Seven Wonders of the Ohio to Erie Trail

Posted 07/14/16 by Laura Stark in Building Trails, America's Trails

Ohio and Erie Canalway Towpath Trail (under Hope Memorial Bridge) along Cleveland's Cuyahoga River | Photo courtesy Behnke Landscape Architecture

The developing Ohio to Erie Trail crosses the Buckeye State at a diagonal like a prized sash, featuring some of the best sights and experiences Ohio has to offer. Here's a quick, guided tour of some of the major highlights. Enjoy!

1Cuyahoga River

Ohio and Erie Canalway Towpath Trail (under Hope Memorial Bridge) along the Cuyahoga River | Photo by Paul F. Neumann

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Cuyahoga River—once so polluted it notably caught fire and spurred an environmental movement—is undergoing a transformation. Fish, birds and wildlife are returning to its waters, as are people for recreational use now, rather than purely industrial.The banks of the Cuyahoga, which run adjacent to the Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail, offer perfect views of this revitalization. 

2Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Pinery Narrows section of Cuyahoga Valley National Park | Photo courtesy Canalway Partners

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in the country, and for good reason. It offers a scenic and serene outdoor biking experience tucked between the bustling cities of Cleveland and Akron. The centerpiece of the park is the Ohio and Erie Canal, which follows a towpath dating back to the early 18th century. Along the way, interpretive signage, visitor centers and even costumed interpreters detail the canal’s fascinating history and importance to the region. 

3Amish Country

Amish Country along the Holmes County Trail | Photo courtesy

Northeast Ohio is home to the largest population of Amish in the county, and you can definitely hear the clop-clop-clop of horse hooves as you make your way along the trails here. The Holmes County Trail boasts being the first in the nation to be specifically designed to accommodate Amish buggies; they ride on a chip-and-seal surface separated from the paved bicycle pathway. Near the trail is the community of Kidron and the sprawling Lehman’s Hardware, which bills itself as a “Purveyor of Historical Technology” as it specializes in products for the Amish.

4Railroad Relics

A preserved train from days past sits in Gambier along the Kokosing Gap Trail | Photo courtesy

If you love railroad history or rail-trail history, the Ohio to Erie Trail won’t disappoint. The route is chock full of well-loved rail-trail features like trailside cabooses, restored train depots and those fabulous railroad trestles.

The village of Gambier offers a front-row seat to railroad history with a retired steam locomotive and a 1924 Chesapeake & Ohio caboose.

5Ariel Foundation Park

Glass waterfall in Ariel Foundation Park in Mount Vernon | Photo by Sandy Sarsfield

For some funky photo ops, Ariel Foundation Park in Mount Vernon is the place to be. Like many rail-trails, its grounds have an industrial past. Once the site of a glass manufacturing plant, the 250-acre park houses unique sculptures (including a glass “stream”), a labyrinth, a restored railroad depot and a towering smokestack with a staircase spiraling around the outside that you can climb for a breathtaking view of the countryside.

6Historical Towns

Historical Mount Vernon, the county seat for Knox County | Photo by Brandon Bartoszek

In addition to hitting the vibrant downtowns of major cities like Cleveland, Akron and Columbus, the route includes cute-as-a-button communities like Canal Fulton, Holmesville and Mount Vernon (named after George Washington’s famed plantation). With historic districts, Victorian homes, quaint shops and locally owned eateries along quiet, tree-lined streets, they exude small-town-America charm and have plenty to see and do.

7Bridge of Dreams

Bridge of Dreams along the Mohican Valley Trail | Photo courtesy Jim Hoover's Photography

If your dream rail-trails include bridges, you’ll be excited to know that a star attraction on the trail network is the longest covered bridge in state and the second longest in the nation. The 370-foot expanse along the Mohican Valley Trail—where it crosses the Mohican River—dates back to the 1920s when it was used by Penn Central Railroad (Pennsylvania Railroad before 1968). (Also, it wasn’t covered until its transformation into a rail-trail.) Its name comes from naysayers calling the transformation of the abandoned bridge into a rail-trail a pipe dream; it’s now a major tourist attraction serving bicyclists, pedestrians and Amish buggies in the village of Brinkhaven.

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