Are you ready to experience the best fall hikes near Cleveland? Now that Labor Day is behind us and the weather is slowly changing, it’s time to prepare and make plans for the best season of the year: Fall! I’m excited to share with you a list of what I consider the 10 best fall hikes near Cleveland (within a 30 minute drive).
Not only are the vibrant leaves changing from green to yellow, orange and red, there’s also the incredible satisfaction of the sound leaves make when they crunch underneath your shoes. On top of that the temperature is ideal for hiking. There are less bugs, less crowds and landscape is changing right in front of your eyes.
Now I’m sure it’s hard to imagine that these beautiful fall scenes I’m describing could be so close to Cleveland, but they do exist, and you’ll want to include them in your plans between football games and carving pumpkins. Below is a list of the 10 best fall hikes near Cleveland where you can experience fall in all of its glory.
1. Rocky River Reservation | Rocky River
With the new steps installed last year, the viewing experience at Rocky River Reservation is one like no other. The Fort Hill Stairs lead you up to stunning views 90 feet above the east and west branches of the Rocky River. Plus once you get to the top there’s a hike through the woods that continues to be incredible.
There are plenty of nearby trails if you park at the Nature Center and walk behind it. So if you aren’t interesting in making the climb up the stairs, you’ll still find a hike that’s right for you.
2. Chapin Forest | Kirtland
This is easily one of my favorites during this time of year and you can see why. The overlook is one you wouldn’t expect to find just 30 minutes outside of Cleveland’s borders. The sweeping vista of trees is enough to leave you stunned. Plus, if you bring a camera with a decent zoom or binoculars, you can see the Cleveland skyline in the background.
3. Ledges Overlook | Peninsula
Any excuse I have to include this area on a list of “places to go” I will do it. This area of the national park is so fun to visit, no matter the time of year. However, if you’re all about the leaves changing AND sunsets (which I am), then this is truly the place for you.
Be sure to walk the entire Ledges trail to experience a hike that’s easy for all types. While the overlook is the spot to go, the hike along the way is also worth it.
4. North Chagrin Reservation | Willoughby Hills
No matter what season it is, Squire’s Castle should already be on your list of must see places. This beautiful gatehouse was built in the 1890s and is modeled after German and English baronial castles. It is so unique to the area.. you won’t see anything else like this around Cleveland!
Once you’ve explored the castle, check out the trails behind it to experience fall in all of its glory. If the leaves haven’t started changing, it’s still a fun hike and it’s a little challenging, too! There are some hills, so be prepared.
5. Brandywine Falls | Sagamore Hills
This is one of my personal favorites during the September/October months. Since there’s usually more rain during these months, the falls are likely to be raging much more than they are during the popular summer months when it’s typically dry.
The Brandywine Gorge Trail lets you explore past the classic boardwalk view of the falls. It starts near the bed & breakfast and follows the edge of the gorge, eventually taking you down to creek level.
6. Viaduct Park | Bedford
This area holds a special place in my heart. I was driving back from Kent State’s homecoming to my apartment in Lakewood and I saw a sign for this park. For some reason, I had the strongest urge to jump off the highway and make my way here. The air was warm and the leaves were sprinkled with every color. This was before I had a camera, and I remember trying to capture images like the one above on my phone. I was frustrated because I didn’t feel like my phone could truly showcase how mesmerizing this place really was. This was the spot that inspired me to get back in to photography.
There are several small trails that lead you through this park. If you’re interested in learning about the history of the area they’ve post a bunch of signs with fun historical information.
7. Holden Arboretum | Willoughby
Reluctant to come here at first because of the fee to get in, I was glad I pulled the plug and went. This is a unique area to visit because of the Canopy Walk and the Emergent Tower. They typically close in November, so mark your calendars so you don’t miss the opportunity to visit. Try and go early if you can, as the lines can get long!
If the canopy or the tower aren’t for you, there are plenty of other areas (more than 3,600 acres worth) to explore that are just as beautiful. I think the reason this makes one of the best fall hikes near Cleveland is that there really is an experience for everyone in your family here. It’d be easy to spend a full day exploring the grounds.
8. Bridal Veils, Bedford Reservation | Bedford
My husband proposed to me here, so I’m sure you can understand why this made the list. It’s also one of my favorite parks in the Cleveland Metroparks system, no matter the time of year. Putting that aside though, there really are so many fun trail options in the Bedford Reservation. Whether you’re looking for an easy or hard hike, you will find perfect fall hike here just for you. If you’re really adventurous, you can wander off the trail right by Bridal Veils (pictured above) and stumble upon some smaller waterfalls that are unmarked.
The Bridal Veil Falls area is a great place to bring your kids, too. I’m always seeing children splashing in the water and the walk down to the falls is relatively easy. It doesn’t take long before you’re surrounding by a ton of natural beauty.
Lastly, right down the road is this beautiful outlook that is worth the quick stop to admire!
9. Brecksville Reservation | Brecksville
This area has plenty of trails to offer for hikers and bikers alike. My favorite trail is the Deer Lick Loop. I hiked this early in the fall season and it’s where I first saw the colors starting to change along the Buckeye Trail. The station road bridge trailhead is also a very popular spot when the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is running. “Steam in the Valley” is starting soon, where you can hop on an enjoy a two hour round trip on the train. Photographers tend to gather in this area to capture the iconic shot of the train rolling through the valley. I have yet to do this, but I think it would top the list of one of the best fall experiences near Cleveland.
10. Blue Hen Falls | Brecksville
As of early 2020, the Blue Hen Falls parking lot is closed. So keep in mind when you plan a trip here you need to park at the new Visitor’s Center and hike alternative route via the Buckeye Trail. This hike is much more challenging than what most are used to when visiting this area, whereas it used to be a relatively quick walk down to the falls. The hike is roughly 4 miles out and back and it can be very muddy while parts of it turn quite steep. While you’re here, you should continue along the trail and visit the lesser known Buttermilk Falls, which is a beauty all on its own. These two stunning waterfalls easily makes this one of the best fall hikes near Cleveland.
These are just a few of what I consider the best fall hikes near Cleveland. But know there are even more beyond this list! Follow me on Instagram where every fall I share locations, status of leaf colors and much more! What’s your favorite park to explore during explore autumn?