweets about the 2017 Trail Challenge that I saw in middle of September:


Trails #14 & #15) Sunday, October 15, 2017 - Brecksville Reservation

Brecksville Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at the Brecksville Nature Center

  • 0.75-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Visit the Harriet Keeler Memorial via the Wildflower Trail.
  • 3.3-mile trail, paved, rating: strenuous
    Take the all-purpose trail east down the hill to the National Park Service Station Road area; stop at the train station or enjoy looking over the Cuyahoga River prior to setting back.

Julie and I had fun at Brecksville Reservation, despite spending the day dodging rainstorms. We were interested to see that near the Brecksville Nature Center, the park is building a new Brecksville Trailside Program Center, which will provide classroom space for children's nature programing.

On our bike ride to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (@CVNPNPS - @forcvnp) to see its Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (@CVSRR) Brecksville Train Station, we met a young couple from Utah who were traveling across the United States. They were impressed that the Cleveland/Akron area had such impressive park systems, and were interested to learn about the cultural resources I told them about in Northeast Ohio (see tweet with places mentioned).


Trail #16) Saturday, October 21, 2017 - Hinckley Reservation

Hinckley Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Hinckley Lake Boathouse & Store

  • 1.5-mile trail, water, rating: moderate
    Launch from the ramp and take a lap skirting the edge of the lake. One lap is about 1.5 miles.

Julie and I visited the Hinckley Lake Boathouse on the last weekend of the season, and had a fantastic time kayaking around the lake in unusually warm weather. This was Julie's first time in a kayak! It is great that the Cleveland Metroparks provides a place to rent canoes, single and tandem kayaks, rowboats, motorized rowboats, stand-up paddleboards, paddleboats, and pontoon boats.


Trail #17) Sunday, October 22, 2017 - North Chagrin Reservation

North Chagrin Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at the North Chagrin Nature Center

  • 3.25-mile trail, paved, rating: easy
    Ride north to Strawberry Picnic Area and enjoy the newly enhanced Strawberry Pond.

After our bike ride at North Chagrin Reservation, Julie and I hiked to the Dinger’s Marsh Overlook within the A.B. Williams Memorial Woods. Later, we drove to the Lake Metroparks (@LakeMetroparks) Lakefront Lodge to watch the sunset.


Trail #18) Saturday, November 4, 2017 - Hinckley Reservation

Hinckley Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Hinckley Lake Boathouse & Store

  • 2.75-mile trail, paved, rating moderate
    Grab your bike and enjoy the freshly paved all-purpose trail encircling Hinckley Lake.

November 4th was a very busy day for me. I put on a lot of mileage!

I started the day at the Cleveland Public Library's (@Cleveland_PL) fifth annual Cleveland Mini Maker Faire (@CLEMakerFaire) (see my blog post: Maximum Fun at Mini Maker Faire 2017 - Cleveland's 5th Annual!).

I then used the last daylight of the day to bike the Trail Challenge route around Hinckley Lake. The early evening and night were used to participate in the Northeast Ohio Orienteering Club's (@NEOOrienteering) annual night orienteering event.

I have done orienteering, and night orienteering, with the Northeast Ohio Orienteering Club in the past, but not for many years. Even though it had been a long time since I was a Northeast Ohio Orienteering Club member, one of the organizers of the event remembered me from when I used to bring Boy Scouts to events when I was teaching them orienteering. It was great to be out in the woods with the Northeast Ohio Orienteering Club again!


Trails #19 & #20) November 24, 2017 - Big Creek Reservation

Big Creek Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Lake Isaac

  • 1.2-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Enjoy the Lake Isaac Trail.
  • 5-mile trail, paved, rating: easy
    Take the Lake to Lake Trail to Eastland Road before turning around and enjoying your return trip

Bike riding in a section of the Big Creek Reservation shows again the great value of the Trail Challenge program. I would never have known to explore the Lake Isaac Trail and the wonderful Lake to Lake Trail. I liked how the Lake to Lake Trail bike route provided easy access to local community resources.


Trails #21 & #22) November 24, 2017 - Mill Stream Run Reservation

Mill Stream Run Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Royalview parking area

  • 3.5-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Ride or walk the Yellow Loop through young forests; enjoy gentle climbs and beautiful views on the trail.
  • 5-mile trail, paved, rating: easy
    Take the all-purpose trail north across Route 82 up to the Chalet. Enjoy watching some thrill seekers at Go Ape, grab a snack and return back to where you started.

I wrote above how this 2017 Trail Challenge took me to the final Edgewater LIVE concert and final weekend for kayak rentals at the Hinckley Lake Boathouse. Now, with the seasons changing, the Trail Challenge led me to the opening day of the Strongsville Toboggan Chutes in the Mill Stream Run Reservation.

The season change also led me to finishing the Royalview Yellow Loop Trail by the light of the moon, since it was now getting darker much earlier. What started as my bike ride in the woods ended as a night hike, pushing my bike through the very dark forest.

This was definitely a better way to spend Black Friday than at the local mall or shopping center!

Here are some other tweets about the 2017 Trail Challenge that I saw in early December:


Trails #23) Saturday, December 23, 2017 - Euclid Creek Reservation

Euclid Creek Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Highland Picnic Area

  • 2.2-mile trail, unpaved, rating: easy
    Experience the Glenridge Loop Trail taking you through forests along Euclid Creek.

Snow on the ground, and visiting deer, made the walk on the Glenridge Loop Trail more interesting.


Trail #24) Thursday, December 28, 2017 - Hinckley Reservation

Hinckley Lake Loop Trail - My Final Trail for 2017!

Hinckley Reservation Parks & Trails Map

Start at Hinckley Lake Boathouse & Store

  • 3.25-mile trail, unpaved, rating:easy
    Take the Lake Loop Trail for a hike around Hinckley Lake. Make sure to look for all the wading waterfowl and other birds often seen near the lake.

I had wanted to end this year's Trail Challenge with experiencing a winter hike around Hinckley Lake, but I got way more than I bargained for when temperatures dropped into the teens!!! I came prepared with many layers of clothes, and ended up having a most enjoyable walk!

I also used this last hike to try out the Cleveland Metroparks free app on my iPhone (get iTunes Cleveland Metroparks App here). The app is also available for Android phones (get Google Play Cleveland Metroparks App here).



After hiking the Hinckley Lake Loop Trail, I drove to Brecksville Reservation to find the new Ottawa Overlook Backcountry Site and also to visit Deer Lick Cave. The following tweets provide information about how I learned about this newly opened backpacking campsite along the Buckeye Trail (@HikeTheBT) from the Cleveland Metroparks CEO, Brian M Zimmerman (@CEO_CleMetParks).

The tweets also show how I recently met the park's Outdoor Recreation Manager, Rachel Nagle, at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's (@goCMNH) Think And Drink Winter Solstice event. She told me about how the park is experimenting with the new Ottawa Overlook Backcountry Site, and about other new outdoor adventure programs being planned. It is exciting to know that the Cleveland Metroparks is developing more programs through their Outdoor Recreation Department.

New Ottawa Overlook Backcountry Site


Think And Drink


Brecksville Reservation


2017 Trail Challenge Shield & SWAG!

2017 Trail Challenge Shield
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After finishing my 24th trail on Thursday, December 28, 2017, at Hinckley Reservation, Julie surprised me by picking up the 2017 Trail Challenge Shield, and a SWAG bag (which we had not known about.) It was a great way to not only end the day, but to also end the year of the first Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge.


Related Blog Posts

If interested in reading more about activities in the Cleveland Metroparks, please click here. To date, I have 10 blog posts about the park system.