Cleveland is well known for it’s ongoing battle: east side or west side? As someone who lives on the west side, I am almost never excited to hop on I-90E. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve physically rolled my eyes when someone suggests doing something over there (so dramatic, I know). But the west side has everything I need! Restaurants, bars, book stores, thrift shops.. the list goes on and on!
However, there is one area where the east side has won me over and I am always willing to drop what I’m doing and hit the road to do: hiking. And, surprisingly (kidding guys I don’t hate it that much), the area east of Cleveland has some of my favorite hiking trails. I’m sharing my five favorite parks and trails within each of those parks that I highly recommend to visit.
- North Chagrin Reservation
Part of the Cleveland Metroparks system, I’ve previously ranked this park as an “honorable mention” as one of my favorites, and it’s easy to see why. North Chagrin Reservation is home to many attractions, including Squire’s Castle, A.B. Williams Memorial Woods and Buttermilk Falls. My personal favorite area is Squire’s Castle, especially during fall. The castle itself is pretty underwhelming (compared to what most of us think of when we think castle), but the trails behind the castle are what draw me to this area. Follow the bridle trail around the back of the castle if you want to immerse yourself in the woods. There are several trails to pick from, so choose your own adventure! I’ve done two miles before, but have also come close to hiking around five miles. There are a few hills, so be prepared to break a sweat! Either way, I guarantee you will enjoy every minute of it.
- Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve
This one will get you as close to the city limits as possible, while still being able to enjoy sites and sounds of the outdoors. This is preserve, and I would consider more a leisurely walk versus true hiking. The CLNP is 88-acres and has three trails consisting of 2.5 miles total. The area contains a diverse mix of habitats including grasslands, a forest area, meadows and wetlands.
I always see a ton of birds when I’m here, so bring your binoculars or zoom camera if you’re interested in seeing some wildlife! You also get to enjoy views along the water, as well as a nice view of the Cleveland skyline. I would recommend this for anyone who is looking to get outside and not travel too far from the city. It’s completely flat, so it’s perfect for everyone (except your dog, because they are not allowed on the preserve)!
- Penitentiary Glen Reservation
According to the Lake Metroparks website, settlers in the early 1880s called the gorge “Penitentiary Glen” because it was difficult to get out of the deepest part, much like a prison or penitentiary – yikes! Because of this, there are many areas with restricted access, so to ensure you get the best hiking experience while you’re there, ask about the naturalist led hikes. Because most of the trails in this park are short, I tend to hike them all while I’m there. My favorite is the Gorge Rim Loop Trail. If you’re looking for one longer, harder hike, I would recommend the Rabbit Run Loop Trail. All in all I would say this is a great park for hikers of all skill levels and it’s very kid-friendly.
- Chapin Forest Reservation
This is hands down my favorite park on the east side, no matter what season it is. Though it’s a bit of a drive from my house, it’s always worth it to me. My favorite trail is the Lucky Stone Loop Trail, which takes you along the Chapin Ledges and gives you a pretty spectacular overlook. The park rates this trail as difficult, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Other than a few minor hills, it’s relatively easy with most of the trail being gravel or packed dirt, making it a nice terrain to walk on.
- Hell Hollow Wilderness
If you’re looking for a place without trail markers or really any trails at all, this is the place for you. I love coming here when I just want to roam around aimlessly and hike wherever I want without having any direction in mind. The Walk Beech Ridge Loop Trail is one of the only true trails this place offers. It’s about a half mile which will give you an incredible view of the Paine Creek valley. Once you’re down on level ground though, the place is really yours to explore on your own. One of my favorite little waterfalls can be found here. I’d recommend taking sandals with you, as you are bound to get your feet wet!
So next time you’re wondering whether or not you should cross over to the dark – I mean east – side, make sure to pack your hiking shoes and bag to hit some of the incredible trails this area has to offer!