this is a "must-ride" trail
My wife and I have ridden most of the major trails in Pa, Md, Va, NY, and W Va. Last weekend we drove out to Ohio to give this one a try. It was well worth the 6 hr. drive from Eastern Pa to get to this one. Not your typical rail-trail, or canal tow path, where you can ride for miles in a straight line (could probably do some of these blindfolded), but this one has several sections that wind through wooded areas, with some slight grades here and there.
The first day we rode round trip from Akron to Cleveland. Second from Akron to a little south of Massillon, and back.
The surface varies from asphalt in a few areas, to hard-packed crushed stone for much of the trail. The entire trail was in excellent condition. We did the ride on cyclocross bikes, but the surface is nice enough that it could be done on road bikes if you wanted to. 5-stars
I have ridden the entire length (in segments) and each section has unique qualities. From Akron to Harvard Ave, it is mostly scenic, with some urban qualities around i480. But it is surprisingly scenic from 480 to Harvard. I would avoid Merriman Rd to alexander rd on weekends. Too many pedestrians, children and dogs.
Getting through Downtown Akron has a pretty good hill to get over the Expressway and has a stretch that is on sidewalks, but it is safe as far as traffic is concerned. Akron and south to Summit Lake is a good trail, but urban... Factories and warehouses make up the "scenery". And a very cool bridge across the southern end of Summit Lake.
From Barberton to Massillon is beautiful. My favorite stretch. Theres a really nice bike shop north of Massillon for snacks, sandwiches and ICE CREAM. And Bike repairs if needed. Theres also nice shops in Canal Fulton and Clinton.
Getting through Massillon is a little dicey - city streets and a bridge with a narrow sidewalk on a busy street. But its a short, quick stretch to get back on the trail. Theres a nice 8 mile trail that intersects the Towpath just south of Downtown Massilon that goes west to Dalton. A nice side trip. Good path, but not as scenic.
South of Massillon is once again very wooded and very scenic. Another favorite stretch.
The last stretch south of Navarre needs a lot of work. Very bumpy, large rocky gravel. A lot of work o ride it on my skinny road tires. I hope they put down some crushed limestone to smooth it out.
Work is being done to complete the link to Bolivar and then to Zoar. I plan to ride it this spring, even if i need to use some local highways. Theres a way across 77 by Bolivar according to the map. Guess ill have to find it.
I have a hybid road bike, and am not a racer type. Except for the Bolivar stretch, its a great surface for my skinny tires and my 63 year old legs.
BTW... Take a camera!
The Adventure Begins...
This is the trail that really began my love for long distance bicycling. The entire trail is beautiful...I feel I like going through Clinton, the Cuyahoga Natl Forest, the beaver swamp, and Bolivar to Craig Pitman Park best. I forgot the Lock 29 area (see what I mean...)I recommend every dedicated cyclist try this one in sections. There is something to see in each section. You can't go wrong. The rangers are very helpful and friendly, and ride the train in autumn! I have seen deer including twin fawns twice, herons, beavers, a multitude of songbirds, and fox.
The only downside to this trail is that the ride from Navarre to Bolivar is rough and needs work in comparison to the remainder of the path, but I have no problem getting along with a hybrid.
Great trail, but pick times
I am giving this trail a 5 star rating and while I do enjoy the Towpath and have ridden it from Harvard Road to Akron many times; I would like to point out issues with it. Don’t get me wrong, the path is well kept and the scenery is beautiful. The problem is the crowds on the weekends. Now I’m not saying the path is overcrowded, but the people on the path do not seem to understand basic “road” rules or even basic courtesy for sharing the path, passing, or when trying to pass; especially when close to Rockside Rd, Rt 82, and Peninsula entry points (most crowded areas). In addition, I see a lot of people on the path riding, walking, and running with headphones on – this is just dangerous for everyone.
With that said, I still enjoy this trail and adjust my visits to more “friendly” times of the day or days during the week. Dinner time or later on the weekends works nicely. Make sure you have a headlight and a taillight, as it gets dark on the trail! During the week, earlier in the day or after work, is nice too. It really is a great trail. Again, the scenery is beautiful and full of history, great wildlife, and the crushed limestone path is nice though can be very dusty during dry seasons and a bit sloppy right after a good rain. I do see a lot of cyclists on road bikes; however, I prefer not to ride mine on this trial and opt to bring my hybrid with its 700x45 tires. If you go during the day on a nice Saturday or Sunday, just be cautious and alert as there are many places other users can pop out of (benches, side trails, etc…) and really watch as you come around bends as you could come across groups spread across the entire trail.
Bolivar to Massilon 9/9/2012
Not quite as scenic as the sections north of Massilon. Also, the trail surface is rougher, especially south of Navarre. South of Navarre, narrow tires are not a good idea. We road 35mm and 1.5 inch tires and were OK, though the ride was a bit rough. There is one bad spot, where gravel and mud has washed down on to the trail. There are warning signs, so, take them seriously, and, if you don't have really fat tires, be prepared to dismount for a few yards. The section in Massilon is not great, but is passable, if you know in advance roughly what the route is. Study the map, and then keep your eye on the signs and painted road markings. The trail crosses the river twice, on ordinary sidewalks that are part of road bridges.
I don't think the section in Massilon is good for younger children, and the sidewalks over the bridges might be tough for trailers and trikes.
On the plus side, the trail heads are well constructed and have at least a portapottie at each. Stark County Parks appear to be committed to maintaining and improving the trail. It would really be a big improvement for Massilon to work on an improved routing through town.
Nesmith Lake to Stark County line
At the end of October, we rode from the Nesmith Lake trailhead, on the south side of Akron, to the Stark County line and back. This trail is very nice, with varied scenery. The Nesmith Lake trailhead is easy to find and has a spacious and well paved parking lot. The trail surface is partly crushed stone and partly asphalt paving. It is in very good to excellent condition. There are a couple of mild hills near Barberton, nothing to be worried about. Public restrooms are available at several of the trailheads, though not at Nesmith Lake. There is a gap in the trail between Snyder Avenue and Eastern road. (Some maps show it farther, from Snyder to Vanderhoof Road, but we easily found the trail at Eastern.) The on road section between Snyder and Eastern is not great, but not terrible either. Adults and older children shouldn't have any problem. We saw signs of trail construction south of Snyder Ave. The Summit County Parks web site says construction to close this gap is under way. and could be complete as soon as the end of 2011. I rate the trail at 4 stars, but when the gap is completed, it will easily earn 5. Highly recommended.
Train out, bike back
In October 2011, we caught the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad's first Saturday morning departure at Rockside Road Station. Bikes are welcome, and handled smoothly, and the fare for bikers is not just reasonable, but almost ridiculously low! We rode the train all the way to Akron. From the train station in Akron to the trail is just a very few blocks of on road riding. Traffic in Akron, early Saturday morning, is pretty sparse. About 5 miles north of Akron, the trail runs through a section of suburban strip mall, where we found a small cafe and had quite well made omelets for lunch. The ride from Akron back to Rockside Station is 27 miles. It is a very nice ride. The trail surface is mostly packed crushed stone. A few sections are asphalt paved. It is in very good condition. We only encountered a couple of brief, mildly muddy sections. Generally it is a smooth ride and you can ignore the surface condition. We ride 700x35 and 26x1.5 tires and had no surface related difficulties. The trail runs through varied scenery. A boardwalk runs over several hundred yards of scenic wetland. Szalay's farm market was in full swing, and makes an entertaining break. At the north end, a short on road ride connects the trailhead to the CVSRR Rockside Road Station. Print maps of both ends of the trail, because the on road routes are not marked, and do have a couple of turns, though they are also neither long nor difficult. If you find that you can't do the whole 27 miles, just make sure you have the CVSRR schedule. If you stand, with your bike, on a station platform and wave your hands over your head as the engine approaches, the train will stop and you can finish your trip the lazy way for just a few bucks more. This is a great ride and I highly recommend it. Invite your friends. Make it a Boy or Girl Scout or Church group outing. You can't go wrong with this one.
Ohio & Erie Canal--Cuyahoga Valley NRA
The Ohio & Erie Canal--Cuyahoga Valley NRA or Towpath as we refer to it is one of my favorite places to ride bicycle in Northeast Ohio. It provides a moderate ride with a lot of exposure to wildlife, different biomes and freedom from fighting automobile traffic. I provides a combination of history, environment, social, and cultural settings.
The trail is hard packed and in bad weather not a pleasant place to ride. Unless you like mud of course and ride a mountain bicycle. I ride a road bicycle and find it very easy to ride the Towpath unless it is muddy.
We usually start our ride in Peninsula and ride to either Bath Road, about a 15 mile round trip ride, or to Akron, about a 30 mile round trip ride. These routes take us along the historic Erie Canal where the remnants of locks are marked and described. The routes also follow along the route of an operating historical railroad and the Cuyahoga River.
At Bath Road a short detour to the east of the Towpath are hundreds of heron nests can be viewed from the road. At some times of the year these nests have a great deal of activity with the huge herons flying in and out while they are building nests, courting, feeding their young and trying to keep cool during the summer heat. This is a must see if you have not been there.
Along the route there are also farmers markets, covered bridge (short detour off the trail), farmland (corn) and friendly people. Sometimes it gets very busy but if you like being in a popular place with lots of outdoor enthusiasts even this time is fun. I usually take to the road instead of the Towpath when it gets congested.
We like to start in Peninsula because it has a bicycle shop, two sports pubs, art shops, and a train station to board the historical railroad. This railroad also offers an option to you if you want to ride part of the train and return to your starting point on the train. However, there are many starting points where you may park your car.
I rate it a 5 star. Check it out.
The Towpath Trail is open from Harvard Rd. in Cleveland to just south of Cedar St. in Akron. probably about 30 miles. In Akron there is a gap from Spaggetti Warehouse parking lot south of Cedar St. to Bartges St. (about 3-4 blocks). (It is possible to ride through parking lots to reach Bartges St.) From Bartges St. south to Summit Lake Park is an older section of trail (sidewalks along the canal) and somewhat rough asphalt. From Summit Lake Park south is a brand new section including a "floating towpath" thru part of Summit Lake. It looks like a "boardwalk" but in fact has no pilings and instead is on floating plastic barrels. You would not know it is floating because it is just as solid as if it were driven into the ground. The new section ends at Wilbeth Ave. From Wilbeth Ave south to Waterloo the trail is under construction and should be open by the fall of 2009. The bridge is completed, the base surface is down it should not be too long. From Waterloo south thru Barberton to Snyder Ave. at the south edge of Barberton the trail is open. The trailhead at Snyder Rd. is called Wolf Creek Trailhead. There is a 2 mile gap from there to the junction of Van Burean Rd. and Eastern Rd. Clearing has been started and I was told the it should be open by sometime in the of summer 2010. From the Eastern Rd. connection to Lincolnway in Massillon, the trail is open. At Lincolnway there is a gap that can be accessed by crossing the sidewalk on the Lincolnway road bridge and following the connector trail north on 6th St. to get under the bridge, then the connector runs south to Tremont Ave and under that bridge, west 1/2 block to 5th St. south to Green St. east to 4th St, south to Oak Knoll Park, and then south and east on a paved trail thru the Park to Walnut Rd. East on Walnut Rd. across the river, brings you to the Towpath Trail. From there it is open all the way south to Rt 212 just west of Bolivar. Take Rt. 212 east to Bolivar and then follow the street south to Fort Laurens. Turn east into Fort Laurens and go to the end of the driveway where you will find a path that is 1/10 of a mile long to a $2,000,000 bridge over I-77. from there to Zoar village, the trail is again crushed stone. South of the exit point to Zoar village, the trail is unimproved a dirt and a mountain bike or house trail south to Rt. 800. At the point where the trail meets the railroad, up on a high embankment, you must find your way to the river and cross under the railroad bridge. There is usually not a clear trail at this point. Also the section south of Zoar village has several missing stream bridges that may need to be "forded". The majority of the surface from Cleveland to Zoar is crushed stone, with a few places concrete or asphalt. The majority is very scenic and beautiful. I road Akon to Barberton on June 30, 2009.