Family weekend getaway: Fall Color

September 2, 2015
Fall Color

Gather the kids and strap on the trail boots. These Cleveland-area treks give the best fall color show around.

Cleveland is called The Forest City for a reason: we have some great parks filled with trees, and they're just waiting to show off their autumn wardrobe. With the Cleveland Metroparks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park both within easy access, hiking fans don't have to travel far to see some amazing brightly hued views. Depending on how much time you have, you can even fit several hikes into the same day.

Fall color peaks around mid-October in Cleveland and lasts until early November, so plan your treks now to get the most out of the season. Here are some great starting places where you can take the family to see the area in all its Technicolor glory.

Brandywine Falls
At 65 feet high, Brandywine Falls is the second highest waterfall in Ohio and is surrounded by a 1.5 mile hiking trail that leads you through the deep gorge cut by Brandywine Falls. Located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it's really quite impressive. The boardwalk and upper observation platform along the top of the falls gives you amazing views of both the waterfall and the valley forest below - in all its autumn glory. The boardwalk is easily accessible, even with small children and strollers, while the hike offers a little bit more of a challenge and takes about an hour to complete.

Location: 8176 Brandywine Road, Sagamore Hills
Hours: Dawn to dusk

Virginia Kendall Park

With four trails along the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Ritchie Ledges area of Virginia Kendall, you can find views from the forest floor looking up at giant rock formations or views from the top looking across a sea of brightly colored trees. Don't miss the overlook on the main Ledges Trail, which makes you feel a bit like you're on top of the world. The trails can be an easy stroll or more adventurous, depending on what you are up for - you can climb on boulders or squeeze through rock caves, or watch from the comfort of the path. Either way, you'll be surrounded by a steady stream of amber, red and green light filtering through the fall trees.

Location: Various locations along Truxell Road and Kendall Park Road, Peninsula
Hours: Dawn to dusk

Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail

The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail is an icon of Northeast Ohio. With more than trailheads through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Cleveland Metroparks and beyond, as well as the opportunity to experience trains, scenic byways, canal towns and - who could forget - miles of forest-covered walks, the Towpath Trail is a must-visit for anyone in the area. The Towpath Trail's full length spans 85 miles from Cleveland to Zoar. Bike or hike your way through a variety of different views, all with spectacular fall colors to show off. This path is a great option for the whole family, as it is mostly flat and almost the entire trail is ADA accessible.

Location: Many access points from Cleveland to Zoar
Hours: Varies by location. Areas within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are open 24 hours per day.

Brecksville Reservation

The contrast of trees ranging from oak to hickory to cottonwoods and willows gives Brecksville Reservation in the Cleveland Metroparks a unique look at the effects of Mother Nature's autumn paintbrush. Glaciers long ago carved deep gorges in this area, which foster a huge variety of rare plants. Part of the famed Buckeye Trail runs through Brecksville Reservation, offering a bit of a challenge for seasoned hikers. For those looking for a relaxing stroll, there are plenty of paths to choose from.

Location: 9000 Chippewa Creek Drive, Brecksville (Nature Center)
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Rocky River Reservation

Rocky River Reservation is one of the most popular parks in the Cleveland Metroparks system, with a variety of activities. Kayak rentals from 41° North Kayak Adventures are family favorites - where you can meander through wooded scenery with views of giant cliffs along the Rocky River and the Rocky River Marina. If you'd rather stay on dry land, try the Fort Hill Loop Trail, with breathtaking views of the Rocky River, a diverse mixture of trees, and even ancient Indian fortifications below. Fair warning: the Fort Hill Loop Trail has more than 140 stairs to climb and can be quite challenging.

Location: 24000 Valley Parkway, North Olmsted (Nature Center)
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Hinckley Reservation

While Hinckley Reservation is nationally known for the annual return of the buzzards in spring, there's no shortage of amusement in the fall months as well. There's nothing quite like the way the trees reflect off of the 90-acre Hinckley Lake on a sunny autumn day. Get the best view from a stand-up paddle board or canoe out on the lake, or walk the several surrounding Cleveland Metroparks public access trails. If you're into activity with your fall foliage viewing, you can bike, fish, boat or hike around the area with relative ease.

Location: 1 West Drive, Hinckley
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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