Northeast Ohio is a place that isn't a bubble to the top of your hotspot lists, but if you have an active trail dog, you'll want to check it out. The main attraction is "ledges", a limestone that has tired, eroded and cracked into massive pockets of SUV-sized blocks. You are actually hiking on the floor of an ancient seafloor that once covered Ohio. Millions of years later retreating glaciers covered most of the limestone with scraped soil, but some areas were left exposed to the mercy of wind and water, which created fantastic rock formations. While you will be amazed at the picturesque wonder of these skirting boards, your dog will love to sneak in, race around and rummage through the cliffs. One advantage of visiting skirting boards in the summer is that these hikes tend to be many degrees cooler than the day's declared high temperatures. Here are some of the best parks in Northeast Ohio to test:
Nelson-Kennedy Ledge State Park (Garetsville, SR 282)
You will immediately enter this small park. A series of ledges move north-south about one mile, surrounded by waterfalls at either end. Separate paths go to the top (white-blazing and easy), to the front (blue-blazing and the best way to look at mossy rocks) and down and through massive rocky rocks (red-blazing and difficult). You may chuckle when you see the names of the Red Path, such as Fat Man, Rail, Squeeze, and Devil, but winning can't be a laughing matter when you watch your dog 39; swinging the tail forward as you stare at the seemingly impossible passage through the rocks.
Hinckley Reservation (Hinckley, Bellus Road)
Hinckley is known for returning the beetles, turkey vultures, from the south every March 15. Two separate sets of skirting boards and rocks are in your dog's study park, each reaching a one-mile-long trail. A short climb to one of the highest points in Northeast Ohio will take you to the base of Whipp's Lhipges, where your dog can easily scale the tall rocks 50 feet high. Keep control of your dog as you cross the top of the ledges, which feature clear, undetected dropouts. At the southern end of the reserve are the mossy Wordens Ledges, which have rock carvings of religious symbols.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Peninsula, SR 303)
The accent of the Happy Days Visitor Center trail system is a 30-foot lane that runs for most of a mile. The Ledges Trail traverses rock formations that do not require the crazy passages emblematic of some of its cousins in the area, making this trail suitable for any level of canine tourist. Spur paths will take your dog to the nooks and crannies and the top of the ledges. Still, there are drophophytes that we need to know about.
Gorge Metropark (Cuyahoga Falls, Front Street)
The Cuyahoga River Gorge has been luring adventure travelers since 1882, when it was the site of the High Bridge Glens Amusement Park. One hundred and twenty-five years earlier, 10-year-old Mary Campbell was taken from the Pennsylvania border by the Delaware Indians and brought to a cave in the gorge, becoming the first white child in America to reach Ohio. The Gorge Trail is 1.8 miles today, the high point of which comes when a dog has to choose its path through a maze of rocky cliffs. Road signs mark this stretch as "difficult" and bypass is offered, but there is nothing your dog can't handle. In fact, some stone steps have been cut in the most problematic passages.
The West Woods (Russell Township, SR 87)
These dark woods and sheltered rocky outcrops have long been rumored. The escaped slaves were hidden here at the railway station on earth. Civil war soldiers found refuge under the sills. The bootleggers operated illegal shots in the hollows. The 1.5-kilometer destination at this Geauga County exhibition park is the Ansel Cave, named for an early Massachusetts settler who may have crouched here. This trip takes place entirely under tall, hardwoods along wide, paved stone paths that are comfortable for paws.
South Booking at Chagrin (Chagrin Falls, Hawthorne Parkway)
The Chagrin River, which dominates this Cleveland metropolitan park, was declared a state-of-the-art scenic river in 1979. On the east side of the river, the squirrel path of the chain slides cautiously over the water under the guard of the rock ledge. This is a hike for calm, well-groomed dogs, just because the steep descents are not safe. Across the river, you can see the rock carvings of Henry Church, a blacksmith and self-taught artist who made himself known as a primitive folk artist after his death.