Enjoying history and scenery in Summit Metro Parks

As much as I love going on a hike, very few things can beat a FALL Ohio hike.  No 98% humidity, fewer bugs, and the crunch of leaves underfoot.  #Perfection.  On our first trip to Summit Metro Parks, we were given the most glorious autumn day, and the history and scenery that we encountered did not disappoint.

Our first stop in Summit Metro Parks was Gorge Metro Park (on my 2017 Travel Bucket List)!  Gorge Metro Park is located in Cuyahoga Falls, OH and is an outstanding place to enjoy views of the Cuyahoga River, a large cave, and even do some fishing.

We ventured out on the Gorge Trail (aptly named) in hopes to see the Mary Campbell Cave.  The cave is named after a 12-year-old Pennsylvania girl that was kidnapped from her home by the Delaware Indians. She was released 5 years later, in 1764, at the close of the French & Indian War.  It is believed that she dwelt in the cave with the Native Americans!

The history is fascinating, and the size of the cave is more than I expected.

Summit Metro Parks- Gorge Trail Mary Campbell Cave- Summit Metro Parks

Unfortunately, the upper trail was closed past the cave, so we took the trail shortcut down to the Observation Deck.  I could have sat here for hours and listened to the waterfall created by the Dam.  Tourists have been flocking to this area since the late 1800s, at one time a small amusement park was adjoined!

Summit Metro Parks- Dam Summit Metro Parks- Observation Deck

While the Observation Deck isn’t handicap accessible or stroller-friendly, shortly after this the Gorge Trail does become paved. If you’re looking for a short trail to take unsteady feet, this would be a good one (See-> Best Ohio Hikes for Kids).

The kiddos were getting a little antsy, so we headed back to the car for some snacks and scoped out our next stop within Summit Metro Parks.

I’d read something briefly about an Indian Signal Tree and thought this would be a piece of homeschooling history that we could not miss!  The Indian Signal Tree is located in the Chuckery area of Cascade Valley Metro Park.  This bur oak is over 300 years old and was used by the Natives to find their way from the Cuyahoga River to Summit Lake.  My mind wandered to the countless history that this tree has witnessed!  I sat there in disbelief – that for most of my life I’ve lived less than 2-3 hours away and yet didn’t know this existed?  This is why we choose to explore nearby areas and view local destinations as important as those that are hundreds or thousands of miles away!

Summit Metro Parks- Signal Tree

The Signal Tree is only about 100 yards from the closest parking spot, so this is an easy place to jump out and learn some history.  There is an attached 2.4 mile Chuckery Trail, but we did not venture on it.

Captivated by Summit Metro Parks, we wanted to make one more stop before heading home.  I’d seen pictures of an Overlook on Instagram but we weren’t sure where to look.  Luckily, on our drive into Cuyahoga Falls looking for some dinner, we passed right by the parking lot for the Overlook Trail!

The Overlook Trail is also located with the Cascade Valley Metro Park, but in a different area than the Signal Tree.

The half mile trail is paved and ADA compliant.  We forgot to bring a stroller (#fail), but it’s not a hilly path and was easy enough for our tired kiddos.

This is the perfect Instagram spot for fall foliage.  I think we missed it by a week.

 

While we enjoyed a perfect combo of weather and scenery at Summit Metro Parks, my favorite part of our visit was the friendly Northeast Ohio personalities we walked by throughout the day.  Nearly everyone said “hello” or spoke with us about our kids!  I always feel like a hike in the woods connects me to our children and our Creator, but this day also encouraged me with the gleaming show of Midwestern hospitality.

Have you been to Summit Metro Parks?  What was your favorite hike?  We still have so much more to explore!

 

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Summit Metro Parks- Northeast Ohio- Family-friendly hiking, history, and scenery.

Best hiking trails for kids at Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills is the perfect family-friendly Ohio destination.  The main attraction of Hocking Hills are her natural rock formations and numerous waterfalls, but all of these must be reached by hiking trails.  Over the years I wished that someone would have ranked the easiest or best trails for young children. So, after multiple visits with our family, I’ve come up with a list of the best hiking trails for kids at Hocking Hills.

#1  Ash Cave

The easiest hiking trail at Hocking Hills for kids of all ages is the paved Gorge Trail at Ash Cave.  This trail is stroller/wheelchair accessible and it’s only 0.3 miles long each way, so if you have young ones that want to walk, but tire out quickly, they should be able to handle the short distance.

The trail ends at the large cave recess- Ash Cave stands over 90 feet high and is almost 700 feet wide from end to end, so it’s sure to wow even the littlest traveler.  The area is full of sand and the rocks can be slippery, so tennis shoes should be worn.  However, on dry days I’ve found Ash Cave to be almost one giant (shallow) sandbox.  If you have a little one that likes diggers or trucks, maybe pack a few small ones to give yourself a moment of solitude.

#2 Conkles Hollow

Conkles Hollow is a State Nature Preserve within the Hocking Hills area.  This is one of the most dramatic areas in the winter, as the walls of the gorge can be filled with ice formations.  On one winter visit my little ones through we had taken off to Elsa’s land in Frozen.

The best trail for kids at Conkles Hollow would be the half-mile Gorge Trail.   The Gorge Trail at Conkles Hollow is paved and stroller-friendly, just note that if you do visit in winter, this area does not get a lot of sun and you may be walking on a sheet of ice instead of a paved trail!  For the most part though, for the summer and fall visitor, this paved trail is without too many hazards for children to encounter and makes a must-see stop on your Hocking Hills vacation.

#3 Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls is one of the most iconic sites at Hocking Hills!  For good reason – the waterfall and surroundings are truly magical.  There are multiple ways to reach the Cedar Falls and with small children it’s hard to know which is the best!

I recommend parking at the main Cedar Falls parking area (this is not the one right along 374 but instead follow the signs to a stone sign and parking entrance).  This trail is NOT stroller friendly, but you do enter the gorge via stairs which for me is easier if holding the hand of a toddler or wearing them in a carrier.  I’m less nervous about falling!   (Using this map, you’d only hike the portion where the yellow and purple go together and then turn around).

#4 Rockbridge

Rockbridge is another Nature Preserve within the Hocking Hills area.  I had a hard time choosing the between a #4 and #5 for the best hiking trails, but I like Rockbridge because there is very little time in which I HAVE to be holding the hand of my preschooler.  The path begins in essentially, a pasture, and then weaves through the woods before coming to Ohio’s largest natural rock bridge.  This is the area where you’ll need to be extra careful with young children too ensure they don’t fall.

Another reason why I love the Rockbridge is because I’ve never found it to be as busy as Ash Cave or Old Man’s Cave.  It’s not “off the beaten track” but in the words of a fellow traveler I met on our last visit, “Old Man’s Cave was like an airport terminal.”  You’ll find out for yourself.

#5 Old Man’s Cave

Old Man’s Cave is one of the hallmarks of Hocking Hills.  For the most kid-friendly experience, I’d take the stairs down to the bottom of the gorge and get on the blue Grandma Gatewood Trail.  This trail allows you to view the main attractions of the Devil’s bathtub and Upper Falls.  You will have access to the upper gorge and rim trails, but with younger children I’d probably just take the stairs back the same way you came down.

Have you been to Hocking Hills?  Which trail would you recommend as the best for kids?

You can learn more about Hocking Hills HERE (i.e. find out why I don’t recommend the Rock House).

Looking for a place to stay?  Check out the Hocking Hills Caboose.

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Five Reasons You Must Visit Marietta, Ohio

Marietta is a small city that lies right along the Ohio River in southeast Ohio.  While little in size and numbers, it’s bursting with local attractions.  I’ve passed through Marietta many times on I-77, but stopping in the city for 3 days gave me an appreciation for its diverse attractions, gorgeous river views, and historic homes.   I came up with five reasons you must visit Marietta, Ohio, but in reality there are many more.

#1  Marietta has enough to keep the whole family entertained.  

Like history?  Marietta was the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory.  Founded in 1788, Marietta was named in honor of France’s Marie Antoinette,  showing thankfulness to France for their contribution to a US victory in the Revolutionary War.  Located at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, this was Native American territory first.  A large mound still stands at the center of town in Mound Cemetery.

Mound Cemetery- Marietta, OhioOhio Street, Marietta, Ohio

To learn more about the history of Marietta, consider taking a tour through Hidden Marietta.  On our tour I learned that the above brick-laden Ohio Street was one of the first streets in town.  It has a wild past as the home to brothels and bars, luring ship workers into town for a rowdy night.  Now it’s just home to many tall tales, and this popular restaurant, The Levee.

Marietta is also home to many kid-friendly museums, such The Campus Maritus Museum or the Ohio River Museum.  Outside of the Ohio River Museum you have the chance to tour a steam-driven sternwheeler, the WP Snyder Jr.

W.P. Snyder, Marietta, Ohio

#2 Outdoor adventures are abundant

It’s no surprise to me that Marietta was named one of America’s Best Adventure Towns by National Geographic.  The Ohio & Muskingum Rivers afford plenty of opportunities for putting your boat, kayak, or canoe to good use.  There’s a picturesque bike trail that follows those same rivers for over 3 miles.  The charming city also has 30+ miles of hiking and mountain bike trails.  Nearby Wayne National Forest offers abundant trails as well.

No need to stress if you don’t have a way to bring your gear.  Marietta Adventure Company offers kayak and bike rentals, as well as tours.  We enjoyed a history-themed bike tour with Hallie, and a kayak tour led by Ryan.  Both of these guides were friendly & helpful and extremely knowledgeable of all things Marietta.5 Reasons to visit Marietta Ohio

#3 Marietta is walkable

Once you’ve arrived and parked the car, the city is easy to navigate.  Unless you’ll be traveling out to Wayne National Forest, you shouldn’t need the car again!  Feel free to walk along the river using the aforementioned bike trail, but you’ll also find plentiful sidewalks and a manageable business district.

The downtown is lined with cozy shops and great restaurants- there’s even an historic bridge to take you over to Harmar Village. Don’t miss the flood markers throughout the downtown.  It’s a great reminder of just how mighty that Ohio River can be.

#4- Downtown accommodation

The Lafayette Hotel sits right on the Ohio River and is probably the most convenient property in Marietta.  My room was small, but functional.  In keeping with the history of the property,  the well-made reproduction furniture adds to the hotel’s appeal.  The Lafayette also offers a 3rd floor deck to enjoy watching the numerous barges (Marietta sees more than the Panama Canal) float by.

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The Lafayette Hotel - Marietta, Ohio The Lafayette Hotel - Marietta, Ohio

#5  Family-friendly Festivals

One of the most popular festivals in Marietta is the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.  The Sternwheel Festival is always the weekend after Labor Day.  Can’t make it but want to see a sternwheeler?  Various cruise ships dock throughout the summer.  You can see the full list on the  Visit Marietta Facebook Events page.

Enjoy a beer and some outdoor adventure?  Marietta is also host to the Rivers, Trails & Ales Festival held every year in August.  It’s a celebration of local community spirit, coupled with paddling and mountain biking, then finished off with Ohio-made craft beers.  This would make a great weekend getaway for couples and singles of all ages.

Sternwheeler Mural- Marietta Ohio 5 reasons you must visit

Have I convinced you that you MUST visit Marietta?  I adore this small town with big city charm.  Have you been to Marietta?  What’s your favorite attraction?

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5 Reasons to Visit Marietta Ohio

** I was hosted by the Marietta-Washington County CVB.  All opinions are my own.**

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Hiking at the Whipp’s Ledges within Hinckley Reservation





One of the things I love about following various Instagram accounts is getting new ideas for where to take our hiking excursions.  Whipp’s Ledges within Hinckley Reservation was one of the places that caught my eye for a family hike.  I fell in love with this type of typography after last year’s trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Hinckley Reservation is part of the Cleveland Metroparks system.  While we only hiked the Ledges Trail, there appear to be 7 foottrails within the reservation, one of which is an all-purpose trail for hiking, biking, and rollerblading.

Whipp’s Ledges Trail is accessed from State Rd.  Note: When we were there, a bridge was being repaired on State Road.  You must enter the hiking area from the north.

There is a map at the entrance to the trail, but I’d recommend printing a trail map and taking it, just in case.  There are blazes, but not many signs, making it a little confusing.

The ledges are really spectacular.  It’s hard to believe that this type of place is just minutes from shopping malls and restaurants.  Ohio keeps surprising me, and this is a gem of a place to hike.

The hiking is rugged, so I wouldn’t recommend these trails for any younger than 3.  If you have a hiking carrier, you’d probably be ok!  Also, prepare for MUD.  Our kiddos wore their snow boots so we wouldn’t ruin their tennis shoes.  The trail is only 1.25 miles in length though, so it’s definitely doable with young ones who tire easily.

Probably the thing I loved most about Whipps Ledges was that it was one of those places that just made you feel really SMALL.  As a Christian, I’m always reminded that there’s something much bigger than me- and that HE is in control, not me.  Taking our kids to these places is a nice jumping off point for those talks, too- how we worship a great Creator who made this beautiful place for us to enjoy.  #endsdeepandmeaningfulconvo

Anyhow- Have you been to Hinckley Reservation?  If you’re interested in going, my friend Tonya at The Traveling Praters covered nearby Worden’s Ledges.  Next time we’ll definitely be checking them out.

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You Can Take The Kids: 5 Ohio Hikes To Do As A Family

The way people talked about having kids, I thought my life was ovvveerrr once we had a few babies.  But hooray- it doesn’t have to be!  If you’re a natural explorer you can still get out and enjoy fantastic scenery WITH kids in tow.

These 5 Ohio places have been tried and tested by our family.  Some are even stroller-friendly!

Hocking Hills area

Hocking Hills is full of natural beauty in all seasons!  One of our favorite times to visit is winter because of all of the ice formations.

Two areas in particular are perfect for parents of small children:  Ash Cave and Conkles Hollow.  Ash Cave has a 1/4 mile handicap accessible trail that is perfect for strollers or new walkers.  The trail does get very busy on weekends, holidays, and in the fall, so plan accordingly (i.e. you may NEED the stroller for containment).

Conkles Hollow has a one mile disabled access trail.  This is also perfect for a stroller, BUT due to the cliff walls, a lot of sunlight does not hit the sidewalk.  We’ve found this trail to be fairly icy and slushy in winter.  Make sure kids wear snow boots, and you may want to forego the stroller. The ice formations on the rocks make this totally worth a little slipping and sliding!  In summer, this is the perfect place to give the stroller a go- I’d stick with a single if possible because the trail isn’t very wide.

Ash Cave and some of my “little” family

Hocking Hills Hotels

Flint Ridge

A ancient flint deposit used by Native Americans and now owned by the Ohio Historical Society, Flint Ridge has a few different hiking options for your family.  One of the trails is mostly boardwalk/paved trail and is perfect for for strollers.  There are other trails past the museum that are ok for ages 2+ to walk (no steep cliff faces).  We visited last winter and it was MUDDY, so don’t wear good shoes.  The museum is open March-October, so plan accordingly.

We graduated off of the stroller path at Flint Ridge

Blackhand Gorge

Located near Flint Ridge is Blackhand Gorge.  Blackhand Gorge is named after a sandstone formation.  A four-mile bike trail is perfect for your family’s stroller or bikes, and you’ll still see lots of great scenery even if you don’t get off of the beaten path.  The Canal-Lock trail showcases of piece of the Old Ohio-Erie Canal towpath.  This is an ideal hike for families, and even toddlers could handle the walk (with a little help from mom or dad).  More info HERE.

Hotels near Flint Ridge & Blackhand Gorge 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park area

Ohio’s first and only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park really surprised me!  My favorite spot in the park was the Virginia Kendall State Park (aka The Ledges).  This wouldn’t be ideal for a stroller, but I’d say ages 4+ would have no problems handling the stairs and grades.  Within Ohio, this is second only to Hocking Hills as a place that will remind your family how small we really are in comparison to Creation.  My go-to summer hiking shoe

Deep Lock Quarry (within Summit Metro Parks) is also very doable with young ones.  This trail would be best used with a jogging stroller and you will have to miss one small part of the loop, BUT it’s still worth the trip.  Our kiddos loved climbing on the giant sandstone rocks.  More info HERE.

Hotels near CVNP

Sheldon Marsh 

This Ohio nature preserve doesn’t involve an vigorous hike, but it does offer up views of a rare coastal wetland habitat.  The kids enjoyed viewing different birds, seeing lots of chipmunks, and then ending up on the shores of Lake Erie.  This path is definitely stroller-friendly until you get to the beach (no swimming allowed).

Hotels near Sheldon Marsh

Have you hiked any of these trails?  Where does your family enjoy hiking?