14 Surprisingly Beautiful Hikes Near Cleveland for All Levels
By Kay Rodriguez
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Updated July 27, 2021
With its unique location on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland is a surprisingly cool city for people who enjoy the outdoors. Cleveland is known as “Forest City,” and from its abundance of woodsy trails and pathways that lead to some stunning Ohio scenery, it’s easy to understand why! Hiking near Cleveland is a wonderful way to experience northern Ohio’s incredible rock formations, forests, and lakes, as well as getting exercise and escaping the rush of the city. We created this guide to the best hikes near Cleveland so you can plan your next outdoor adventure ASAP!
Easy Hiking Near Cleveland
Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve
Distance from Cleveland: 0 miles
Trail Length: 2.8 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
One of the greatest perks of Cleveland is its scenic location on Lake Erie. What better way to get the quintessential Cleveland hiking experience than on a lakefront trail? Luckily, the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is a fantastic options for hikers of all levels to enjoy the lakefront in a well-maintained, beautiful urban green space.
Catch some of the best views of the Cleveland skyline as well as the lake on this 2.8-mile look trail around a small, lakeside peninsula. You’ll find beautiful, forest-lined pathways that lead to the lakeside, providing hikers with a wide variety of views and landscapes to take in.
Ohio & Erie Canal
Distance from Cleveland: Varies
Trail Length: 80 miles total
Elevation Gain: Varies
One of the most historically significant trails in Ohio is the Ohio & Erie Canal, and its namesake trail runs parallel to this important waterway that spans 80 miles from the outskirts of Cleveland to Zoar, Ohio via Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Of course, we’re not expecting you to hike all 80 miles of this trail in one go (unless you want to…), but it’s a wonderful, easy option for a half-day stroll or bike ride though an urban, suburban, and rural long-distance trail system. Pick a starting point somewhere along the way and allow yourself to wander – you may be surprised at what you find!
Distance from Cleveland: 38 miles/40 minutes (Gorge Metro Park)
Trail Length: 1.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 226 feet
Gorge Metro Park is one of the coolest green spaces in the Cleveland area, and the Glens Trail is one of the most beloved trails that runs through the park. Locals love the Glens Trail because it’s close to home, but it is one of the best easy hikes near Cleveland to experience scenery and stunning terrain. Along the nearly 2 miles of the trail, you’ll walk alongside stark rock formations and waterways, and you’ll pass a dam along the river. The cliffs and ledges here feel otherworldly and grandiose among the otherwise flat trail system, and you’ll certainly be in awe when you see them for yourself!
Cherry Lane Trail
Distance from Cleveland: 30 miles/35 minutes (F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm)
Trail Length: 1.1 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Wildlife lovers will enjoy the 1.1-mile Cherry Lane Trail, which runs through the F. A. Seiberling Nature Realm just over half and hour from the city center. As one of the best hikes near Cleveland to spot local animals and plants, there’s a good chance you’ll see some cool critters ambling around if you’re patient and quiet enough. Aside from the wildlife, there are scenic bridges and peaceful forests throughout the park, perfect for immersing yourself in nature on a short and sweet adventure.
Eagle View, Shoreline, Bluff, and Lakeview Loop
Distance from Cleveland: 35 miles/37 minutes (Lake Erie Bluffs)
Trail Length: 2.7 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Of all of the lakeside areas, Lake Erie Bluffs offers some of the prettiest views of Lake Erie, and the Eagle View, Shoreline, Bluff, and Lakeview Loop trail around the park area is one of the best hikes near Cleveland to experience them. With a large, metal tower and several waterfront lookouts to enjoy, hikers will not only get to explore the many trails at Lake Erie Bluffs, but they’ll also catch some absolutely breathtaking views. Bridges, dirt paths, wooden staircases, and shoreline areas make up this varied trail system, and hikers of all levels (including beginners) will be sure to find something they love here!
Nelson Ledges Trail
Distance from Cleveland: 45 miles/50 minutes (Nelson Ledges Quarry Park)
Trail Length: 1.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 101 feet
Step out of the bustle of Cleveland and into a trail full of otherworldly, staggering vertical rock cliffs and formations at the Nelson Ledges trail. As you wander through the easy, short trail here, you’ll understand why locals claim this as one of their favorite hikes near Cleveland. The terrain is absolutely breathtaking. Accessible to all levels of hikers, the Nelson Ledges trail is under an hour from Cleveland’s city center, making for a great half-day adventure from the city. Don’t forget your camera – you’ll definitely want to take tons of photos of this epic landscape once you get there!
Fort Hill Earthworks Loop Trail
Distance from Cleveland: 0 miles (Rocky River Reservation)
Trail Length: 4.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 275 feet
A pretty forested trail that offers beautiful views of West Channel Pond, the Fort Hill Earthworks Loop is a great spot for hiking near Cleveland. Located within city limits, this Rocky River Reservation trail is easy to moderate, with lots of little terrain changes and stairs that provide some challenge that’s accessible to all levels of hikers. The views of the cliffsides along the pond are absolutely stunning, especially in the fall with the changing leaves. Plus, it’s super close to the city, perfect for a short escape to get some fresh air!
Moderate & Difficult Hikes Near Cleveland
Brandywine Gorge Trail
Distance from Cleveland: 23 miles/30 minutes (Cuyahoga Valley National Park)
Trail Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 164 feet
One of the best places for hiking near Cleveland is Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the Brandywine Gorge Trail may be one of its most scenic hikes. With fun boardwalks and trails that lead to an absolutely breathtaking waterfalls, the Brandywine Gorge trail is a quintessential Cleveland area trail that’s perfect for hikers of all levels. Note that this trail does get very, very crowded, so be sure to go early or on weekdays if you want to avoid the crowds.
Distance from Cleveland: 27 miles/40 minutes (Cuyahoga Valley National Park)
Trail Length: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 229 feet
Another wonderful hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the Ledges Trail, which takes hikers through 2.6 miles of trails through absolutely magnificent rock formations. Walk through vertical rock ledges and gorges and enjoy a peaceful forested setting on this fun, moderately difficult trail. The trail is also one of the coolest and most fun family- and dog-friendly trails on our list, so bring the kids and the pups for one of the most fantastic hikes near Cleveland.
Chapin Forest Reservation Trail
Distance from Cleveland: 22 miles/30 minutes
Trail Length: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 482 feet
For some wonderful hilltop views of the surrounding Ohio forests, the Chapin Forest Reservation Trail is one great place to go hiking near Cleveland. On its 5.7-mile loop, you can enjoy a leisurely walk in the woods with a few steeper areas with varied terrain that will give you a fun challenge. From the highest points of the trail, you can catch a few overlooks that boast stunning views of the trees below, which are especially magical in the fall.
Deer Lick Cave
Distance from Cleveland: 16 miles/25 minutes
Trail Length: 4.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 482 feet
For a fun, interesting hike that’s kid- and dog-friendly, the Deer Lick Cave Trail is a great, moderately difficult option. This 4.2-mile trail takes hikers through the woods and up sets of wooden stairs to a large rock formation and cave that has a small waterfall and pool below (though this often depends on how much rain the area has received recently). Aside from the cave, the scenery here is quite nice and provides a fantastic break from the city!
Distance from Cleveland: 30 miles/35 minutes (Sand Run Metro Park)
Trail Length: ~3 miles
Elevation Gain: 278 feet
The Mingo Trail is a short and sweet trail that’s got a little bit of everything, and provides a perfect spot for hiking near Cleveland. Along the moderately difficult pathways here, you will find creeks, waterfalls, rock formations, and bridges that make this trail as diverse and scenic as it is. The short uphill ascents throughout the trail offer a bit more challenge than your average easy trail, but this is definitely doable for just about every level of hiker.
Hinckley Reservation Trails
Distance from Cleveland: 28 miles/30 minutes (Hinckley Reservation)
Trail Length: Varies
Elevation Gain: Varies
Hinckley Reservation is a popular nature area about 30 minutes from Cleveland’s city center that offers a wide variety of hiking trails and pathways – mostly moderate – to enjoy close to the city. Because this park has a bunch of short trails that connect together in a network, it’s easy to “choose your own adventure” and create a hike from the various routes that fits your desired time and difficulty preferences. The Hinckley Lake Inner Loop and Whipp’s Ledges Trails are two of the more popular hikes in the area, which offer lovely glimpses at Hinckley Lake and some of the various rock formations in the park.
Old Man’s Cave & Ash Cave
Distance from Cleveland: 198 miles/3 hours (Hocking Hills State Park)
Trail Length: 9.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 843 feet
As one of the longer and harder hikes near Cleveland, the Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave hike brings together some of Hocking Hills’ best landscapes and challenges into one day-long hike. Known as one of the best hikes in Ohio, even among experienced hikers, this trail passes by the epic Cedar Falls, gorgeous rock formations and creeks, spooky tunnels, and more.
This trail is a real treat for the senses, and is a less popular hike than some of the shorter ones in Hocking Hills because of its length and difficulty. If you’re looking for a good challenge that will get your blood pumping and bring you to some of the most outstanding natural areas in the state of Ohio, the Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave hike is a must-do.
Additional Resources for Hiking near Cleveland
What to Pack
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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