CLEVELAND, Ohio — Let’s start with the latest update on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. As of 2021, there are 92 completed, contiguous miles of trail from Cleveland to State Route 800 in Bolivar in Tuscarawas County.
There’s lots to see across 92 miles. Below, we have compiled 20 places we highly recommend for your next Towpath adventure.
According to Dan Rice, President and CEO of Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, a 4-mile stretch of trail will be added to the southern end of the Towpath in 2022 or 2023, bringing the total mileage to 96.
The goal is to complete the trail all the way south to New Philadelphia for a total of 101 miles. Eventually, the Towpath Trail will be part of the Industrial Heartland Trail Coalition’s plan, which includes piecing together a trail from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.
(To be clear, some current trail sections use low-traffic streets or sidewalks in Stark County, but most of the route is multipurpose path).
For now, let’s focus on the existing 92 miles of the Towpath and the possibilities for your next bike ride. Starting at State Route 800 in Tuscarawas County, let’s bike north. Here are 20 great places to stop on the trail.
Note: There are no sponsorships with any business listed in this article.
Highlights: Unique village with bed-and-breakfasts, a diner, coffee house, brewery and multiple taverns inside historic buildings. Zoar Gardens is a beautiful display of flowers and plants.
Distance from Towpath: 3/4 mile
How to get here: From the Canal Lands Park Trailhead, cross Dover Zoar Road and follow the path to the right of Towpath Road. This path will lead to the Zoar Iron Bridge, which you will cross and follow Old Country Road 82. This road leads to Dover Zoar Road. Carefully turn left and merge with traffic to reach Main Street. Turn left and travel into the village.
Restrooms: Yes, across 4th Street north of Zoar Gardens
Highlights: A small, canal-era town encompasses the Towpath for about 1.5 miles. Options include a diner, pizza, fajitas, a BBQ and craft brew joint, a tavern and ice cream.
Restrooms: Yes, at Fort Laurens trailhead
Highlights: The trail through Navarre hugs the Tuscarawas River. There are pubs, pizza, takeout and an old-school diner.
Directions from Towpath: Coming from the south, the trail crosses Main Street/Erie Avenue. Bike north on Main Street toward Canal Street. Coming from the north, the trail crosses Center Street. Bike northeast toward Canal Street.
Restrooms: Yes, at Craig Pittman Memorial Park
Highlights: Your big three needs are here: you can get air in your tires, use the restroom and get cold water. Ernie’s staff can help if you have a bike repair need. They sell a large selection of gear as well. The Blue Heron Cafe is under the same roof and offers food and ice cream. There’s a great shaded porch with plenty of places to sit, including Adirondack chairs.
Ernie Lehman Jr., manager of the Massillon location, reminds trail users to bring their questions to bike shop staff.
“We really pride ourselves on being a resource for good advice, travel tips, detour information and kind of helping people traveling through the area to get the most out of the experience,” he said.
Restrooms: Yes, clean and heated.
Highlights: This is a spot where bikepackers/long distance cyclists can spend the night camping.
Restrooms: Yes, portable.
Highlights: This town beckons Towpath travelers to stop and explore. There are restaurants, taverns, a coffee shop, chocolate store, ice cream stops, a tea room and a winery. The Canal Boat Lounge has a patio overlooking the canal. The St. Helena is a canal boat replica pulled by horses that you can ride. The Old Canal Days Heritage House Museum is next to the Towpath. There’s a campground at the canoe livery where bikepackers can camp.
Restrooms: Portable toilets at St. Helena Heritage Park.
Highlights: Lake Anna is a beautiful spot to rest or enjoy some takeout from a nearby restaurant. There’s a brewery, coffee bar and other restaurants along a signed route known as the Magic Mile Loop. This route was designated specifically for Towpath Trail travelers to access the arts & entertainment district in Barberton.
Distance from the Towpath: 0.5 miles to Lake Anna
Restrooms: Yes, at Lake Anna Park.
Highlights: Summit Lake is a stunning natural feature in the heart of Akron. The pier is a great spot for a photo. Summit Metro Parks’ nature center has fascinating exhibits about the history of the area, including its years as a popular amusement park. There’s a bike fix station outside, along with places to sit and rest.
Restrooms: Yes, nice restrooms inside the nature center.
Highlights: This historic home has been restored to its original glory and serves as the office for the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition. This is one location of Summit Bike Share, which means bicycles are available to borrow Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The staff is knowledgeable about the Towpath and are glad to offer advice for your trip.
Highlights: The Big Bend area of Sand Run Metro Park has two primitive campsites available on a first come, first served basis for those traveling the Towpath Trail or the Buckeye Trail. Sand Run Metro Park has a tremendous amount of hiking available via the Valley Link Trail and other connected trails. This is one of four Summit Metro Parks properties that make up a huge green space south of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Highlights: This is a top spot for wildlife viewing inside the national park. The Towpath Trail takes the shape of a long boardwalk over the marsh with benches and signs explaining the historical significance of the location. The area used to be a scrap yard and is now home to diverse animal, bird and aquatic life.
Highlights: This farm market has all kinds of fruits, vegetables, snacks and local goods. On weekends, outdoor huts offer roasted corn on the cob, fresh lemonade, fresh fruit sundaes and ice cream. They have deli hot dogs, turkey burgers and grilled salmon, sausage, and pork loin sandwiches. There’s a great outdoor eating area with giant swinging benches.
Highlights: Historic village with a lot of charm. Restaurants include Winking Lizard Tavern and Fisher’s Cafe & Pub. Century Cycles bike shop and Trail Mix Park Store are also here. Lock 29 has access to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and paddling access to the Cuyahoga River.
Restrooms: Yes, at the Lock 29 Trailhead parking lot.
Highlights: This new visitor center serves as the gateway to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It’s a great place to rest, refuel with snacks or drinks, and learn about the park.
Restrooms: Yes, super nice ones!
Highlights: A nice, air-conditioned reprieve right next to the trail, this canal-era building used to be a tavern. Now it houses exhibits delving into history between 1825 to 1876.
Restrooms: Near parking lot.
Highlights: This Cleveland Metroparks property features a paved all-purpose trail leading to a picnic area, nature center, mountain bike trails and even other parks. CanalWay Center has exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the area. For an awesome side quest, consider the 13-mile Mill Creek loop to view the tallest waterfall in Cuyahoga County.
Highlights: Architecture critic Steven Litt praised the Towpath Mounds as landscape art in his cleveland.com first look from 2017. The mounds and the overlook platform make for a worthwhile stop to take in the view. Visitors like to climb to the top of the mounds to look over the highway and see part of the Cleveland skyline.
Highlights: This interpretive feature pays homage to the history of railroads in Cleveland and includes an overlook of the city skyline. There are cool benches built between old rail car axles.
Highlights: This greenspace is at the corner of University Road and West 10th Street in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. There are picnic tables, swings, grills and historical installations to commemorate the location of a Civil War training camp for the Union Army that was once on this site.
The northern terminus of the Towpath Trail is Canal Basin Park along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland’s Flats. Keep your eyes on Canal Basin Park as it continues to be developed. With the recent completion of the Wendy Park Bridge by Cleveland Metroparks, many Towpath travelers will want to make the journey to Lake Erie.
The map below shows the most direct route from Canal Basin Park to Wendy Park, but cyclists should check to make sure the Center Street Bridge is open before attempting the trip. The bridge is scheduled for major renovations as of this writing.
Highlights: Reaching Lake Erie after a long bike ride along the Towpath Trail is a satisfying payoff. The historic Coast Guard Station is picturesque and provides a unique view of downtown. The Whiskey Island Trail allows you to connect all the way to Edgewater Park with its beach, pier, concessions, ice cream and bar.
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