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The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail is an amazing trail journey that takes users from the heart of this country’s industrial might in cities like Cleveland and Akron, to some of the most beautiful places in this part of the world, like Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
As closely as possible, the Towpath Trail follows a historical canal where mules once pulled boats from 1827 to 1913. Currently, just over 90 miles of the trail are complete from Cleveland south to State Route 800 in Zoarville (where it seamlessly connects to the Zoar Valley Trail), but it will eventually extend farther south to New Philadelphia, for a total of 110 miles.
Start in the industrial valley, looking up at downtown Cleveland. Heading southeasterly from its northern endpoint at Canal Basin Park, the trail follows the Cuyahoga River through the lively city. The route includes scenic views of the river, the Cleveland skyline, and the Scranton Flats. The recently completed section between the Scranton Flats and Quigley Road is especially spectacular.
A well-maintained asphalt surface heads south out of the city. Wonderful trailside exhibits tell the story of the adjacent canal’s past and present. Remnants of the old canal itself are an almost constant companion, and wildlife sightings are frequent even in the urban environment.
Two world-class trail bridges take users over busy intersections as you meander south to Rockside Road. At this point, the path transitions into a crushed limestone surface as it enters Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trail—and the park—don’t disappoint. The stone surface is firm, even under road tires, and the beautiful scenery of one of the most-visited national parks in the country is hard to just roll by. Constant stops are a must and there are ample opportunities. Quaint historical towns, historical sites, and pure beauty make this section of trail exquisite.
A bustling stop along the route is the community of Peninsula, once a hub of canal activity and now a station on the popular Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which features tourist excursions within the park. Many visitors like to bike the Towpath Trail one way and take the train back (only available April–October). In the charming village, travelers will find restaurants, art and antiques shops, an old-fashioned candy shop, and historical homes.
Farther south, you will enter the city of Akron. The trail becomes paved again here and some on-road riding is needed, but the route is not too hard to follow. Akron offers some great historical stops and refreshment opportunities as well.
Leaving Akron, the path becomes boardwalk as it floats across scenic Summit Lake on a buoyed bridge. The trail transitions back to crushed stone and scenic views with Clinton and Canal Fulton as the next stops; don’t miss the seasonal canalboat rides in the latter.
Just south of Summit Lake, the path begins following the Tuscarawas River—a 130-mile long tributary to the Muskingum River that was a feeder to the Ohio & Erie Canalway during its years as an active canal. Now, the Tuscarawas River Water Trail offers paddlers and anglers the opportunity to boat and fish on the Tuscarawas River. Much like the towpath, the Water Trail can be used for a short excursion between towns or for a longer trip through quiet stretches of nature. Access to the Water Trail is available at a number of trailheads along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Boat rentals and other facilities can be found at certain trailheads as well.
The quiet, shaded experience persists all the way to the next city of Massillon. Here, trail users again have a short on-road route to navigate. While not difficult, it does have a couple of short stretches along busier streets. Leaving the city of Massillon, the path is again beautifully quiet and wild as it heads south towards its current endpoint in Zoarville. After navigating around the village of Navarre, the path has another brief on-road section as it passes through the village of Bolivar.
Once again passing through a quiet stretch of nature, the path shares its route from Fort Laurens to State Route 800 with the Zoar Valley Trail, which then continues further south. Although the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail currently ends by State Route 800, it is not finished and there are plans to extend the path to New Philadelphia for a total of 101 miles.
The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail is also a major component of the Ohio to Erie Trail. The growing 320-mile trail network will eventually span Ohio from the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland to the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
For updated information on any closures along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, please see the Ohio & Erie Canalway website.
There are several places to park and access the trail along its 83-mile route; below are directions to a few of its main trailheads.
To reach the northern trailhead: From I-71, take Exit 246 for OH 176 S to Parma. Head south on OH 176, and in 0.1 mile, take the Steelyard Dr. exit toward Jennings Road. Take a right onto Steelyard Dr., which becomes Jennings Road. Go 0.5 mile and take a left onto Harvard Ave.; the trailhead is on the right in 0.3 mile.
To reach the Peninsula trailhead within Cuyahoga Valley National Park: From I-77, take Exit 146, and head south on OH 21/Brecksville Road. Go 0.5 mile, and turn left onto Boston Mills Road. In 1.1 miles, take a right onto Black Road. In 1.2 miles, take a left onto OH 303/Streetsboro Road. Travel 3.3 miles into the town of Peninsula, and take a left onto Locust St., then in 0.1 mile another left onto Mill St.; the trailhead is on the left.
To reach the Bolivar trailhead: From I-77, take Exit 93 for OH 212 and go west on OH 212. Go one block, and take a right onto OH 212/Park Ave.; go 0.5 mile. Take a left onto OH 212/Poplar St. Travel 1 mile and find the trailhead on the right.
The Canal Lands Park trailhead (8645 Diver-Zoar Rd, Zoar): About half mile south of Zoar, the trailhead and river access is near the intersection of Dover Zoar Rd NE and Towpath Road NE. This more recent trailhead is located along the towpath's shared route with the Zoar Valley Trail between Fort Laurens and State Route 800. Also shared by the Tuscarawas River Water Trail, it offers access to the river. The trailhead is by the parking area and restrooms. To reach the river access site, cross the pedestrian Old Zoar Bridge and the access is to the left on river right.
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