Metro Parks Bike and Hike Trail (to Kent and Stow OH)
From Walton Hills to Kent and Stow, OH
The Bike and Hike Trail follows the routes of a former railroad, the New York Central, and two former interurban trolley lines, the Akron, Bedford, and Cleveland (or “alphabet” railroad) and another branch of the Northern Ohio Traction & Light Company. It features a variety of terrain along the route. The trail runs roughly as a “Y” with the base of the stem near Cleveland and arms reaching to Kent and Stow. The junction, where the arms join the stem, is just east of OH8. Most of the road crossings are at grade level, so watch for traffic.
Metro Parks Bike and Hike Trail
Location Walton Hills to Kent and Stow, Cuyahoga and Summit Counties OH
Trailheads Walton Hills, Brandywine Falls, Boston Mills, Streetsboro Rd,
Length, Surface 29 miles, paved and packed crushed stone, 4.3 miles on-street
Character busy, suburban; sunny;
Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles, no snowmobiles, no horses
Amenities Rest rooms, water, food, fishing
Driving time from Pittsburgh 2 hours 20 minutes northwest
The northern end of the trail is at Alexander Rd, just west of Dunham Rd, where a parking area serves both the Bike & Hike Trail and the Cleveland Metroparks Bedford all-purpose trail (see Emerald Necklace trail description). The Bike & Hike trail runs south on a crushed limestone surface along the former route of the New York Central Railroad. In half a mile, at Sagamore Rd, a high-voltage electric transmission line joins the trail. For the next 2.5 miles the electric line and the trail coexist, exposed to the summer sun. This segment is somewhat less scenic than the rest of the trail.
At the Highland Rd crossing, the road and power line diverge and the trail becomes more shaded. Mileage signs along the southern part of the trail appear to count from here. At Brandywine Rd, about 5 miles from Alexander Rd, the trail emerges on Brandywine Rd, joining Brandywine Rd for a mile to cross over I271. Just north of the I271 bridge, it passes Brandywine Falls. This area of the Cuyahoga National Recreation area features a 75-foot waterfall and old mill. A boardwalk descends from the parking area to the falls, one of the highest in Ohio. A B&B overlooks the falls from the opposite side. Half a mile past I271, the trail returns to the railroad grade and runs through open woods for 1.5 miles to Boston Mills Rd. After you pass Boston Mills road you’ll be reminded that Ohio isn’t flat, for the railroad grade runs past fine rock formations in cuts and on fill for most of a mile; this area is called Boston Ledges. After emerging from the cuts and fills, the trail becomes suburban again, crosses under OH303 and over OH8, and arrives at a “Y” junction. Here the trail splits, running separately to Stow and Kent. The north branch, to Stow, runs on the railbed of the Akron, Bedford, and Cleveland, a former interurban trolley line. Early this century, the AB&C merged with other Akron services to form the Northern Ohio Traction & Light Company; service ended in 1932.
At the “Y” junction you can go left for 5.2 miles to Silver Springs Park and Stow or right for 11.4 miles to Munroe Falls and Kent. The sign also says you’ve come 5.3 miles south from Sagamore Hills and Highland Rd, ignoring the 5 miles to the north of Highland Rd (you’re actually 10 miles from the trailhead at Alexander Rd).
If you go left from the “Y” junction toward Stow, the character of the trail remains much the same—open woods, glimpses of suburbia, and occasional road crossings at grade. 4.5 miles from the junction the trail passes the swimming lake at Silver Spring Park, where (for a fee) you can take a dip in the summer. The trail ends at Young Rd 5.2 miles from the junction. At this point you can go right (south) half a mile on the road and pick up the Stow bikeway to the high school on Graham Rd in Stow.
If you go right from the “Y” junction toward Kent, you’ll find a very different kind of riding ahead. At first the trail continues through open woods and rural residences. 2.5 miles past the junction, though, it emerges alongside OH8. The surface changes to asphalt here, but the trail becomes hilly and noisy. After a mile of highway, the trail takes a quick dip for a tenth of a mile through the woods, then emerges at the intersection of busy Hudson Rd and Springdale Rd. There’s trailhead parking just ahead on Springdale Rd. The next 3.3 miles are on roads. The intersections are well marked, but there are a few long stretches where it would be nice to have some reassurance that you’re still on track. After half a mile on Springdale Rd, the trail turns right into a residential area of Stow reminiscent of an Audubon Society meeting: it rolls up and down Goldfinch, Whippoorwill, Meadowlark, and Hummingbird. Eventually it crosses Graham Rd and enters the upscale community of Silver Lake, still with rolling hills. At Kent Rd (OH59), the trail ducks down a dirt road and enters a park to become a motor-free trail again. Now it follows the Cuyahoga River, winding and still somewhat hilly. This is one of the best sections for wildlife, especially large birds along the river. The Kelsey Bike Trail branches off in this area (it goes south across the river to Waterworks and Galt Parks). After 4.5 miles along the river, the trail finally ends on North River Rd 11.4 miles from the junction near OH8.
Many of the road crossings must once have been on bridges or trestles—at many crossings you must ride up a brisk (though short) hill to the road, then cross and ride right back down again. The former bridges have been converted to fill, and the cost of converting all these crossings back to bridges would be prohibitive.
Extensions of the ride
The northern end of the Bike & Hike Trail connects with the Bedford Reservation segment of the Cleveland Metroparks all-purpose trail. See the Emerald Necklace trail description for information about where this takes you.
You can also connect with the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath via the Old Carriage Trail. When the Bike & Hike Trail crosses Holzhauer Rd (the first road south of OH82), turn south on Holzhauer Rd and follow it half a mile to its end. Bear right on another crushed stone path, which descends steeply to the towpath along part of the Old Carriage Trail. You’ll emerge on the towpath just north of milepost 19. Remember that you’ll have to get back up somehow. See the Ohio & Erie Canal trail description for details about how this connects to the towpath.
At the end of the Stow branch, you can turn right (south) on Young Rd, go about half a mile on this lightly-traveled road, and turn right (west) onto the Stow Bikeway. This currently runs almost 2 miles to the Stow/Munroe Falls High School on Graham Rd in Stow. Someday it will be extended to connect with the southern branch of the Bike & Hike Trail near Kent, completing the loop.
On the Kent/Munroe Falls branch, shortly after the trail joins the Cuyahoga River at Kent Park, the Kelsey Bikeway branches off to the south. Operated by the City of Cuyahoga Falls, it goes about a mile south across the Cuyahoga River, connecting to Waterworks Park and Galt Park
On the map, this trail looks like a curving “Y”, with the open end to the east of south-east. Your immediate reaction is probably that you’d like to close the open end to form a loop—that was certainly ours. The Stow Bike Trail takes you more than halfway across, but it leaves you on busy Graham Rd. Plans call for extending Stow Bike Trail to close the loop. Until then, here’s the best route we’ve found: When the Kent branch of the trail ends at North River Rd, turn right on North River Rd for one block. Turn left on Meadow, go one block, and turn left on Francis St. Follow Francis St for four blocks to Main St and turn left on Main St at the traffic light. There are restaurants here, virtually the only ones we found along the trail. If you’re hungry, you can eat Geppetto’s barbecued ribs in the shadow of his rib cook-off trophies. After eating or not, as the case may be, go one block west from Francis St on Main St and turn right on Spaulding Dr. Go one block on Spaulding Dr, then turn left on Silver Meadows Blvd and follow it a half-mile or so through a series of apartment buildings until it ends at Fairfield Av. Turn left on Fairfield Av, cross Newcomer Rd, and turn into the Stow/Munroe Falls High School driveway. Pick up the Stow Bike Trail at the far side of the parking lot. Follow the trail 2 miles to Young Rd and turn left. The Bike and Hike trail is almost half a mil later, not far after you cross Call Rd. Total distance on roads is just under 2 miles.
Vicinity: Directions begin at Exit 12 (Akron, OH8) of the Ohio Turnpike. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go west on the PA Turnpike to the state line and continue 60 miles on the Ohio Turnpike.
Alexander Rd (northern) trailhead: From Exit 12 of the Ohio Turnpike, go north about 7.5 miles on OH8 to Alexander Rd. Turn left on Alexander Rd and go about 2 miles to trailhead parking, just past Dunham Rd.
Brandywine Falls trailhead: From Exit 12 of the Ohio Turnpike, go north to the first traffic light, Hines Rd. Turn left on Hines Rd and go about half a mile to Cleveland Rd. Turn right, then immediately take the left fork, Brandywine Rd. Follow Brandywine Rd a little over a mile until it crosses over I271. (At this point the trail will be sharing the shoulder of the road.) Just as you come off the bridge, turn left into the Brandywine Falls parking area.
Boston Mills trailhead: From Exit 12 of the Ohio Turnpike, go south on OH8 to the first traffic light. At this light, turn right (west) on Boston Mills Rd and go 1 mile to trailhead parking.
Streetsboro Rd trailhead: From Exit 12 of the Ohio Turnpike, go south on OH8 just over 1.5 miles to Streetsboro Rd (OH303). Turn right (west) on Streetsboro Rd. Follow Streetsboro Rd about half a mile to parking on the right, just after crossing the trail.
Silver Springs Park trailhead: From Exit 12 of the Ohio Turnpike, go south on OH8 just over 2 miles to Barlow Rd. Turn left (east) on Barlow Rd. Follow Barlow Rd about 4 miles to Stow Rd. Turn right (south) on Stow Rd, then turn left to park at Silver Springs Park.
Springdale Rd trailhead: From Exit 12 of the Ohio Turnpike, go south on OH8 just over 2 miles to Barlow Rd. Turn left (east) on Barlow Rd. Follow Barlow Rd just over 2 miles to Darrow Rd. Turn right (south) on Darrow Rd make the first right turn, on Hudson Dr. Go about 3.5 miles on Hudson Dr to Springdale Rd (the trail crosses here). Turn left (east) on Springdale Rd and go half a block to trailhead parking.
Munroe Falls (Darrow Rd) trailhead: From Exit 12 of the Ohio Turnpike, go south on OH8 just over 2 miles to Barlow Rd. Turn left (east) on Barlow Rd. Follow Barlow Rd just over 2 miles to Darrow Rd. Turn right (south) on Darrow Rd and go just over 5 miles to trailhead parking, just before you cross the Cuyahoga River.
Rest rooms, water: Rest rooms at Brandywine Falls area of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, the Darrow Rd trailhead in Munroe Falls, and (in season) the Silver Springs swimming area near the end of the Stow branch. Chemical toilets at the Silver Lake recreation area where the trail leaves the road near Kent Rd and at Silver Springs park. Water at Silver Springs park. The Wagon Wheel lounge 0.1 mile north of the trail junction will fill your water bottle for $.50.
Bike shop, rental: In town of Peninsula in Cuyahoga National Recreation Area.
Restaurant, groceries: Wagon Wheel lounge 0.1 mile north of the trail junction. Several restaurants near the intersection of Francis Rd and Main St 0.7 mile from the end of the Kent branch, along the extension on roads that connects Kent to Stow.
Camping, simple lodging: AYH Stanford Farm Hostel 1.5 miles down a steep rough road from Brandywine Falls or 0.5 miles from Boston on Stanford Rd. The Inn at Brandywine Falls. Budget Inn 0.1 mile north of trail junction near OH8.
Swimming, fishing: Swimming at swim lake, Silver Springs Park (fee); there’s an entry from the trail. Swimming at Munroe Falls Metro Park (fee in season); from Munroe Falls parking lot on Darrow Rd, go south 1 mile on Darrow Rd and left (east) 1 more mile on South River Rd to park entrance. Fishing in Cuyahoga River at various points along last 4 miles of Kent Branch. Favorite fishing spots are the section of the trail between Silver Lake Village and Darrow Rd and the area just upstream from the dam and trailhead parking in Munroe Falls. Primary catches are large- and smallmouth bass, northern pike, and channel catfish. The extremely attractive park alongside the trail as it runs through Silver Lake Estates is private.
Winter sports: Cross-country skiing. Naturalists from Metro Parks, Serving Summit County offer organized ski excursions. Snowmobiling is not permitted.
Wheelchair access: In Summit County, several bridges across the rail line were removed and replaced with earthen fill. At these locations, the trail goes up and down steep hills to cross the road at grade. Gates have been widened to 36”.
Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
Maps, guides, other references
Trail brochure from Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
Trail Guide Handbook, Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council, 1991.
USGS Topographic Maps: Northfield, Peninsula, Hudson.
Text version from 2002 edition. Conditions will have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 1/1990.