Autumn is upon us here in Cleveland. Pumpkin beers abound from various breweries across the city, pumpkin patches and apple orchards are in full swing, and places in and around Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) are at their most beautiful.
Everywhere is bursting with color, and the best way to take in the vibrant leaves of the area is through hiking – making the Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree an amazing event each fall.
This year marks the 58th annual Fall Hiking Spree for Summit County, the longest and largest continuing event of its kind in the entire country!
If you are searching for things to do outside in the fall around Cleveland, then participating in the Fall Hiking Spree is a must!
Whether you’re an expert hiker or just getting started, this is the ultimate guide to participating in the Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree.
What is the Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree?
Each year, Summit County, just south of Cuyahoga County where Cleveland is located, promotes hiking in their Metro Parks by putting on the Fall Hiking Spree from September 1-November 30 each year.
Hikers must sign up and complete 8 hikes from a designated list (which I’ve included below). Each hike is located in a Summit Metro Park, and hikers can choose any of the hikes on the list, including a Hiker’s Choice trail.
If the hiker completes all 8 of the hikes before November 30, they earn a hiker’s staff and shield if it’s their first year. For Fall Hiking Spree veterans, they’ll earn another shield for their staff.
It’s a really fun way to find hiking trails you otherwise may have missed, and is a great way to see the fall foliage. Many hikers take it pretty seriously, and you’ll see veterans sporting their staffs decorated with several shields from past Hiking Spree years.
Also, as Cuyahoga Valley National Park winds its way through Summit County, and a few of the hikes are actually within the park itself!
When is the Fall Hiking Spree?
The Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree starts on September 1 and runs through November 30, perfect for leaf-peeping season!
How Do You Sign Up for the Fall Hiking Spree?
Signing up for the Fall Hiking Spree is easy! Just head to their page here, downland the form, and complete 8 trails. Once you’ve completed the hikes, you can drop off your form at one of the offices or submit it by mail. Then, you can either pick up your reward or have it mailed to you if you are a veteran hiker of the spree!
Here are the offices to get your reward and submit the form:
F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm Welcome Kiosk
1828 Smith Rd., Akron
Open in September on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., in October on Tuesdays, Fridays, and on 10/3, 10/17, and 10/31 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and in November on Tuesdays, Fridays, and 11/1, 11/15, and 11/29 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Liberty Park Nature Center
9999 Liberty Rd., Twinsburg
Open in October on 10/10 and 10/24 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and in November on 11/8 and 11/22 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
If you need to mail in your form and already have the hiking staff from a prior year, then send the form and include a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Administrative Offices, 975 Treaty Line Rd., Akron 44313
Note too that you may sometimes find a Metro Parks volunteer at some of the trailheads (especially on weekends). They can also help you sign up for the Fall Hiking Spree and get you started.
How Much Does the Fall Hiking Spree Cost?
It is completely free for residents of Summit County. If you are not a resident of Summit County, then it is $10 for first time hikers of the spree and $5 for veterans.
Hikes on the Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree
Now that you know all of the small details of the hiking spree, it’s time to get into the fun part: Where can you hike?
There are designated trails that are part of the official Fall Hiking Spree each year, spanning different Metro Parks throughout Summit County. There’s a nice mix of easy and more strenuous trails, and almost all of them are family-friendly.
All of these hikes can also be done in under an hour, which is great. So if you’re short on time, you can still hike a lot of these within a weekend if you want to.
And yes, they change these trails each year! Here are the included trails in 2021:
1. Cascade Valley Metro Park
This flat, paved trail is suitable for the whole family, but packs a punch with a beautiful overlook deck (the Oxbow Overlook) 125 feet above the Cuyahoga River. This hike is rated as easy and is only half a mile long.
2. Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park
This trail is actually on our list of the best hiking trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park! It features scenic former stone quarries, a rushing river, and a canal lock, and is also great for bird watching! The Quarry Trail is a 1.4-mile loop trail and is rated as moderate.
3. F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm
Cherry Lane / Fernwood Loop
This hike connects two different trails (Cherry Lane to the Fernwood Loop), and features a 110-foot-long suspension bridge that helps hikers cross a 45-foot-deep ravine. This hike is 1.5 miles long and rated as easy.
4. Firestone Metro Park
This loop trail will take you through wetlands, across the Tuscarawas River, and past Little Turtle Pond. The trail is rated as easy and is 1.6 miles long.
5. Furnace Run Metro Park
Old Mill Trail
We love hiking in Furnace Run Metro Park, as it’s another one located within Cuyahoga Valley National Park. And the Old Mill Tr5ail is our favorite here. This trail takes you through beech-maple woods, which are so pretty in the fall. This trail is 1.4 miles long and is rated as easy.
6. Goodyear Heights Metro Park
This is another great hike to do with kids. It leads through the woods to Alder Pond, and then traverses through a cattail marsh on a newly renovated (and accessible) boardwalk. The loop trail is 1.4 miles long and rated as easy.
7. Gorge Metro Park
If you’re looking for a harder hike, this one is it! The Gorge Trail will take you to Old Maid’s Kitchen (formerly known as Mary Campbell cave) in the first half-mile, and then becomes more challenging as it takes you through rock formations and ledges. This trail is 1.8 miles long and is rated as strenuous.
8. Liberty Park
Speaking of Ledges, the trail included this year at Liberty Park is the park’s Ledges Trail, which features several sandstone ledges and even a Glacier Cave (which is cool year-round). The trail also takes you through a wetland on a long boardwalk, making this the perfect trail if you want some variety. This trail is 1.1 miles long and rated as moderate.
9. Silver Creek Metro Park
This easy hike takes you through a beautiful forest that was planted by local Girl Scout troops decades ago. It’s great for fall foliage. This trail is 2 miles long and rated as easy.
10. Springfield Bog Metro Park
Looking for an easy trail full of color? This prairie boasts sunflowers, grasses, and more full of various colors – perfect for a fall hike! There are also two observation platforms overlooking bogs. This 1.6-mile-long trail is rated as easy.
11. Wood Hollow Metro Park
Downy Loop Trail
This trail traverses through beech and maple trees and over several boardwalks and bridges before ending with a walk through a meadow. This trail is 1.2 miles long and is rated as easy.
12. Towpath Trail – Wilbeth Trailhead
The Towpath is one of our favorite places to hike, and the section of Towpath trail included in this year’s Fall Hiking Spree is a roundtrip walk to Summit Lake from the Wilbeth Trailhead. You can visit the new Summite Lake Nature Center, too. This hike is 2.2 miles long and rated as easy.
Pro tip: Follow the trail clockwise so you hit the stairs going down instead of up.
13. Hiker’s Choice
Last, but not least, is the option to choose your own adventure. The only catch is that it has to be in a Summit Metro Park, and you can only do this option for 1 of the 8 hikes. Luckily, many of these Metro Parks have multiple trails, meaning you can just do another trail after finishing one on this list.
Also, there are other Summit Metro Parks not even on this list such as Sand Run Metro Park with several trails, Nimisila Reservoir Metro Park with a lovely trail along the lake, O’Neil Woods Metro Park with one of our favorite trails, and more!
Which Trails Should You Choose?
This is entirely up to you! If you are a beginner when it comes to hiking, I recommend sticking to some easier trails at first and then working your way up. If you’re more experienced, then why not check out the more moderate or strenuous trails?
Also, depending on what you’d like to see, such as wetlands, colorful foliage, or creeks, then that will help you decide where to hike.
What to Pack for the Fall Hiking Spree
Most of the hikes are not so technical that a lot of gear is needed. As the hikes take an hour or less to complete, just bring enough water for that time frame and maybe a snack.
If you plan to do multiple hikes in a day, a small hiking backpack is perfect for packing some water, snacks, sunscreen, and maybe electrolyte tablets if you run into any really hot days (which we all know can totally still pop up in the fall!).
As for what to wear, regular tennis shoes, athletic shorts or pants, and an exercise shirt should be just fine for your hike, unless the weather is wet. If it’s raining (or if it has recently rained), you’ll probably want to add a raincoat and perhaps some waterproof hiking boots.
Why Participate in the Fall Hiking Spree?
It is an incredible outdoor fall activity to participate in around the Cleveland area! With trails ranging from easy to a bit more strenuous, these hikes are the perfect way to get acquainted with trails in the area (including in Cuyahoga Valley National Park), and enjoy all the fall foliage while doing it!
Plus, the hiking staff and shields are a fun collector’s item that many use throughout the year at CVNP.
If you want more hiking ideas, then check out the Cleveland Metroparks Trail Challenge! Complete 10, 20, or 30 trails to earn prizes. This lasts all the way until the end of the year.
Would you like to partake in the Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree?
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Kat is a Cleveland transplant and has lived here for over 5 years. She loves to eat, drink, and explore all across the city, and has made it her personal mission to find the best breweries and pizza in Northeast Ohio. She also runs a couples travel blog and podcast called World Wide Honeymoon.