Bridalveil Falls in Cleveland Metroparks’ Bedford Reservation. (Photo: Kenneth Sponsler / Alamy Stock Photo)
On your way to Cleveland? Don’t forget your hiking boots. You read that right. There’s a park within a 15-minute drive of every resident in Cuyahoga County and the Cleveland Metroparks provide the paths to hiking nirvana. But, if you don’t want to venture far from downtown, you can hike the city streets and combine some sightseeing with your workout. Whether you prefer dirt or concrete, Cleveland invites you to put some miles on those boots.
Priority number one for a Cleveland hike should be a walk along the lakefront. In Edgewater Park, a 10-minute drive from downtown, several miles of easy trails loop along the shoreline. That should be just enough exercise to justify a stop at one of Cleveland’s favorite ice cream shops, Mitchell’s.
Stretching from the airport to Lake Erie, Rocky River Reservation, the first park in the Cleveland Metroparks network, puts you in step with varied topography ranging from shale cliffs and forests to wetlands. A 15-mile paved trail runs the length of the park, with several unpaved loops veering off along the way. For a challenge, try the Fort Hill Loop trail. The deceptive .7-mile route climbs 135 stairs, but then rewards victorious trekkers with views of the river 100 feet below. You’ll be famished, so stock up on picnic provisions at the Rocky River outpost of Heinen’s Grocery Store, known for its cheese selection and prepared foods.
If you’re an unrepentant multi-tasker who insists on some sightseeing with your hike, the Cleveland Botanical Garden is a good place to start. The 2-acre Campsey-Stauffer Gateway Garden, outside the main entrance, has rare trees, sculptures and a waterfall. From there, take East Boulevard south about half a mile to Wade Park, passing the Cleveland Museum of Art along the way. Explore some of the park’s paths and circle around Wade Lagoon, then backtrack slightly up East Boulevard and turn right on Bellflower Rd. In a few minutes you’ll pass the gleaming Frank Gehry-designed Peter B. Lewis Building, home to Case Western’s Weatherhead School of Management.
From here turn right on Ford Drive (which turns into Mayfield Road when it crosses Euclid) and walk about half a mile into Little Italy, passing the futuristic-looking Museum of Contemporary Art along the way. Stop in Corbo’s Bakery on Mayfield to refuel with Italian pastries, then wander the streets and admire the historic buildings, or take a break from your hike and go gallery-hopping.
Not ready to call it quits yet? From Corbo’s, it’s about half a mile to Lake View Cemetery. Take East 123rd St. heading north, then turn right on Euclid to get to the gate. Pick up a trail guide at the office. The 285-acre park-like grounds contain monuments to John D. Rockefeller and James A. Garfield (you can climb the 154 steps to the top for panoramic lake and city views), plus a historic chapel with intricate mosaics and a Tiffany stained-glass window.