About this Itinerary
On the former Penn Central right-of-way, the Western Reserve Greenway cuts a north–south course from Ashtabula to Warren, Ohio. Beginning south of Lake Erie, this rail-trail stretches for 43 miles through the state’s rural north coast landscape to pass through farm fields, woodlands, and suburban neighborhoods. Connecting Ashtabula and Trumbull counties, the Western Reserve Greenway (WRG) is a paved, multi-use recreational trail with multiple trailheads along the route providing visitor parking, portable toilets, and picnic areas. A planned extension of the WRG will bring the trail to the banks of Lake Erie at the northern end and connect the southern trail terminus to Warren Bikeway and an extensive trail network. As of today, however, the WRG begins several miles from Lake Erie’s shoreline and the historical district of Ashtabula and ends five miles north of downtown Warren.
You can ride segments of the WRG or the full length of the trail with a pre-arranged pick-up or drop-off shuttle at the southern trail terminus in Warren. The pastoral nature of the WRG lends itself to long-distance cycling and some recreationalists may opt to explore the trail as a one day, roundtrip ride. Keep in mind, however, there are occasional road crossings that require slowing down or stopping and service amenities along the route are very limited. There are a couple convenience stores along the pathway, but, to be on the safe side, you’ll want to pack enough water and food for the entire ride.
We recommend beginning and ending your ride in Ashtabula, a scenic city located at the mouth of the Ashtabula River on Lake Erie. There are lodging options convenient to the trail itself, both the Gilded Swan B&B and Hide Away Lakes Campground are within minutes of the Ashtabula trailheads. To be close to Ashtabula’s historical harbor district however, with its restaurants, museums, and beaches, book a room at the Michael Cahill B&B. Here you will be surrounded by reminders of the late 19th century when Ashtabula Harbor was one of the busiest ports on the Great Lakes. Stroll down Bridge Street (now lined with boutiques and cafes) and read commemorative plaques that chronicle this boom period which relied on thousands of immigrants to move the iron ore and coal that fed Ohio and Pennsylvania steel mills. From Point Park at the end of Bridge Street, marvel at the Ashtabula Lift Bridge, circa 1925, still lifting every half hour during the summer. Nearby is the Ashtabula Marine Museum housing photos and artifacts from this early harbor period.
Get ready for your ride with a cup of joe and baked goods from Harbor Perk (if you haven’t already had a hearty B&B breakfast) or perhaps a more substantial brunch meal at Rennick Meat Market. Pack your supplies and hit the trail.
There are currently two places to park in Ashtabula and the northern end of the WRG: the first is at H.L. Morrison Station on West Avenue and the other is at the Herzog Rotary Park trailhead, located on the west side of Woodman Avenue (note that some trail-users have reported car thefts at the Herzog trailhead). At the Herzog Rotary Park, there are signs detailing the importance of northeast Ohio in the Underground Railroad. Soon after leaving the trailhead, you are surrounded by woodlands and city life quickly fads away. Expect occasional road crossings and the possibility of encountering critters as they cross the trail; snakes, deer, and squirrels could be likely culprits.
Several bridges take you over small creeks as you ride south toward the Munson Hill Station trailhead (mile 4.5). From here, the WRG crosses under Interstate 90 and continues south toward the community of Austinburg. Before entering town, you cross the historical King Bridge, a steel railroad trestle built in 1897 that now spans Clay Street. There is a small mini mart next to the post office and Austinburg trailhead (mile 7 for cold beverages and snacks.
Leaving Austinburg, there are numerous creek crossings and another trailhead and parking area just south of Lampson Road and again at Jefferson-Eagleville Road. You’ll have plenty of time for reverie on this stretch. Contemplate the early beginnings of this rail corridor, back to 1853, with the chartering of the Ashtabula & New Lisbon Railroad and plans for a route leaving Lake Erie and the Ashtabula Harbor to move both passengers and coal and iron freight. The actual rail line was eventually completed by Pittsburgh, Youngstown & Ashtabula Railroad and, by 1873, it was ready for service between Niles and Ashtabula Harbor. The majority of this corridor, now the WRG, was eventually abandoned in the 1970s under Penn Central but the 5.2 miles between Niles and Warren are still in use today.
At Rock Creek (mile 14.5), the dedicated trail temporarily ends at Station Street for a half-mile on-road detour. Take Station Street west to Willow Street; head south on Willow Street to E. Water Street and head east back to the trail. From here, the WRG spans Rock Creek over the Rock Creek Trestle, a bridge featuring bump-outs that give a bird's-eye view of the river and scenery below. The rail-trail parallels a country road for two miles before crossing US Highway 6 (mile 18.9).
Farm fields and forests continue to surround the pathway and the WRG borders the western edge of the Orwell Wildlife Area for about a mile before entering East Orwell. The wildlife area consists of second growth hardwoods, such as maples, ash, hickory, oak, and poplar; particularly colorful and beautiful during the fall months. It is also habitat for plenty of wildlife, including nesting and migrant birds, raccoons, ruffed grouse, beaver, and wild turkey. You’ll pass through East Orwell pretty quickly (mile 24); if supplies are needed, there is a convenience store just off the trail on E. Main Street. The WRG parallels another country road for just over a mile and continues through the bucolic Ohio landscape.
In North Bloomfield, at about mile 30, the Mosquito Creek State Wildlife Area has a must-see observation deck. It is a particularly good place to spot birdlife, including red-tailed hawks, marsh and sparrow hawks, and even bald eagles. Some recreationalists have reported that it is easy to get too close to geese that are very protective of their nests and young, so be vigilant and keep your distance. You are now in Trumbull County and, by the time you pass by Oakfield trailhead (mile 32.5), you have less than ten miles remaining of the Western Reserve Greenway. Take time to marvel at the Stone Arch Bridge, a highlight of the WRG. Hit the road on the north side of the bridge for a quarter mile and take in the magnificent side view of the bridge.
Back on the trail you will come to the Sunside trailhead at State Route 305. The rail-trail continues a short distance beyond here to Champion Street north of Warren, but the best access to this southern end of the WRG is from this trailhead.
Touring Ohio’s agrarian landscape of orchards and farms in search of barn quilts or covered bridges is a popular attraction in Ashtabula County. Another popular outing is the lake shoreline in Ashtabula which offers recreational areas such as Geneva State Park and Lake Shore Park. At Walnut Beach, Ashtabula’s park and wildlife preserve, you can enjoy views of the city’s historical lighthouse, sandy beaches, and dunes.
An important aspect of Ashtabula’s heritage is the role it played on the Underground Railroad, an informal network which moved African-American slaves into Canada. Ashtabula contained several stops on this route, including the Hubbard House which is open to the public as a museum.
Wineries abound in this region and the nearby resort, Geneva on-the-Lake, provides a wine shuttle tour of local wineries. (It’s worth noting that the resort also offers bike rentals to both guests and the public.) If you visit Ashtabula during the annual Wine and Walleye Festival, you can celebrate two popular past-times in one fell swoop. But you can enjoy local wine without touring the countryside at Park Avenue Winery, Gallery and Gift, where you can bring your own food to pair with their wine, sit on the patio or front porch, and listen to live music. Alternatively, you could finish the night with a BBQ dinner at Briquettes Smokehouse or upscale seasonal fare at Basque Bridge Grille.