We share what to do, where to hike, where to eat and where to shop on day trips to Lakeside Chautauqua, Hocking Hills State Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Trails to hike at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and where to eat on the trip there
We’re lucky enough to a national park just up the road from us. Cuyahoga Valley National Park boasts beautiful views and lots of trails to hike. It even has a scenic railroad throughout—if hiking isn’t your thing. Make a day of it and check out these must-sees and must-dos while in and around the park.
Food on the way there: Blue Door Cafe & Bakery
Start your day with a bite at the Blue Door Cafe & Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls. It has been recognized by both the New York Times and TripAdvisor as serving the best brunch in Ohio, according to BlueDoorCafeBakery.com.
With a menu offering classics and unique breakfast and brunch meals, as well as delicious bakery items, you will have plenty to fill up on before your day of hiking begins.
Hike: Ledges Trail
Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Ledges Trail has beautiful views along the way and lots of rock formations. With at least 80 feet of elevation change over the whole trail and a rocky, unpaved surface, the trail is best traveled in sturdy walking shoes or boots. As always with hiking, it’s important to watch where you’re stepping. Climbing the rocks is also forbidden.
Park at the Ledges Trailhead and grab a map at the large bulletin board by the gate. The trail system is complex, so it’s best to follow the map and watch for signs. The Ledges Trail is a 1.8-mile loop. You can use connector trails to take a short hike. Make sure to check out the Ledges Overlook for a beautiful view from above.
Hike: Brandywine Gorge Loop
To avoid crowds, hike this early or late in the day. Park at Brandywine Falls Trailhead and grab a trail map at the bulletin board near the restrooms. The gorge loop includes sections of several trails. It is a 1.5-mile hike with 160 feet of elevation change.
According to nps.gov, here are the directions for the hike. “Follow the path toward the falls, then take a left onto the trail just before the boardwalk. The clockwise loop takes you down into the gorge, over a footbridge over the creek and back up the other side. Keep bearing right at all trail intersections. After you pass the Inn at Brandywine Falls and cross back over the creek—and over the falls—take a right at the small bulletin board. The path leads to the falls’ viewing boardwalk and back to the parking lot. For a closer look at the falls, follow the signs and walk down approximately 80 steps to a lower viewing deck.”
For more trails, visit nps.gov/cuva/index.htm.
Thing to do: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
If you plan your trip just right, you can hike a portion of the day and enjoy a scenic ride through the park aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. It gives you a different view than the trails and keeps you out of the weather, while seeing wildlife. Check cvsr.org for special events and takeoff times.
What to do and where to eat at Lakeside Chautauqua
Life is a bit slower paced at Lakeside Chautauqua up in Ottawa County. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the community celebrates summer in an old-school fashion with outdoor activities being the primary source of fun.
Thing to do: Casual water walk
Start your day with a walk along the water. The peaceful sounds of nature are bound to put you in a good mood. While walking, enjoy the architecture of the beautiful waterfront homes. Many have bright and cheery facades.
Places to shop: Marilyn’s and Marilyn’s Two
Step back in time at Marilyn’s and Marilyn’s Two. These shops feel like souvenir shops felt in the ’90s. There’s a nostalgic feel to them that’s exciting for adults. Browse T-shirts, sweatshirts, sandals, sunglasses, books, toys, rock paints and a large candy wall at Marilyn’s. Marilyn’s Two features nautical decor, clothing, greeting cards and books, gourmet foods, mugs, jewelry and more.
Thing to do: Shuffleboard
Try your hand at shuffleboard. The outdoor facility is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and welcomes all ages. Play with family or friends, or check LakesideOhio.com for the tournament schedule.
Place to eat: Bluebird Cafe
Have lunch right by the water at Bluebird Cafe. Serving salads, smoothies and more, this is the perfect spot for a light, healthy lunch.
Coffee/ice cream: Lakeside Coffee & Cream
If you can’t decide between coffee and ice cream, have both at Lakeside Coffee & Cream. The shop sells gourmet coffees, teas and baked goods, as well as premium hard ice cream and soft serve ice cream. Enjoy your treats inside the cozy shop or dine outside on the patio.
Place to eat: Sloopy’s Sports Cafe
Sloopy’s Sports Cafe has a casual vibe. Many patrons come straight from the water, donning their swim gear, and the atmosphere is fun and friendly. The walls are covered in Ohio State memorabilia.
Choose from a variety of gourmet and traditional pizzas, as well as salads, sandwiches and pasta with signature Sloopy’s Red Sauce.
For more information about Lakeside, including admission and parking rates plus lodging, visit LakesideOhio.com.
Additional sight to see in the area: Marblehead Lighthouse
While in the area, it’s worth stopping by Marblehead Lighthouse. You can climb the stairs to the top or just enjoy the views along the water. For more information, visit MarbleheadLighthouseOhio.org.
What to hike at Hocking Hills State Park and where to eat nearby
Ohio is a bit of a hiker’s paradise. After trekking through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, keep your boots laced up for Hocking Hills State Park. Here are some trails to hike and local spots to grab some grub.
Coffee: Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium
Before you start your day of hiking, fuel up with some coffee from Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium. The coffee shop is locally owned and operated.
Beyond regular coffee, they serve Nitro Cold Brew and Kombucha Probiotic Tea on-tap. They also offer housemade breakfast paninis, quiche, pizza, lunch paninis and soups. Or pick up a grab-and-go sandwich to enjoy on your hike. The shop also has desserts and souvenir-type items, both of which might be nice after a long day of hiking.
For more information, visit hockinghillscoffeeemporium.com.
Hike: Cedar Falls
One of the seven major hiking trails of Hocking Hills State Park, Cedar Falls is about a half-mile long and relatively strenuous. The one-way trail has a waterfall, bridges and unique rock formations. In the middle is a seasonal waterfall, which can be accessed by hiking down steps and along a dirt path.
The trail is clearly marked with signs but may be difficult for those who aren’t physically fit or have health issues. It has a moderate incline and takes about 40 minutes to complete.
Hike: Ash Cave
Ash Cave is another beautiful trail to hike at Hocking Hills. It’s approximately a half-mile long and takes about 40 minutes to complete. The asphalt trail is one way and goes through a beautiful gorge lined with stately hemlocks and cliff walls.
The halfway point is marked by a recess cave and a seasonal waterfall. Following the waterfall, hikers must continue up a series of steps to the rim trail, which, if turning right, leads back along the rim to the parking lot or, if turning left, takes you to Cedar Falls in
Hike: Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve
Conkle’s Hollow offers two trails to hike. There is the Upper Trail and Lower Trail. The Lower Trail is three-quarters of a mile and takes about one hour to hike. The Upper Trail is a one-way trail that is 2 miles long. This hike is considered strenuous for those who aren’t physically fit or do not hike regularly. It has a steep incline, cliff drops and paths with visible roots. It’s not suitable for young children.
As with all trails, hikers must stay on the path and be alert of their surroundings. For more information, visit TheHockingHills.org.
Food: Pizza Crossing
Voted best pizzeria in Ohio according to USA Today, Pizza Crossing in Logan, Ohio, is definitely worth checking out when in town.
Beer: Brewery 33
End your day trip at Brewery 33. Choose from IPAs, stouts, porters, shandys, ambers, browns, pale ales, experimentals, seltzers, bocks, sours, cream ales, golden ales and more. If the weather is nice, enjoy them in the beer garden, the largest in Southeast Ohio, according to Brewery33.com.
Check the site for more information.