Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge 2020: Part One (First Ten)

Blog Date
Julie Smith
Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

Take the challenge!

In 2017, we wrote our blog post: Cleveland Metroparks Inaugural Trail Challenge!

. . . so when we saw the Cleveland Metroparks tweet to "Take the challenge!" in 2020, with 25 trails to choose from . . .

. . . we decided to accept.

With COVID-19 closing venues we normally frequent, and having to cancel the backpacking trips that Stuart had planned on the Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail, we have been exploring many parks in Northeast Ohio and along the route of the Buckeye Trail. We have written about many of our park visits in the Social Distancing Blog Posts that we have been writing during the pandemic.

As you can see in the tweet above by the Cleveland Metroparks, there were originally 25 trails to choose from for the challenge. During the time we were writing this blog post, we learned that the park updated the list to now include 35 trails! (2020 Trail Challenge PDF file)

 Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge presented by Cigna
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Trail Challenge presented by Cigna

Travel 10 or 20 of the 35 trails by any legal means from March 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020 to receive this year’s trail challenge sticker and prizes.

  • Complete at least 10 trails and earn a 2020 Trail Challenge sticker
  • Complete at least 20 trails and earn a 2020 Trail Challenge mug (limit to first 250 to complete the challenge)

You can learn more about the Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge 2020 presented by Cigna at:

Download the 35 trails 2020 Trail Challenge PDF File (2.8MB) here.

What follows is information about the first ten challenge trails we have completed. We have already done more than ten, and we plan to write additional future blog post(s) about our experiences.



Trail #1) Friday, June 12, 2020 - Rocky River Reservation, Mill Stream Run Reservation, and beyond!

10.0 miles: Nature Center
Go south on the APT from the [Rocky River] Nature Center the whole way turning around when you get to Wallace Lake.

Rocky River Reservation

Rocky River Reservation is located in Berea, Brook Park, Cleveland, Fairview Park, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Olmsted Township, and Rocky River. The first land purchased for Cleveland Metroparks — a 3.8 acre parcel purchased in April 1919 — can be seen from the Stinchcomb-Groth Memorial. The character of the reservation is strongly influenced by the Rocky River. Massive shale cliffs rise above the willows, sycamores and cottonwoods, and many trails wind through the valley's deep floodplain forests, meadows and wetlands. Wildlife is common in the valley and visitors can expect to see numerous bird species and some common Ohio mammals year-round, including the white-tailed deer. Visit Rocky River Nature Center to learn more.

Long and narrow, this reservation follows the winding course of the Rocky River from Berea almost to Lake Erie. The stream cuts deeply through the soft shales of the valley, carving a picturesque gorge.  The reservation includes a nature center, marina, stables, and three golf courses.  The first land purchased for Cleveland Metroparks — a 3.8 acre parcel purchased in April 1919 — can be seen from the Stinchcomb-Groth Memorial.

Worth noting – the Rocky River itself is a top steelhead fishing location, noted as one of the 150 best fishing spots in the country.


As we started our first Trail Challenge trail at the Rocky River Reservation Nature Center biking south, it was most interesting to see so many people fishing along the river. We had not realized how many people used the park as a place to relax by fishing.


Mill Stream Run Reservation

Mill Stream Run Reservation is located in Berea, Middleburg Heights, North Royalton and Strongsville. Long ago nineteenth century communities like Albion, Sanderson's Corners and Slab Hollow sprang up to take advantage of the water power from the east branch of the Rocky River and its tributaries. After the sawmills and grist mills were established, businesses like a basket factory, taverns, blacksmith shops and tailors followed.

In Berea, the river cuts through Berea sandstone carving potholes in the stone. Baldwin and Wallace lakes are former quarries that produced some of the finest grindstones in the world. The settlers were not the first to visit; artifacts have been found in the reservation that indicate American Indian tribes frequented this area over 8,000 years ago. The reservation includes numerous species of wildlife and plant life, including ferns and wildflowers. The East Branch of the Rocky River is noted for its spring trout fishing.

At the turnaround point, we treated ourselves to ice cream.


With us visiting more local parks this summer, we have been seeing many great blue herons. The closest we have been to a great blue heron this summer was at Rocky River Reservation during the Trail Challenge.


Emerald Necklace Marina

Located in the heart of the scenic Rocky River Reservation, Emerald Necklace Marina is a full-service recreational boating facility approximately 5,000 feet south of Lake Erie.

Cleveland Metroparks has been operating Emerald Necklace Marina since 2016.

After our trail challenge bike ride, we drove to the Emerald Necklace Marina. This was the first time visiting this Cleveland Metroparks location, and while there, we got information about kayak rentals from 41° North Kayak Adventures. Kayaking on the Rocky River is one of the trail challenge activities. We look forward to returning to see this area for our first time ever paddling on Rocky River.

While at 41° North Kayak Adventures, we met The Cleveland Outpost Gear Exchange co-founder, Josh “Gadget” Scott, who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2016. He told us about how The Cleveland Outpost Gear Exchange is a new Cleveland company with a unique way of providing adventure gear -- emphasizing sustainability by giving used outdoor gear a second life.

What is The Cleveland Outpost?

The Cleveland Outpost is your community-driven gear destination with a focus on sustainability and affordability.

We are a place where tired old gear receives new life and great finds are waiting for you. We are a meeting place for outdoor enthusiasts of all backgrounds, and we are ready to help you get great gear and get outside!

. . . new and used outdoor gear at lower prices than traditional gear shops!

We take in products that are donated, consigned or even traded for store credit or cash towards our inventory.

Our Adventure For All members enjoy “first dibs” on new products and sales on our already low prices. You’ll also have the chance to enjoy member-specific perks like rentals and programs with our community partners.


Edgewater Park

The 147 acre Edgewater Park is the westernmost park in Cleveland Metroparks Lakefront Reservation. Edgewater Park features 9000 feet of shoreline, dog and swim beaches, boat ramps, fishing pier, picnic areas and grills and a rentable pavilion.

We often enjoy the summer sunsets at Edgewater Park, so we decided to have a late dinner there to enjoy the view.

Our 2017 blog post entitled Four Days of Fun -- Four Lake Erie Sunsets has sunset photos from Edgewater Park and other parks on the lake.



Trail #2) Saturday, June 13, 2020 - Look About Lodge Loop Trail, South Chagrin Reservation

0.9 miles: Look About Lodge Loop
Start at Look About Lodge. Celebrate the beauty of Look About Lodge by taking a stroll on the short Look About Lodge Loop trail that follows the Buckeye Trail for a majority of the loop.

South Chagrin Reservation

Hike the Buckeye Trail along hemlock lined streams and ridges, along the State Designated Scenic Chagrin River or visit a historic sculpture.

Rugged trails lead you through hemlock forests, sandstone ledges, coldwater creeks and ravines. The Chagrin River, designated as a Scenic River, borders the eastern edge of the reservation. Sites rich in history include Look About Lodge, Henry Church Rock, Quarry Rock, the Polo Field, and the old Boy Scout Camp.


Look About Lodge

Located in scenic South Chagrin Reservation, Look About Lodge is a beautiful log cabin built from more than 300 chestnut logs. The Lodge was built in 1938 as the meeting place for the Cleveland Natural Science Club. Although now owned and operated by Cleveland Metroparks, the Lodge is still home to the Cleveland Natural Science Club for their monthly meetings. The Lodge features three stone fireplaces, halved chestnut log stairs and a Native American totem pole. Adjacent to the Lodge is a hemlock forest overlooking Sulphur Springs gorge as well as a section of the Buckeye Trail.

Look About Lodge staff believes nature can be experienced through many paths: study, art, recreation and play, reflection and special events. Serving as an outdoor education center, the Lodge focuses on extended or series natural history programs, art-centered experiences, school group field trips, concert series in winter and summer, overnights, workshops, children’s programs, summer camp, and more. Organized groups requesting a natural history program can call for an appointment. Look About Lodge programs open to the public are listed in the Emerald Necklace newsletter.

We brought our son, Kevin, with us to hike the Look About Lodge Loop Trail. Stuart had hiked this section of the Buckeye Trail in the winter, on Saturday, January 4, 2020. He wrote, "I explored parts of the South Chagrin  Reservation that I have never visited before." It was fun for Stuart to show Julie and Kevin this area after learning that the route of the Buckeye Trail through here was very different than he had imagined for all the years he has visited other parts of this park, and the two summers he worked for the Cleveland Metroparks Forestry Division.

The trail by Look About Lodge is in the Bedford Section of the Buckeye Trail, and thus is part of the Buckeye Trail Little Loop, which you can learn more about in our blog post:

We have enjoyed coming to Look About Lodge for the park's outdoor free summer concerts (see 2017 video on Twitter by clicking here).



YES, the Cleveland Metroparks 2020 Trail Challenge is in full swing!



Trail #3) Sunday, June 14, 2020 - Museum Trail and Sylvan Loop Trail, North Chagrin Reservation

2.0 miles: Museum Trail
Start at the Nature Center. From the SE corner of the parking lot of the Nature Center - enjoy the Museum Trail as you head out to the Sylvan Loop.

North Chagrin Reservation

North Chagrin Reservation is home to many attractions, including Squire’s Castle, A.B. Williams Memorial Woods (a Registered National Landmark), Buttermilk Falls and North Chagrin Nature Center. North Chagrin Nature Center and North Chagrin Reservation tell the story of wetlands, woodlands and wildlife.

Since the 1920s, North Chagrin Reservation has been a special combination of outdoor recreation areas and wildlife sanctuaries. North Chagrin trails and picnic areas feature woodlands and wetlands as important characteristics of this large reservation. Located in Mayfield Village, Willoughby Hills and Gates Mills, the reservation includes a nature center and nature education building. Sanctuary Marsh and Sunset Pond are both popular areas to observe waterfowl, and Squire’s Castle is an interesting historical site. The reservation is also home to Manakiki Golf Course, located off SOM Center and Eddy roads in Willoughby Hills.

One of our favorite spots is the Dinger Marsh overlook on the Sylvan Trail!

It is great that the Cleveland Metroparks has commemorated the first Trailside Museum in the park system with historical displays. Julie has very fond memories of visiting the Trailside Museum many times with her family. The North Chagrin Trailside Museum opened on July 4, 1931, and burned down in 1987 due to a lightning strike. The original Trailside Museum was created in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Read more in:

See a Facebook video tour of the Sylvan Trail in our blog post:



Trail #4) Monday, June 15, 2020 - Viaduct Park, Bedford Reservation

0.5 miles: Viaduct Park
Start at Viaduct Park at the corner of Taylor Road and Willis Street. Take the paved path down to see the 15’ tall falls and the old stone Viaducts. While this hike is short, you don’t want to miss the waterfall!

(Note that the "0.5 miles: Viaduct Park" was in the original Trail Challenge list of 25 trails, but was left off the updated list with 35 trails.)

Viaduct Park

Bedford's history began here as the power of the Great Falls of Tinker's Creek was harnessed between 1821-1913 for a saw mill, grist mill and electric power plant. Families such as the Benedict's, Willis', Gates', and others all left their mark on this important parcel.

Hidden by time and muffled by the roar of locomotives, this area has been revitalized and opened in 2002 by a cooperative effort by Cleveland Metroparks and the City of Bedford. Walking paths, overlooks, and wayside panels help preserve the past and conserve the natural surroundings, while telling the story for future generations.

Viaduct Park is a great park, but since it is not along the main section of the Bedford Reservation, we did not know about it until a few years ago. In addition to the beautiful waterway, the historic signs and relics of the water powered machinery are very interesting. We highly recommend a walk in this park!



While we were preparing this blog post, we saw this video by Mr. P. Explores (@ExploresMr), which gives a tour of Viaduct Park:

In this quick episode of Mr. P. Explores, we check out an extremely amazing and beautiful park in Bedford, Ohio called Viaduct Park. Down in the Tinker's Creek Gorge, in the city of Bedford, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, lies a historical and natural treasure. Bedford's history began here as the power of the Great Falls of Tinker's Creek was harnessed between 1821-1913 for a saw mill, grist mill and electric power plant. Families such as the Benedict's, Willis', Gates', and others all left their mark on this important parcel, as can be seen via a walk through the Gorge. Ruins dot the landscape from old buildings, mills and bridges. The old stone viaduct that once carried locomotives across the gorge is still standing strong at the top of the park, repurposed and restored by a joint effort between the City of Bedford and the Cleveland Metroparks in 2002. Nowadays, no industry takes place in the gorge, but one can find walking paths, overlooks, and informational signs that help a wandering hiker like myself get a feel for the history that exists throughout the area. I adventured down into the Gorge and took a highlights video; hopefully you'll decided to check it out for yourself and venture out to Bedford to soak up the natural beauty and manmade ruins! Enjoy the walkthrough!



Trail #5) Monday, June 15, 2020 - Forbes Woods, Bedford Reservation

1.8 miles: Forbes Woods
Start at the Forbes Woods Picnic Area and enjoy this wooded oasis that was once a dairy farm. Anticipate several boardwalks as you hike through the ravine crossing over many wetlands.

Forbes Woods

Explore a wooded oasis that was once a dairy farm.

This reclaimed natural area has a short loop trail with views of a wooded ravine. In 2016, a connector trail was added from Forbes Woods to Hawthorn Parkway that cuts through the ravine and has several boardwalks to aid in crossing over the wetlands.

Forbes Woods is the perfect example of why we highly recommend the Trail Challenge if you want to learn about new areas of the Cleveland Metroparks.  we would not have learned about this "wooded oasis" on the southern border of the Bedford Reservation if it was not part of the Trail Challenge. (Click here to open a new window with the Cleveland Metroparks interactive map focused on Forbes Woods.)



Trail #6) Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - Washington Reservation

1.2 miles: Arborview
Start at Washington Arborview Picnic Area. From the North side of the parking lot cross over Washington Park Blvd. and enjoy the APT as you head south (right) before turning around at Harvard Avenue.

Washington Reservation


Located in Newburgh Heights the 59-acre Washington Reservation is Cleveland Metroparks 15th reservation.

Located in Newburgh Heights the 59-acre Washington Reservation is Cleveland Metroparks 15th reservation. Golf enthusiasts will enjoy an Audubon Certified nine-hole golf course, a First Tee of Cleveland Golf Learning Center, and a 30-station driving range. History buffs will enjoy the U.S.S. Maine Memorial near the entrance of the park.

The picnic shelter, recreational field, wetlands or the all purpose trail with its neighborhood links will make the venture to Washington Reservation both easy and well worth the trip for any park visitor. This is also the home of the Washington Park Environmental Studies Academy which is part of the Cleveland Municipal School District.

1.1-mile of all purpose trail along E. 49th Street and Washington Park Boulevard connects to Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation at East 49th Street and Grant Avenue.

Before we biked the short but pleasant Trail Challenge path, we rode around and saw that the Cleveland Metropolitan School District had their Horticultural Education Center at the Cleveland Metroparks Washington Reservation, and learned about The First Tee of Cleveland program. We always learn about new Cleveland resources while on the Trail Challenge.



Trail #7) Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - Ohio and Erie Canal Mountain Bike Trail, Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation

2.0 miles: Mountain Bike Trail
Start at CanalWay Center. Enjoy the hilly mountain bike loop by bike or by boot, but be careful if hiking as this is primarily used as a mountain bike trail. Please visit the or Twitter (@CMPmtb) to confirm the trail is open.

Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation

The Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation stretches through the villages of Cuyahoga Heights and Valley View and other surrounding communities. The reservation follows a portion of its namesake, the historic 309-mile Ohio and Erie Canal. Together with the Cuyahoga River, the northernmost remaining 4.4 miles of watered canal provides wildlife management areas, fishing opportunities and scenic beauty. Picnicking, hiking trails, a 7.2-mile All Purpose Trail, and unique natural and cultural heritage of this valley are also featured in this reservation.

After our morning bike ride at the Washington Reservation, we had a relaxing picnic lunch at the gardens behind the park's CanalWay Center. If you have not seen these gardens, we recommend taking time to visit. In addition to the butterfly garden and other plantings, we enjoy the nature-themed sculptures that have been placed in the gardens. There is also a water feature with a small waterfall and pond that we had not noticed in past visits.

Ohio and Erie Canal Mountain Bike Trail

Beginner 0.5 mile loop – designed for basic mountain biking skills Intermediate 2.5 mile loop – designed for experienced riders, this trail includes steep terrain and technical challenges.

In 2017, Stuart wrote about biking on the Cleveland Metroparks Inaugural Trail Challenge: "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. . . . 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." This year, we decided to walk the loop trail. With the steep terrain, it felt longer than the listed 2.5 miles, particularly in the warm temperatures on this June day.



Highly Recommended!

We visited six different parks in the last nine days!



Water Rentals at Hinckley Lake

Just when we were looking for kayak rental information, there was a @CleveMetroparks tweet for that!



Trail #8) Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - Kayaking on Hinckley Lake, Hinckley Reservation

1.5 miles: Paddling Loop
Launch from the ramp at Hinckley Lake Boathouse and take a lap skirting the edge of this inland, flatwater lake. You can even rent a kayak or SUP if you don’t own your own, making this a great opportunity if you are new to paddling.

Hinckley Reservation

Located in Hinckley Township in Medina County, the reservation is dominated by the 90-acre Hinckley Lake, enjoyed by fishermen and paddle sport enthusiasts.


Hinckley Lake

Hinckley Lake, located in Hinckley Reservation, is bounded by Bellus Road to the north, State Road to the south and is part of the Rocky River Watershed and sits between East and West drives. The lake impounds 87 surface acres of water on the east branch of the Rocky River which makes it the largest inland lake in Cleveland Metroparks.

Fish species important to anglers include largemouth bass, rainbow trout, white crappie bluegill, carp and bullhead catfish.

The lake also ranks as the best largemouth bass lake in Cleveland Metroparks, and several "Fish Ohio" largemouth bass are registered each year, although these fish are most accessible from a small watercraft.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife also stocks approximately 2,400 rainbow trout every April to offer a spring fishery. Anglers can keep up to 5 rainbow trout and 2 bass (minimum size 12") per day.

. . .

The Hinckley Lake Boathouse & Store features boat rentals, fishing tackle, bait and snacks. For information call: 330.278.2160.


On October 21, 2017, on an unseasonably warm fall day, Julie tried kayaking for the first time while doing the Cleveland Metroparks 2017 Inaugural Trail Challenge. It is so great that the Cleveland Metroparks encourages visiting different parks and trying new adventures through the Trail Challenge!

This year, we again rented a tandem kayak ($22 per hour), since we enjoy paddling together to see the sights on the lake. It was interesting to see the water birds on the lake, and people fishing from the shore.

It is very interesting to see where Hinckley Lake is on the Rocky River watershed map.



Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - Picnic Lunch at Spillway Picnic Area, Hinckley Reservation

Spillway Picnic Area

Spillway Picnic Area is located off West Drive in Hinckley Reservation, off Bellus Road in Hinckley Township. Features a changing and swimming area.



Trail #9) Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - Biking on the All Purpose Trail, Hinckley Reservation

3.3 miles: APT
Bike the APT that circles around Hinckley Lake, starting at the Boathouse or the Spillway.

Hinckley Reservation

At the southern end of Cleveland Metroparks is Hinckley Reservation, the site of the nationally-known annual Return of the Buzzards.

The All Purpose Trail around Hinckley Reservation is a great way to get an overview of this park. Since Stuart has been hiking/biking the Buckeye Trail  Little Loop, it was interesting to see where the Medina Section of the Buckeye Trail, which is not part of the Little Loop, continues off to the west.



Trail #10) Wednesday, June 24, 2020 - Whipp's Ledges, Hinckley Reservation

Whipps Ledges Bouldering
Ohio Mar 23, 2013
Older video of some suprisingly good bouldering at Whipps Ledges, alittle park a bit outside of Cleveland, Ohio. No idea for names or grades on anything.
The intro guest appearance shows Ben with a perfect example of the right way to put on a bouldering pad.
Music is by The Avett Brothers, the song is "A Lot of Moving"

0.95 miles: Whipp’s Ledges
Park at Top O’ Ledges Picnic Area and hike the Whipp’s Ledges loop trail. Enjoy watching people rock climb and be careful around cliff edges.

Hinckley Reservation

Another attraction of the reservation is Whipp's Ledges, with elevations rising 350 feet above Hinckley Lake and formed more than 250 million years ago.

Whipp's Ledges

Hinckley Reservation is one of the few places in northeast Ohio with exposed sandstone ledges of Sharon Conglomerate. The geology not only provides unique recreational rock climbing opportunities . . . but also unique habitats.

We knew of Whipp's Ledges, but we didn't remember ever hiking in this area. The Trail Challenge description of the hike mentioning "watching people rock climb" was accurate -- we saw a couple of groups climbing.

See the Rock Climbing Permit web page for more information -- "Climbing in Cleveland Metroparks is allowed only at Whipp's Ledges in Hinckley Reservation. Individuals who wish to host classes or groups of 50 or more must obtain a permit.  Individual permits are no longer needed. "

The trail is marked with blazes, but we found that we got off the path a few times exploring the sights. The Medina Section of the Buckeye Trail crosses the Whipp's Ledges Loop Trail.



Yesterday (Tuesday, September 8, 2020) -- Picked Up 2020 Trail Challenge Sticker at East 55th Street Marina

Beginning June 1st, bring an electronic or printed copy of your 10 or 20 completed trails to one of the following locations (please call ahead as hours are subject to change):

  • East 55th Street Marina . . . 216-431-3280
    [UPDATED HOURS: Monday - Friday - 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; First hour reserved for guests in vulnerable populations]

  • Hinckley Lake Boathouse 12-4 p.m. 7 days a week 330-278-2160

As we wrote above, we have already completed more than ten of the Trail Challenges, so we thought it would be good to end here with tweets that include photos of picking up our 2020 Trail Challenge Stickers. Please watch for additional future blog post(s) about our Trail Challenge experiences.

Here is a reply to a person with a hidden Twitter account who said they are now going to take the Trail Challenge:




Thank you, Cleveland Metroparks and Cigna!!!

Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge 2020
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We want to thank the Cleveland Metroparks for planning this annual Trail Challenge, and Cigna for sponsoring it again this year! Particularly this year, with everyone in the world facing the health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it has been important for both physical and mental health to have our local parks to visit. We also want to mention Outdoor Recreation Manager Rachel Nagle to thank her for emailing us back on May 5, 2020, regarding some modifications to this year's Trail Challenge.

As this blog post title of Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge 2020: Part One (First Ten) implies, we plan to write an addition blog post for the next ten Trail Challenge trails. Since the number of possible trails was increased from 25 to 35, we may even do more than the goal of doing 20 to earn the 2020 Trail Challenge commemorative mug. Be sure to visit our Blog web page to see how many trails we end up doing!!

We hope this blog post encourages you to go to the web page, and take the 2020 Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge.



Related Blog Posts

Starting in 2014, we have written many Cleveland Metroparks blog posts, which you can read by clicking here. If you are interested in the first year of the Trail Challenge or other Cleveland Metroparks trail-related blog posts, please read:

With most of the venues that we write about in our currently closed, we have written a "Social Distancing Series" of blog posts. We write to try and capture the activities we are able to do at this time. You can see that we have written many blog posts about visiting a lot of parks, and are very grateful for the several northeast Ohio park systems that we have been visiting during this time. Once the coronavirus crisis is over, it will be interesting to read these to see the contrast between these times and "normal life."

We expect to continue to practice social distancing for at least the rest of 2020, so please come back to read more and...

Stay well!