Ledges Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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In my opinion, your best bet for hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the Ledges Trail.  This trail loops around a plateau, below the rim, giving you a couple of hours of scenery like this:

For most of the way, the Ledges Trail passes just below these rocky cliffsides, often times giving you the chance to climb up and through the jumble of rocks.

The trail begins at a parking area off Ohio Route 303, about two miles east of Riverview Road and the village of Peninsula.  The parking area is on the north side of the street…

… so you’ll have to pass through this tunnel to safely reach the south side…

… where you’ll find the Happy Days Lodge.  It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938.  It was originally a camp for children during the Depression; now it serves as a visitor center.

Behind the Happy Days Lodge, the Haskell Run Trail begins.  It’s a 1/2 mile loop through the woods, and access to the Ledges Trail is on the opposite side.  Go left or right, and you’ll still end up at the Ledges Trail.

On your way, take a brief detour through the old Mater Dolorsa Cemetery…

… which consists of dozens of 100-plus-year-old graves and tombstones, nicely scattered amongst the trees.  You couldn’t ask for a nicer place for eternal rest.

On the far side of the Haskell Run Trail loop, you’ll find the connector trail that allows you to cut over to the Ledges Trail loop.  Once there…

… you’ll immediately discover that you have another option.  You could climb this staircase, which leads to the top of the plateau that’s circled by the Ledges Trail.  At the top, there’s a picnic area, restrooms, and a nice meadow.  We’ll catch a glimpse of this area later, as we circle around.

I decided to take a left when I reached the Ledges Loop, and head towards the “Ice Box”.  This put me on the east side of the loop, which in late afternoon, was already quite shadowy.

This area has some great free-standing rock formations…

… and some side trails, which may require a little scrambling, or squeezing between boulders.  These “secret passageways” will be a lot of fun for kids.

Some of the side trails I took looped back to the main trail, others reached dead-ends.

The “Ice Box”, which I mentioned earlier, is just one of many caves formed by gaps in the rocks.  I’m guessing there’s a cool breeze that flows out of the hole on hot days, but during my visit it wasn’t warm enough to notice much of a draft.

The trail continues, past rocks of all sizes…

… and through a forest of trees.  Then, suddenly…

… you encounter this surprise: a large meadow, free of trees, where you can lay in the sun and turn your kids loose to play on the grass.  This spot is near the road to the Ledges picnic area (which is in the middle of the loop made by the Ledges Trail, and at the top of that staircase I showed you earlier).

The road is also near this spot, which is advertised as the Ledges Overlook — although truth be told, there wasn’t much of a view, just more trees.

Next, the Ledges Trail drops down and runs directly underneath the overlook.  Suddenly, I was on the sunny side of the loop…

… which meant the sun was streaming through the trees, casting light and shadows on the rocks.

As I hiked, I tried to decide if this side was more impressive than the other side.  Over here, the cliffs seem a bit more imposing…

… at times hanging directly over the path.  But, there aren’t many side trails, that pass through gaping cracks in the rocks.  I guess it doesn’t matter which side is better, since it’s a loop trail, you get to see it all.

Once you’ve completed the Ledges Trail Loop, you can take the other half of the Haskell Run Trail, and end up back at the Happy Days Lodge, and the parking area.

The Ledges Trail is a 1.75 mile loop. Once you add in the connecting trails and the Haskell Run Trail, as well as some exploring on the side trails through the rocks, you’ll probably end up walking about 2.5 miles.

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