I am continually in awe of the beauty of my home.
The Northeast Ohio region is extremely geographically diverse, with over 30 state/national parks, forests, nature preserves, and wildlife areas to showcase all that the Western Reserve has to offer. To my local friends: below are 7 of my favorite places to explore, swim, and hike on a gorgeous summer day. To my friends outside the region: here are some places you can look forward to seeing when you come for a visit :)
1. Virginia Kendall State Park- Peninsula, OH
This park's sandstone ledges indicate the edge of what was once prehistoric Lake Erie, providing gorgeous hiking trails that range in difficulty. Off-roading is equally as fun, as you weave through the scaling rocks to find secret alcoves overgrown with moss. Sprawling open fields prove themselves to be the perfect picnic destination. Best of all, Virginia Kendall's hiking trails converge in a gorgeous lookout point over the treetops.
2. Nelson's Ledges Quarry Park- Garrettsville, OH
Definitely a fan favorite, Nelson's Ledges has served as a go-to location for camping, hiking, and outdoor concerts for as long as I can remember. Perhaps more notable, though, is its cliff jumping. The park boasts its 50 foot cliff- off of which I have jumped many times- where visitors can land safely below in the sparkling quarry after having their taste of adventure.
3. Hell Hollow Wilderness Area- Thompson, OH
This hidden gem of the Lake Metroparks has four secret waterfalls, tucked along the trails as you wade through Paine Creek. The first of these, nicknamed Angel Falls, drops 10 feet into a large swimming hole straight out of H20: Just Add Water. The next three waterfalls increase in size, with drops ranging from 20 to 30 feet.
After ascending the 262 timber stairs needed to return to your car, don't forget to stop and admire the view; Hell Hollow's cliff overlooks the nearly 130-foot-deep ravine carved thousands of years ago by Paine Creek after glaciers retreated from Ohio.
4. Squaw Rock- Bentleyville, OH
This well-known picnic area has a less well-known backstory. Henry Church, a self-taught rock carver and local blacksmith, carved the rock in 1885 to pay tribute to the American Indians massacred throughout history. Church would supposedly stand at the pulpit, preaching sermons to the spirits of natives killed by settlers. Despite its controversial history, the landmark stands as a dedication to the tribes' plight, nestled along the peaceful Chagrin River.
5. Viaduct Park- Bedford, OH
In 1821, the Great Falls of Tinker's Creek were utilized to power one of NEO's most successful saw mills. Now converted into a nature reservation, the park encapsulates awe-inspiring walking paths and overlooks that are stunning all year round, especially in the fall.
6. Edgewater Park- Cleveland, OH
As the name suggests, Edgewater park sits directly on the shore of Lake Erie. Though the beach is usually packed, I personally believe that a visit to Edgewater is best at dusk. Sit on the rocks and enjoy a spectacular, clear view of the sunset over the lake.
7. Chapin Forest Reservation- Kirtland, OH
Last but not least, the Chapin Forest Reservation contains nearly six miles of picturesque hiking trails beneath the shade of native trees. Atop the Sharon Conglomerate ledges (found along the Lucky Stone Loop Trail) is perhaps the best scenic overlook in all of Northeast Ohio, showcasing the Cleveland skyline and a perfect view of the setting sun.