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!
While I’m sure you’re not surprised that you’ve stumble upon another fall lover, I enjoy it for so much more than Pumpkin Spice Lattes, scarves, sweaters and flannels. I love this time of year because the temperature starts to drop, the leaves start to fall and we get to experience one of the most magical times of year.
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 10 places within 30 minutes of 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. They typically close in October, 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 isn’t for you, there are plenty of other areas (more than 3,600 acres worth) to explore that are just as beautiful.
8. Bridal Veils, Bedford Reservation | Bedford
My husband proposed to me here, so I’m sure you can understand why this made the list. 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.
9. Brecksville Reservation | Brecksville
This area has plenty of trails to offer for hikers and bikers alike. It’s 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, hence no train in the photo above.
10. Blue Hen Falls | Brecksville
While this area tends to get quite crowded with visitors, it shouldn’t deter you completely from coming. Definitely try to go on a weekday or in the evenings. When you can step back (without crowds of people) and look at the falls from far away, you realize just how stunning this waterfall and surrounding area is.
These are just a few of my favorite options, but know there are even more beyond this list! What’s your favorite park to explore during explore autumn?