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The Best Urban Hiking in Cleveland

Backpacking in the city

What is Urban Hiking?

Urban hiking was born during a light bulb moment by a man in Los Angeles. Several times a week he drove forty minutes to walk wooded trails. One day in frustrating LA traffic, he asked himself, why don’t I just walk in the city instead? He took to the streets, trekking through alleys, up and down staircases, on sidewalks, on trails, on roads – which became his usual route and daily cardio fix.

Mr. LA hiker found the juxtaposition of landscapes intriguing as he strolled through green areas and abandoned infrastructure, rivers, and rusted railways, city parks followed by bricks and steel. As his goal was to increase his heart rate and break a sweat, this was more than a stroll; it was an urban hike.

My friends, we are living in a city with all of the ingredients for a perfect urban hike. The Cleveland landscape is bursting with diversity. We have sports arenas, forgotten steel yards, revitalized bridges, up and coming neighborhoods, and historical landmarks. Among all of that lies a heavy dose of green space, community gardens and – oh – a freaking great lake! Luckily, our city planners have taken notice of the potential and provided several urban hiking opportunities.

The 5 best urban hiking trails in Cleveland

Lake-Link Trail

The Lake-Link Trail is a Cinderella story at it’s finest. This path is part of the ongoing Towpath Trail extension. Lake-Link occupies 1.3 miles of the west bank of the flats. The Cleveland Metroparks transformed this piece of property from a literal dump with swampy features to a stunning walking area that also functions as a natural stormwater management system. 

Lake-Link features river views near Merwin’s Wharf, a modest cafe with outdoor seating. After you catch a glimpse of the Cleveland rowing team practicing on the water, you will pass under the historic Superior Viaduct bridge. A short but pleasurable walk. I should specify, this portion of Towpath is short as the entire trail will soon reach 101 miles through Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, and Tuscarawas counties.

Biking on road
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Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway

The Lakefront Bikeway stretches nearly 20-miles along our cities greatest asset – Lake Erie. This path does not take sides in the great east vs. west battle; all have access from Euclid to Lakewood. Through connecting trails, it even reaches into University Circle and the heart of downtown.

Walkers and joggers are welcome on the trail in addition to bikers. Be warned, as with all urban hiking, there are unexpected detours and creative throughways, but all with excellent signage. The bulk of the shoreline path is wide and paved allowing you to glance at boaters and seagulls while burning calories.

Harrison Dillard Bikeway

Although I did not know it at the time, I have driven along the Harrison Dillard Bikeway dozens of times; I bet that you have too. This 3 miles cement path runs parallel to Rockefeller Park on Martin Luther King Jr. drive.

In addition to being one of the most scenic areas in Cleveland, the bikeway is functional as it leads to the Wade Oval – the cultural heart of University Hts. With the additions of the Lakefront Bikeway, this also provides a route from the lake to Case Western Reserve University.

jogging near lake
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Morgana Run Trail

Want to see the tallest waterfall in Cuyahoga County? It is at Mill Creek and the Morgana Run Trail will take you there (don’t worry you can walk). Morgana is an easy 2-mile trek that starts at Broadway/Ackley Avenues or Broadway/Miles. Look for the giant purple weed sculpture and you will know you are in the right place!

Westshore Way Bike Path

Ohio City was not part of our vocabulary, and Edgewater was riddled with problems until recently. Now the two spots are so HOT that they had to be connected by a bike trail. The patrons of both demand these sorts of features – I am grateful for the new innovative generation propelling our city forward.

All paths lead to Edgewater and Westshore Way is no exception. This new trail meanders from Ohio City to Edgewater in 2.5 enjoyable miles. I am told that Hingetown Coffe is a necessary stop along the route – cheers!

local parks
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Cleveland is just the type of city for a trend like urban hiking to thrive, I anticipate that more paths will pop up as we continue to grow but, for now – these five should keep us busy for a while!

Are there any that we missed? Please share in the comments.

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