Tag Archives: Ohio to Erie Trail

Ohio to Erie Trail: Biking Across Ohio, Part 3

Looking for the beginning of this adventure? Try here.

After a hearty breakfast at Bob Evans, I pedaled north on the Westerville Bike and Walk Route in the morning sun. It was day four of my ride. Soon I passed one of several bike maintenance stations on the trail. This one had a pump, tools, water and even a wash area. Very nice and thoughtful. Bouncing between trail and short sections of road there were some nice views of Hoover Reservoir. In Galena, the route went strictly on road to Sunbury and beyond for over twelve miles, my longest road stretch to that point. With no steep hills and little traffic, the road was actually a nice change of pace until I picked up the Heart of Ohio Trail, or HOOT.

I had been looking forward to stopping at Pizzaburg in Centerburg for lunch, but had ridden too fast for my own good. It was still before 11 AM and they had yet to open. I made do with some roller food at a nearby gas station and pressed on. Although the trail was paved between towns, many of the cross streets were not. I was definitely in the country.

Mt Vernon was a fairly major town with restaurants, businesses and interesting parks along the trail. I wished I had held out a little longer for lunch. Right downtown, the route jogs onto the Kokosing Gap Trail (KGT). Keep your eyes open for the turn. Following the scenic Kokosing River, the KGT travels through forests between towns that sit about five miles apart. At the Gambier trailhead, an entire train was on display. At Danville, I caught second lunch/early dinner and picked up drinks for my planned camping a few miles up the Mohican Valley Trail.

The Knox County Park District allows bike travelers to camp near the parking lot at the Bridge of Dreams, an impressive covered bridge over the Mohican River. Camping is “primitive.” Basically, it’s a flat spot by the river close to a portalet and a parking lot. The reason they provide it is because there aren’t other overnight options in the area. The reason I was planning to stay there was because it would be after 58 miles and my planning showed they were right; no other options nearby. Upon my arrival though, it was still before 3 pm, the area was obviously buggy and three guys were hanging out that looked like extras from an episode of Breaking Bad. I certainly didn’t feel unsafe, but wasn’t about to spend hours sitting there wondering how safe I’d feel if I still had company after sundown. I pressed on.

I soon hit the brand new Holmes County Trail. I wasn’t even sure it was open yet due to signs of ongoing construction, but saw that the asphalt had been marked by horses and buggys. If it was ready enough for the local Amish to use, I figured it was ready for me. The trail itself was one of the hillier bike trails I’ve been on, but I’m sure it saved me from even bigger climbs on the road. Other than one construction worker, I went the entire eight miles without seeing another person. From Glenmont to Killbuck there were eight more miles, this time on rolling roads. On that stretch, I was not passed by a single car. I was certainly not going fast, there was just no traffic. After several more miles on trail, I reached my new planned stop for the night, the Millersburg Comfort Inn. There were a few rooms left and a bit of daylight as well. I’d traveled 80 miles, by far my longest day ever on a bike.

This definitely threw my planning out of whack. My planned stop for the next night was only 36 miles away and I was having trouble finding either camping or a motel near the trail a full day’s ride north. Luckily, the “Holy Rollers” were also staying at the Comfort Inn and suggested I try for a room at the Akron Marriott, right by the trail. It looked to be around 65 miles. After 80, that didn’t seem too bad and I made a reservation. That evening, the last remnants of Irma finally caught up to me and it rained through the night.

In the morning, it was still raining. After breakfast, I walked outside to survey the situation first hand and met one of the preachers doing the same thing. He told me that he was praying that the rain would stop and about ten minutes later, it did just that. Hmmm, perhaps I should stick near that group for the rest of the ride?

When I got ready to leave, the group was waiting for one member to visit a nearby clinic for a bad back that hadn’t responded as well as the weather did. I took off on my own. The Holmes County Trail had been nice and wide as it was designed to handle the width of two horse drawn buggies. On the down side, the rain had spread some of the gifts left on the trail by the aforementioned horses. There was a bit of weaving as I pedaled.

Much of Amish country is picturesque and at one point I stopped to take a shot of a small herd of cows along the trail. A word of caution: bike shoes have little traction on a wet, grass covered slope. Me and the bike ended up in a heap by the pasture fence. Interestingly, the cows all walked over for a better look at my mishap. I couldn’t tell if they were concerned or just wanted a front row view of the morning’s comedy.

I was unhurt (other than my pride) but my attempt to stay upright resulted in me yanking the seat cover partway off its frame. I couldn’t repair it, but adjusted the seat position to be as comfortable as possible. My continued pedaling was a bit tentative there wasn’t much holding the cover on the seat and any further issues would result in serious discomfort.

After ten miles of flat, empty trail I made it to Fredericksburg and the longest road stretch of the entire route. The seventeen miles of rural road had some significant hills, but again, little traffic. About halfway through that stretch I met a biker heading the other way who asked if we were on the Towpath Trail. I had the unhappy task of telling him that not only were we not on that trail, we were no where near it. Sharing my map with him, I figured he had made a wrong turn over 15 miles back. It was even worse as it appeared that he wasn’t on a recreational ride. I was guessing his overloaded bike was his only transportation. He declined to turn around so I showed him a highway option that might shorten his reroute. On the plus side, the day remained cloudy and cool, pleasant for pedaling.

Eventually I made it to the town of Dalton, where I had lunch at Wendy’s and caught the start of the Sippo Valley Trail. The packed gravel path wound through field and forest for around ten miles before reaching the major city of Massillon and Towpath Trail. From there, I rode along the Tuscarawas River on a trail that varied between gravel and asphalt. My tires worked pretty well on either, but the damaged seat was still “a pain in the ass.” Luckily, on the north side of town is a major trailhead where Ernie’s Bike Shop sits. I showed one of the staff my seat and he popped it right off the bike to attempt to repair it. After that failed, I chose a similar seat off the wall and they had it on my bike in a couple minutes, quickly putting me back on my way.

Leaving the Massillon area, the trail continued following both the river and remnants of the Ohio and Erie Canal. In the next town, Canal Fulton, the canal has been refurbished with a working lock, canalway center and canal boat rides. Most important for me was the handy, right on the trail, location of the Cherry Street Creamery. There I got some of the best ice cream ever and a sugar boost to power me ever farther north.

Closing in on Akron, it was obvious that the area was becoming more urban and industrial. However, the remnant of the canal kept the natural atmosphere. Turtles and heron were a common sight and a deer even popped out of a small woodlot. Eventually the trail turned to boardwalk and the adjacent waterway opened up into Summit Lake with several spots for a rest break and to enjoy the view.

Despite entering an industrial area, the trail itself remained impressive with high end fencing and lighting. Once in Akron, there was mileage on city streets, but still a separate, well marked lane. As I rolled down a large hill on the north side of town, a sidetrail took me almost to the door of my day’s destination, the Akron Courtyard by Marriott.

Another former lock was on display near the start of my last day’s ride. In addition, the trail (and the old canal) began to follow the Cuyahoga River Valley. Just a few miles north of Akron, the Towpath Trail also reached Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For the most part, the trail remained in the park for the next 20 miles. As with all National Parks, the trail and surrounding land was beautifully laid out and maintained. Since 1880, there has been a railroad through the valley. Since 1972, the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad has offered a relaxing way to see the park. They even offer Bike Aboard, hauling you and your bike along the route. https://www.cvsr.com/

The path pleasantly meandered through the park, passing several of the old locks. One long boardwalk crossed a stretch of wetland. A break in the park was the town of Pennisula. A train depot, National Park Store and a couple restaurants are all right near the trail and just right for me to pick up a mid-morning snack.

A few miles further was the Canal Exploration Center with some great displays on the canal and its history. I couldn’t linger too long though, as I had arranged for a ride to meet me at Lake Erie at noon.

Once out of the park, the surroundings quickly became more urban, but the ride was still pleasant. Over a couple major road intersections there were truly impressive bike/pedestrian bridges. Eventually the trail reverted back to an industrial road for a short spell before some trail alongside a steel mill and the Steel Heritage Center.

By now I had less than 5 miles to go and had several glimpses of downtown Cleveland. I had to really keep my eyes on my immediate surroundings though as most of the rest of the way was on city streets, some of them fairly busy. At last I made it to 65th St which was my last stretch of road and heading straight for Lake Erie. A short winding path took me under busy Rt 20 and directly into Edgewater Park. I was at the shore in no time and done. It was a beautiful day. Boats were out on the lake and the nearby beach had a few folks on it. I had ridden 40 miles and beat my noon deadline by 15 minutes. Working on my surviving snacks and drink, I just enjoyed the surroundings and the day.

A little after noon, I noticed my truck drive by the park up on Rt 20. A quick call confirmed Michelle had missed that entrance to the park, but was at the next entrance. So, I slid my helmet back on one last time and rode ½ mile to the park’s overlook, which was a great spot. You could see the park’s shoreline, downtown Cleveland and complete the scene with a large Cleveland sculpture.

All that was left to do was ride back to Cincinnati. However, a late lunch buffet in Amish Country would be a required stop. It’s a pleasant drive back across Ohio, but I-71 reveals little of the beauty and adventure awaiting those that delve deeper into the state on two wheels on the Ohio to Erie Trail.

The Ohio to Erie Trail: Biking Across Ohio

September was fast approaching. It’s my favorite month of the year for traveling and I was looking forward to backpacking around Lake Tahoe with my brother. Unfortunately, he was not feeling it in the same way and decided the trip wasn’t for him. After getting over the shock how anyone would not want to be in the Sierras in September I began thinking about other options. Without a long lead time, and a shortage of hiking friends, I was looking at a solo trip. After solo hiking several longer trails (Colorado Trail, Long Trail, JMT…) in the last few years I was ready for something different. How about a bike ride? That could be interesting.

Running from the Ohio River at downtown Cincinnati to Lake Erie near downtown Cleveland, the Ohio to Erie Trail runs 326 miles through the heart of Ohio. Most of the route is off road and there appeared to be enough camping or lodging available along the route to make a feasible ride for an older (read slower) cyclist. In addition, the trail runs near my house so logistics were straightforward. Looks like I had my September trip!

My first stop was at the local bike shop to see if my aging “hybrid” bike had what it takes to complete the journey. I was told it would be “like driving a Cadillac,” but apparently not in a good way. Slow, but comfortable was the way the other mechanic described how my trip would go. I was good with that. With significant mileage on packed gravel, my race bike with narrow tires seemed like a poor choice.
Using maps from the Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET) organization and their website, I put together a plan to travel the distance in six days, using a combination of camping and hotels. Averaging around 55 miles per day seemed doable even with the slow Caddy loaded down and powered by a nearly 60 year old engine.

Utilizing a borrowed pair of panniers and my lightweight backpacking equipment I was able to keep the load well under 20 pounds. That included a change of clothes, rain gear, camping gear, a couple spare tubes, a few tools, snacks and water. Looking at the route, it appeared I could get nearly all of my meals as I traveled.
The first stretch, from the Ohio River to my house near Morrow, looked like it had some of the worst on-road riding of the trip. While there had been some additional trail built in the last few years, the official trail still took riders down Rt 50 (Wooster Pike), a busy four lane road, for six miles. As I drove that road down to the start at the river, it became an easy decision for me to stay away from Wooster and take the new, nearby trail.
Parking near the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, it was easy to hop on the trail and pedal to the start near Great American Ballpark. It was a beautiful fall day and I got started heading east along the Ohio River a bit after 10 AM. This meant missing, as planned, the morning rush hour on the sections of city streets. Rolling through Sawyer Point Park and Friendship Park, the path was flat and scenic. A 2 ½ mile section on Riverside drive wasn’t bad as a separate bike lane was well marked. Some more park/trail and a shift to behind a septic treatment plant kept most of the route off road until I reached the popular bike trail around Lunken Airport. The wide, smooth path was sandwiched between Wilmer Road and a number of airplane hangers. Once past the airport, the OTET route continued onto Wooster Pike.

After looking at that route earlier that day, I made the decision to go rogue. By turning east onto Rt 125 (Beechmont Ave.) I pedaled less than a mile on a busy road, with a reasonably good shoulder, and crossed the Little Miami River. From there, taking the first exit onto north Rt 32 put me immediately onto a new section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail (LMST). It was a pleasant few miles through neighborhood parks until the official OTET route rejoined me by Avoca Park. Getting to this point took well under an hour. In checking with the OTET organization, neither the City of Cincinnati or Hamilton County will allow them to designate Beechmont as a bike route. The official route (and the one you should follow) will remain Wooster Pike for the time being. Either way, the rest of the day and beyond would be off road on the LMST.
Much of the LMST is constructed on an old railroad line. As such, there are no steep hills along its entire length. While the lack of elevation change can be boring for some, the trail is often within sight of the pretty Little Miami River, which in 1968, became Ohio’s first National Wild and Scenic River. In addition, there are numerous small towns with plenty of great places to stop for a break or to buy a snack or enjoy a meal. Not that I would notice, but there also seemed to be a plethora of bars alongside the path on this, and other, stretches.

As this is my “home” section of trail, I made pretty good time through the morning. Much of the trail is a green tunnel with possible stops after a few miles in Milford, a few more miles at Miamiville, or six more miles at Loveland. The trail is an integral part of Loveland and you pass right by a canoe/kayak livery, bike shop (where I had my ride checked out) and numerous restaurants. I could recommend several of them, but stopped for lunch at Bike Trail Junction, which is literally feet from the trail.
After a relaxing lunch, I stepped out of the place and right onto my bike. Loveland is quite possibly the busiest spot on the entire route, but on a weekday afternoon in September, I saw just a few other bikers as I continued north. The afternoon remained sunny and pleasant with ongoing views of the Little Miami. Several miles up the path is the interesting historical site of the Peters Cartridge Company, a major producer of munitions for the Allied forces in both World Wars. The remaining building is planned to be converted into retail and apartments in the not too distant future.
A short 14 miles after lunch I rolled into Morrow, my endpoint for the day. I traveled 39 miles up the OTET route and had 4 miles of country road yet to travel to get to my house. Without a convenient, comfortable spot to get dinner and my own bed, I would have traveled a few more miles to a riverside campground operated by Morgan’s Canoe Livery. As it was, I was home by midafternoon, plenty of time to get a ride to retrieve my truck that I’d left downtown.

The next stage of the trip is right here.