You probably have a great relationship with your local Cleveland Metroparks reservation. You run on the trails in the mornings, walk off big dinners there in the evenings and relax there on the weekends. There is no area of the reservation that you haven’t hiked, biked or driven through. You’ve even started recognizing the wildlife. But, how well do you know the other reservations of Cleveland Metroparks across the city? Or, even one of the smaller reservations that stand like an oasis surrounded by concrete and asphalt?
We here at Cleveland Metroparks believe in the spirit of adventure and encourage you to leave no stone unturned, no hill unclimbed and no reservation unexplored. We are here to entice you to the other side of town with our hidden gems.
1. Squaw Rock – South Chagrin Reservation
Squaw Rock is where my family had a lot of reunions. For a kid who lived in the inner-city, the woods were magical. I remember exploring trails and wading in creeks off the Chagrin River until we reached Squaw Rock. Squaw Rock was carved by local artist and blacksmith Henry Church in 1885. The rock features a quiver of arrows, a giant serpent, an eagle and a woman. There are other large and smaller carvings around the rock, too. But, there is also an air of mystery to the rock, because it’s not certain if Henry Church made all of these carvings himself, especially the riverside ones. Either way, it is a spectacular sight to see.
2. Deer Lick Cave – Brecksville Reservation
If you are up for a trip south, visit Deer Lick Cave. Natives of the Brecksville area have probably done their fair share of hiking to this sandstone overhang (not an actual cave where you can climb in or go spelunking). Millions of years ago when Ohio was underwater and dunkleosteus (prehistoric giant fish) were terrorizing sharks in the area, salt from the ocean embedded itself into the sands that formed these walls. It got its name from the white-tailed deer that licked the walls to get much needed salt (like a giant natural salt lick). Deer Lick Cave is a spectacular natural feature in Brecksville Reservation. Kelly McGinnis, a Brecksville Reservation naturalist, recommends either parking on Valley Parkway near the cave or taking a four-mile hike starting at Brecksville Nature Center through the hills and valleys to Deer Lick Cave. No matter what season it is, Deer Lick Cave is a great place to explore.
Photo by Rex Brown
3. Gordon Park – Lakefront Reservation
Part of our newest addition to the Park District, Gordon Park is a scenic area of green space by the lake. It’s a great spot for spotting waterfowl and other wildlife. Naturalist, and all-around bird enthusiast, Jen Brumfield leads a bird hike around here almost every month. Winter is a great time to stop by Gordon Park to look for rare birds, as they head south from their arctic habitats. In the summer, it’s a cool place to spot native waterfowl and escape the heat of the concrete jungle.
4. Whipp’s Ledges – Hinckley Reservation
These cliffs that reach up to 350 feet above Hinckley Lake have a lot of history. Known for its geological beauty, Whipp’s Ledges, bears the name of Robert Whipp, a local livestock farmer and butcher. After a few rough winters and losing both his livestock and his first wife, Whipp became the subject of a nefarious plot concocted by the daughter and son of his neighbor. Looking to get his $100,000 fortune, the daughter lied to Whipp, convinced him to marry her and led a murder attempt on Whipp along with her brother and boyfriend. Robert Whipp was almost killed by his second wife and all he got was some ledges named after him. But it’s better than a T-shirt. Right?
5. Scenic Loop Trail – North Chagrin Reservation
With spring here and nice weather, hopefully, not too far behind, wildflowers will be popping up from the ground. North Chagrin Naturalist Angelec Hillsman recommends a nice trip around the Scenic Loop Trail. Located off Buttermilk Falls Parkway, this loop boasts one of the best places to see spring wildflowers. If you are participating in the Wildflower Tour Contest, it’s a good place to cross off some of your wildflower selfies. It’s also a really serene place to take a break from the noise of the city.
6. Emerald Necklace Marina – Rocky River Reservation
If you’ve driven over the Detroit Avenue Bridge, you probably didn’t know you drove right over this beautiful gem in Cleveland Metroparks. It looks like it belongs on the coast of Maine with a traditional New England sort of charm. It’s right off the Rocky River, with an operational dock and boat launch so you can easily access Lake Erie. It’s also a nice place to relax or perhaps grab a bite to eat courtesy of Nelly Belly Restaurant.
With nearly 23,000 acres Cleveland Metroparks is a large place. We encourage everyone to take an afternoon and dedicate it to discovering their own gems across the Cuyahoga River (or on the other side of I-480), because there’s still so much more of Cleveland Metroparks to explore.