In a city, it’s easy to feel like you’re surrounded by an urban jungle. Concrete stretches as far as the eye can see, broken up only by striking skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of traffic. There’s very little grass… or so it seems.
Cleveland and its surrounding area are absolutely overflowing with gorgeous public parks and reservations; natural areas that are only minorly impacted by the presence of humans. While these beautiful spaces are abundant and each is unique in its own way, a few sites in each area truly stand out. Prepare for the ultimate road trip, because we are about to head out on an adventure through the most remarkable places in the Cleveland Metroparks – or, as locals would say, the true gems of the Emerald Necklace.
1. Bridal Veil Falls Scenic Overlook (Gorge Pkwy., Walton Hills)
Bedford Reservation hides one of the most incredible sights in all of Greater Cleveland. Photographers and romantics alike are mesmerized by the beauty of Bridal Veil Falls Scenic Overlook. It's located on Deerlick Creek and is surrounded by spectacular hemlocks and hardwoods. This serene natural site is a dream in any season, but it is a particular treat in autumn.
2. Edgewater Beach (Memorial Shoreway and Lake Erie, Cleveland)
Imagine digging your toes into the sand and watching the sunset over a beautiful city. Believe it or not, such a scene happens right here in Cleveland quite frequently. Edgewater Beach, located in Edgewater Park, is a sun worshiper's dream. In the lower portion of the park, a 2,400-foot beach features 1,000 feet of swimming area; in the upper portion of the park, a scenic overlook and one of Cleveland's most iconic script signs provide a photo-worthy landscape.
3. Tinkers Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook (Gorge Pkwy., Walton Hills)
Flowing over the course of 28.2 miles is an incredible tributary of the Cuyahoga River. Not only is it the longest tributary of the Cuyahoga, but it is also one of the most scenic. The incredible Tinkers Creek Gorge hides one of the most fantastic waterfalls in the area. The powerful waters once fueled early industry in our region, remnants of which can be seen in scattered bricks and abandoned millrace tunnels.
4. Huntington Beach Reservation (28728 Wolf Picnic Area Dr., Bay Village)
The appropriately-named Bay Village sets the scene for this beautiful park. Located on the shore of Lake Erie, Huntington Reservation offers locals an opportunity to get up close to the ever-changing views on our great lake. This site has been in the Cleveland Metroparks since 1925 and it's home to one of the loveliest photo locales in the Emerald Necklace.
5. Bonnie Park Picnic Area (Bonnie Park Dr., Strongsville)
In 1924, a Cleveland area physician purchased a plot of land to create a local picnic area. He called it Bonnie Park, and its name remained beyond 1934 when it was purchased by the Cleveland Metroparks. Located right off of the scenic Valley Parkway in Mill Stream Run Reservation, this lovely slice of paradise is always well worth a visit.
6. Valley Parkway (Rocky River and Mill Stream Run Reservations)
Stretching from the intersection of Detroit and Sloane through the loveliest parts of the Cleveland Metroparks, Valley Parkway is
the most scenic drive in Northeast Ohio
. This 25-mile visual wonder begins in the Rocky River Reservation and concludes in Mill Stream Run Reservation. The views from your windshield are mesmerizing in every season and at any time of day along Valley Parkway.
7. Berea Falls Scenic Overlook (Valley Pkwy., Olmsted Township)
The Berea area is absolutely overflowing with natural sandstone, as this natural feature is the remains of ancient river deltas. As glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age, their dramatic flowing waters carved out some of this exposed sandstone in Olmsted Township, which created the dramatic scene found at the Berea Falls Scenic Overlook. This urban waterfall is absolutely enchanting, and it's an unexpected treat in this well-traversed community.
8. Squire's Castle (River Rd., Willoughby Hills)
The fairytale castle in the forest? Why, that's just Squire's Castle, and it's actually the shell of a gatekeeper's house that was built for the staff employed by an executive for the Standard Oil Company. This rustic structure was completed in 1897, though the manor house for its original owner was never completed. The site was later acquired by the Cleveland Metroparks and the castle-like structure was hollowed out. Its basement was filled in and its upper floors were removed, and the site is now open to the public.
9. Henry Church Picnic Area (Hawthorn Pkwy., Bentleyville)
Squaw Rock is hidden in the Henry Church Picnic Area. The area was named for Henry Church, the man who created the artwork carved in the rock in 1885. South Chagrin Reservation was not yet in existence, so nature was this visionary's canvas. His mysterious carving is still visible to this day, and his unique artistry is truly a surprise in the colorful landscape of this Greater Cleveland park.
10. Worden's Ledges (Ledge Rd., Hinckley Township)
You have just stumbled upon one of the most unique sites in all of the Cleveland Metroparks. Worden's Ledges is notable for its rock formations, many of which have been carved by the hands of folk artist Noble Stuart. The land's history predates these carvings, but these 1940s works of art still attract curious onlookers to this day.
11. Buttermilk Falls Scenic Overlook (Buttermilk Falls Pkwy., Mayfield)
North Chagrin Reservation is an endless treasure trove of beautiful features. Buttermilk Falls Creek is its most scenic waterway, and it trickles over ancient geological features to create a veil-like waterfall. This charming site attracts hikers and nature lovers to its picturesque landscape - and it's no secret why.
12. Fort Hill Loop Trail (Shepard Ln., North Olmsted)
You'll feel on top of the world as you ascend the 155-step staircase to the tip of Fort Hill. This iconic landmark rises 90 feet above the branches of the Rocky River, providing an incredible view of the surrounding valley. It's also home to an authentic Earthworks site that's believed to date back to over 2,000 years ago. It's easy to see why this site was treasured by the Early Woodland peoples, as it's stunning all year round.
13. Mill Creek Falls Overlook (Mill Creek Trl., Cleveland)
A true urban wonder, Mill Creek Falls towers over the surrounding landscape at 48 feet in height. This urban waterfall is man-made, and its story is almost unbelievable. A railroad company diverted Mill Creek in the early 1900s, and its new course trickled over exposed sandstone ledges right off of Warner Road. Today, it is the largest waterfall in Cuyahoga County, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful features in the Cleveland Metroparks.
There’s so much to see here in Greater Cleveland, but the most enchanting destinations hide in plain sight in the Cleveland Metroparks. Which of these beautiful places is your favorite to visit?