Travel

Discover Cleveland On A Bike: Trails Show Off Lake, Greenery, Slavic Village, Industrial Heritage

CLEVELAND — The biggest city on Ohio's North Coast is well known for its sports teams, its museums, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, its historic West Side Market and its nightlife.

Cleveland also offers some interesting bicycling options.

Really, don't laugh.

You can pedal along the Lake Erie shoreline, through the Hidden Valley surrounded by heavy industry and through an ethnic neighborhood with big, old churches that dominate the skyline from the trail.

Such trips will reveal hidden secrets like Slavic Village and the Mill Creek waterfall on Cleveland's southeast side. The falls are a real gem, the tallest in Cuyahoga County at 45 feet.

Here's one man's guide to Cleveland's little-known pedaling options:

1. Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway.

The on-road and off-road bike route stretches 17.35 miles from Euclid on the east to Lakewood on the west, but much of the route is on city streets.

It is one of eight designated bikeways in Cleveland.

I pedaled the eastern half of the bikeway from East Ninth Street east to the site of the old Euclid Beach amusement park and to Wildwood Park (now part of Cleveland Lakefront State Park) at East 174th Street.

You will pass Burke Lakefront Airport, marinas, yacht clubs and a power plant. You will be next to the traffic-crowded East Shoreway (Interstate 90) for part of your trip.

But you are also pedaling right next to Lake Erie, and that's pretty cool.

It can — even on calm days — be breezy and even chilly next to the lake.

The trail was virtually empty on the day I visited. I encountered some joggers heading to the trail from downtown office buildings for lunchtime runs and a few anglers near the Gordon Park area.

The state has just opened an Exploration Station nature center in the park headquarters building in the Gordon Park area.

Part of the trail's appeal is when you ascend one of the few hills and enter the suburb of Bratenahl.

The tree-lined streets are pleasant and you are surrounded by very big mansions from the days when Cleveland was an industrial and corporate center. Most are surrounded by gates, fences and walls.

To many, the biggest attraction along the Cleveland Bikeway is the old turreted stone arch at 16001 Lake Shore Blvd.

It was the entrance to the very popular Euclid Beach amusement park that opened in 1895 and closed in 1969. The gateway arch is a dedicated Cleveland landmark.

Next door, the state has opened a section of its park with lake swimming on a 650-foot-long beach, picnicking and other recreational activities at Euclid Beach and to the east at Wildwood Park where Euclid Creek empties into Lake Erie.

From the Wildwood Beach, you can look to the west and see the Cleveland skyline rising in the distance.

The trail continues to the east for another mile to the Cleveland-Euclid border at East 185th Street.

The eastern portion of the bikeway covering 10.7 miles was completed in 1998 at a cost of nearly $2 million.

The western section crosses the Cuyahoga River on the Detroit-Superior Bridge and heads west on Detroit Street. It then cuts north into Edgewater Park, part of the Cleveland Lakefront State Park. It continues west on Edgewater Drive to West 117th Street and the Cleveland-Lakewood border.

That 6.7-mile stretch with one big hill in the state park was completed in 2003 at a cost of nearly $625,000.

There is some twisty uphill pedaling to get from the state park back to Detroit Street near West 65th Street.

Detroit Street is one of the busiest sections for vehicular traffic along the route. It is not a route I would recommend for families with small children.

One interesting side trip: The bikeway also connects with the Harrison Dillard Bikeway that winds for 3.74 miles through Cleveland's Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park.

That route, named for the Olympic hurdler, features 26 cultural gardens and connects the lakefront bikeway with University Circle and its cultural/historical attractions.

For information about the bikeways, check out http://planning.city.cleveland.oh.us/bike or call 216-604-2210.

2. Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

The Towpath Trail started in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. That 19.7-mile segment was dedicated in 1993.

It now runs south through Akron, Barberton, Clinton, Canal Fulton, Massillon, Navarre, Bolivar and Zoar. The goal is to extend it south to New Philadelphia.

From the northern end of the park, the trail has grown by 5.7 miles from Rockside Road to old Harvard Avenue.

It runs through Cleveland Metroparks' 325-acre Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation in Cuyahoga Heights and ends at old Harvard Avenue at the southern end of the Flats industrial area at the border between Cleveland and Newburgh Heights.

There is a one-mile section further north at the Steelyard Commons development in Cleveland.

Personally, I like pedaling the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation with its visitor center, trails and wayside exhibits that opened in 1999.

The park has been called the Hidden Valley because the greenery is surrounded by heavy industry.

The Cuyahoga River is a working river flanked by all kinds of industrial operations. You can see, hear and smell the industry as you pedal along.

But the tanks, bridges and sewer lines that surround the trail and, in some cases, run overhead are a reminder of the industrial past of Cleveland.

That includes the 130-foot-high rail trestle that carries 44 trains a day across the Cuyahoga River Valley.

Plans are taking shape to extend the trail north to the proposed Canal Basin Park. That's about six miles away.

You can gain access at several trailheads, including the northern terminus of the Towpath Trail at Harvard Avenue, at the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation off East 49th Street south of Grant Avenue in Cuyahoga Heights and at the southern end at Rockside Road in Valley View.

For information, contact Cleveland Metroparks at http://www.clemetparks.com or call 216-206-1000.

3. The Morgana Run Trail.

This is an urban greenway of just more than three miles through the Slavic Village neighborhood on Cleveland's southeast side. That's north of Fleet Avenue and along Broadway Avenue, east of Interstate 77.

The first rail-trail project in Cleveland, it is partially on-road and partially off.

The on-road sections make up about three-quarters of a mile at the western and eastern ends.

The off-road portion covers 2.5 miles along the old Wheeling & Lake Erie line that once hauled coal to the steel mills in the Flats area.

It closed in 2003, and the city of Cleveland joined with the Slavic Village Development Corp. to create the multipurpose trail.

It opened in 2007 and cost nearly $2.5 million.

The trail's western terminus is at Washington Park. It runs north next to the interstate along East 49th Street north of Fleet Avenue. It then follows an old rail line to the east and south. You cross Broadway and the off-road section soon ends at Broadway. You cross Harvard Avenue and the trail ends at Mill Creek Falls, part of Cleveland Metroparks' Garfield Park Reservation.

It is an impressive waterfall with a colorful history.

You can view the waterfall from two overlooks and there is the small Mill Creek Falls Historical Center (216-271-9300). You can also connect to the Mill Creek Falls Trail that stretches 1.5 miles south to the Garfield Park Reservation. From there, you can connect to the Towpath Trail via Warner Road.

You can also connect to the Towpath by heading south at the eastern terminus at GarfieldPark.

The trailheads at the two parks are easy to find. You can also get to the trail off Blanche Avenue between Broadway and East 55th Street. There is no official trailhead but on-street parking is available nearby.

The trail goes past the site of the Cleveland Worsted Mills that operated from 1902 to 1955. The building was razed after a major fire in 1993. The site is now home to the Greater Cleveland Boys and Girls Club and an elementary school.

Several colorful community-inspired murals flank the trail on buildings east of Broadway.

Plans are being developed to get the trail off Broadway and to link to downtown Cleveland.

For information, contact the Slavic Village Development Corp., 5620 Broadway Ave., Cleveland 44127, 216-429-1182, ext. 107, http://slavicvillage.org.

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