3 of 5: Exploring the Akron Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"

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Akron Section - Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
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The Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" is the over-250-mile part of the Buckeye Trail in Northeast Ohio that goes through the following counties: Lake, Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Portage, and Geauga. On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, at the northern terminus of the Buckeye Trail at Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, I completed the loop which I had begun on Sunday, November 4, 2018.

My plan was to slowly complete, by hiking and biking, all the sections of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" over several years. With the onset of the March 2020 COVID-19 crisis, my plans radically changed, and I decided to complete the "Little Loop" this year. Below is the blog post about the Akron Section, which is the third of five Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" blog posts.

You may find it helpful to first read the background information about the trail in the first blog post:

Here are links to all of the section blog posts, along with a list of the counties and some of the parks that are part of each section:

  • 2 of 5: Exploring the Bedford Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
    - Lake County, Cuyahoga County
    - Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, Headlands Beach State Park, Cleveland Museum of Natural History's Mentor Marsh, Lake Metroparks, Cleveland Metroparks, and more!

  • 3 of 5: Exploring the Akron Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" (See below)
    - Cuyahoga County, Summit County, Stark County
    - Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio & Erie Canalway, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Summit Metro Parks, and more!

  • 4 of 5: Exploring the Mogadore Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
    - NOTE: I included the small part of the Massillon Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" in this blog post.
    - Stark County, Summit County, Portage County
    - Stark Parks, Summit Metro Parks, Portage Park District, Mogadore Reservoir, West Branch State Park, Mantua Bog State Nature Preserve, and more!

  • 5 of 5: Exploring the Burton Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
    - Geauga County, Lake County
    - Geauga Park District, Lake Metroparks, Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, and more!

Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" Map
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Akron Section - Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"

There are 26 sections to the Buckeye Trail, each named for a town or feature within the section, and each with its own unique experiences. As you read the descriptions, you will come to realize the tremendous variety and history that hiking Ohio offers. We strongly urge you to obtain a detailed map from the Buckeye Trail Association for the section (or sections) you wish to hike.

This blog post covers my experiences on the Akron Section from Thursday, May 7, 2020, through Friday, June 26, 2020.

Akron Section
57.6 Total Miles / 51.8 Off Road Miles (89.9%)
Map Publication Date: January 2012

The remoteness of this section is quite amazing. The Akron Section is one of two sections that contain very large proportions of off road trail. And only 4% is recorded on sidewalk. The other extreme section is Loveland. Both sections include urban centers.

In the Akron Section, the Buckeye Trail (BT) passes through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, including several units of both Cleveland Metroparks and Metroparks Serving Summit County. Included are cliffs, waterfalls and many artifacts from the Ohio & Erie Canal. At the south end of the Cuyahoga Valley between CVNP and Akron, BT visits Cascade Locks Park (CLP) that includes Locks 10 through 16 and is supported by a unique non-profit, the Cascade Locks Park Association, Inc. The trail leaves CLP and enters the City of Akron. You hike on sidewalks through old neighborhoods past the Akron zoo. South of Akron, BT continues primarily on Ohio Erie Canal Towpath Trail through Barberton, Clinton and Canal Fulton, In Canal Fulton, you can ride the St. Helena III canal boat and/or visit the Heritage Society museum. BT ends further south in Crystal Springs where it enters the Massillon Section.

 

 

From: Horse Stables, Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation
To: Boston Mill Visitor Center, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Day #9 - Thursday, May 7, 2020

While this was day number nine of my journey on the "Little Loop," it was just the second day of doing sections since my decision to complete the loop in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. The Station Road to Boston piece of the trail was a great place to start the early part of my journey, since I have often done shorter circuit hikes here in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park by combining parts of the Buckeye Trail with parts of the Valley Trail. It was nice to see that the Buckeye Trail Association volunteers have done some trail improvements here. I highly recommend hiking the several possible circuit hikes these two trails create -- see map:

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trails - Station Road to Boston. Note Buckeye Trail & Valley Trail.
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Hikers on the trail come to the Ottawa Overlook Backcountry Campsites soon after the horse stables.

 

I learned about the Ottawa Overlook Backcountry Campsites, which opened in 2017, by following Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M Zimmerman (@CEO_CleMetParks) on Twitter, and talking to Cleveland Metroparks Outdoor Recreation Manager Rachel Nagle when I met her at the Cleveland Natural History Museum's Think & Drink. It was great to see the campsite again on May 7, 2020, as a Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" hiker.

Here are videos that I recommend you watch to learn more about these first campsites of their kind in the Cleveland Metroparks:

Here are some related tweets with informative links about the Ottawa Overlook Backcountry Campsites. Please retweet to share the information with others:

    The following tweet links to photos on Instagram:

    It was great to hike in this section that I have enjoyed before -- thanks Buckeye Trail Association volunteers!

     

    Related tweets from an earlier walk on the towpath on April 10, 2020:

     

     

    From: Boston Mill Visitor Center, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
    To: Ira Trailhead, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

    Day #10 - Tuesday, May 12, 2020

    Boston Mill Visitor Center - Cuyahoga Valley National Park

    Welcome to our new state-of-the-art visitor center! The Boston Mill Visitor Center officially opened October 25, 2019. It's a great place to start your visit at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. See Operating Hours and Seasons for detailed hours.

    Meet park staff, learn about all the park has to offer, plan your visit, and browse the park store. You can also pick up brochures, maps, passport stamps, and our quarterly schedule of events, The Valley Guide.

    Learn the storied history of this rehabilitated 1905 Cleveland-Akron Bag Company general store and the park's wider rehabilitation of the Cuyahoga Valley and its river.

    Funding
    Thanks to the amazing support of the more than 500 foundations, corporations, and individuals who have helped us raise $6.85 million! Because of their generosity, the park was able to rehabilitate this historic building as well as the surrounding area to keep the historic feel of the Village of Boston while also updating it to create a space accessible to everyone.

    We also wanted the new space to be designated as a LEED-certified green building to reduce our environmental impact, which helps in preserving our natural and cultural landmarks.

    On May 12th, I started my day at the NEW Boston Mill Visitor Center, which just opened in October 2019. My son and I visited the new center on its opening weekend, which I wrote about in my blog post:

    This is a beautiful section of trail that I have hiked before. I like the hills, since that is the type of trail I am used to hiking on my backpacking trips.

     

    Related tweets about the new Boston Mill Visitor Center:

     

    Beautiful Winter Pine Stand!!

    I had to include the following photos from February 2015, since hiking this section of the Buckeye Trail again in 2020 reminded me of how beautiful this pine stand in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is in the wintertime. I really need to come back here again the next time there is a good snow!

     

     

    From: Ira Trailhead, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
    To: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad-Big Bend Station, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

    Day #11 - Friday, May 22, 2020

    Very rainy day -- hiked with an umbrella. I did see a few others enjoying the wet trail as well.

     

     

    From: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad-Big Bend Station, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
    To: Summit Lake Nature Center, Summit Metro Parks

    Day #12 - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

    The mission of the Cascade Locks Park Association (CLPA) is to preserve, protect, and promote the industrial, commercial, and cultural heritage of the Cascade Locks Park along locks 10-16 of the Ohio & Erie Canal.

    The Cascade Locks Park Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in Akron, Ohio incorporated in June of 1989 to achieve this mission. The organization was a key player in the designation of the regional Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway, a federally designated National Heritage Area that runs from Cleveland's lakefront, through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Akron at the midpoint, and down to New Philadelphia, Ohio. The Canalway follows the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal and the 108-mile towpath trail. The trail currently runs through a small section of the Cascade Locks Park.

    Just north of entering the city of Akron, I visited an area that I did not know about -- I need to return to learn more. The Cascade Locks Park Association (CLPA) (@Cascadelocks) Mustill Store Museum was a nice discovery.

    The bridge over the highway as you enter the city not only made for safe traveling, but had artistic photography displayed to welcome you to the city. Very nice, Akron!

    I have to say that I didn't know what to expect when I saw that the Buckeye Trail went right through Akron. It ended up including a section of Akron I have enjoyed visiting in the past, since it is the location of Akron Civic Theatre (@AkronCivic) and the parks along Akron's old canal locks (@Lock3Akron). I was very impressed with how the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area (@OECanalway) route of the Buckeye Trail through the city was well marked, and that the whole canal section had interesting historic signage.

     

     

    From: Summit Lake Nature Center, Summit Metro Parks
    To: Canal Fulton Canalway Center

    Day #13 - Wednesday, June 17, 2020

    As I started the day at the current Summit Lake Nature Center, I learned that the Summit Metro Parks is building a new, improved visitor center. There is a very nice lake here, close to where people in the neighborhood can make use of the Summit Metro Park improvements in the area.

     

    Additional tweets with information I learned about the NEW Summit Lake Nature Center:

    It was a very interesting start to the hike this day, as the Ohio & Erie Canalway (@OECanalway) has a wooden path that floats on Summit Lake -- a big investment to make a very beautiful route.

    After spending the morning walking the Ohio & Erie Canalway, I decided that this part of the Buckeye Trail would be more enjoyable exploring by bike. I arranged to have my wife and co-blogger, Julie, bring my bike for the afternoon.

    At the end of my ride, Julie and I had an ice cream treat in Canal Fulton, which we also enjoyed when we rode our bikes here in 2015 -- a great, new tradition. The Cherry Street Creamery is right on the Ohio & Erie Canalway/Buckeye Trail as you enter the historic town of Canal Fulton.

     

    Related tweet -- ice cream at Cherry Street Creamery after bike ride in 2015:

     

     

    From: Canal Fulton Canalway Center
    (The End of the Akron Section is at Crystal Springs Bridge Park)
    To: Quail Hollow Park, Stark Parks

    Day #14 - Friday June 26, 2020

    I have great memories of bike riding with my wife, Julie, on the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath south of Canal Fulton, so I was excited to be back, this time following the Buckeye Trail. Following along the canal section, that is full of water for a scenic canal boat ride, and seeing Lock 4 again was a great way to spend the morning.

    As I rode my bike on the towpath to Crystal Spring Bridge Park, I came to the southern end of the Akron Section as the Buckeye Trail enters its Massillon Section.

    Massillon Section . . .
    In Crystal Springs, the trail connects to the south end of the Akron Section on towpath. This junction closes the 'Little Loop' of the Buckeye Trail. The little loop comprises the Akron, Bedford, Burton, Mogadore and Massillon Sections.

    Please read my next blog post about the rest of my Friday, June 26, 2020, journey as I started to head back up north by completing the short stretch of the Massillon Section, and continuing on into the Mogadore Section:

     

    Related tweets with photos of Canal Fulton and the towpath from my 2015 bike ride:

     

     

    Please use these links to read more about the Buckeye Trail and my experiences completing the "Little Loop."

    I hope you enjoyed learning about the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop!'