The Cleveland Metroparks is a collection of 18 parks spanning the Greater Cleveland area and providing its citizens with a variety of landscapes from a zoo, to the coast of Lake Erie and the rocky sandstone ledges a bit south. It can be daunting to know where to start with so many parks so I created my list of 5 Amazing Cleveland Metroparks you need to visit to help you plan.
Nicknamed the “Emerald Necklace” due to the way they encircle the city, these parks are truly a treasure to the city and it’s easy to see why they were recognized as “Best in Nation” in 2021 for their excellence in Parks and Recreation Management*.
So sit back, enjoy the views, and start planning which Metropark you’re going to visit. Let me know in the comments below (Or, tell me your favorite)! Also, please share with a friend who may like this, on social, or bookmark it to reference later!
Table of Contents
This is a long post, feel free to use these links to navigate to each section easily.
- Rocky River Reservation
- Huntington Reservation
- North Chagrin Reservation
- Lakefront Reservation
- Hinckley Reservation
Rocky River Reservation
Visit | 24000 Valley Pkwy, North Olmsted, Ohio (approx. address)
It’s no surprise Rocky River Reservation is top of my list of 5 Amazing Cleveland Metroparks. This park is the first land purchased by the Cleveland Metroparks and is my personal favorite of all the 18 parks within the parks system. Covering 3.8 acres of land, this park spans 8 cities within Greater Cleveland and is full of wetlands, shale cliffs, beautiful trees, and plenty of trails to keep you busy.
Try This: Hike The Fort Hill Stairs
Fort Hill is an authentic earthworks site and part of the National Register of Historic Places. Believed to have been created by the early Woodland Indians over 2000 years ago, this site includes a set of three human-made earthen ditches and walls built on the iconic 90-foot shale cliff inside the Reservation. Access the site by taking the challenging Fort Hill Stairs, 155 steps that take you to the top of the shale cliff and provide an amazing view and workout.
Don’t Miss: The Rocky River Nature Center
A short walk away from the Fort Hill Stairs is the Rocky River Nature Center. An educational space full of information on early inhabitants of the Reservation that was once part of a sea. Get spectacular views of the shale cliff, bird watching in the garden, and take a hike on the Nature Center trailhead for views of the river. While this is not necessarily parkland, it being one of the better nature centers out there earned it a mention on my list of 5 Amazing Cleveland Metroparks.
The Best Photo Op(s):
The Seasons: In my opinion, this park really shines in each season through the year in each season. It’s truly hard to choose which is my favorite (although Fall usually wins, it’s always so short and fleeting)
Berea Falls Scenic Overlook: There’s a viewing deck just a few feet from the parking, however, I like to climb down to the lower rocks to get a better view for photos.
Top of Fort Hill: Gain a wide view of the river and cliff at the top of the Fort Hill Stairs as well as Fort Hill.
* American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration National Gold Medal Awards 2021
Visit | 28648 Lake Rd, Bay Village, Ohio (approx. address)
Huntington is one of the few Reservations on my list of 5 Amazing Cleveland Metroparks that include Lake Erie shores as part of the park, it’s also one of the beaches I’ve frequented the most for enjoyment and photoshoots. Huntington Reservation is a perfect combination of beach and woods and with amenities like a picnic area on the cliff above the beach, a restaurant, a nearby nature center, and more, there’s plenty to do in this lovely and photogenic Cleveland Metropark.
Try This: Catch An Amazing Sunset At The Beach
Take a stroll on the beach as the sun sinks into Lake Erie, or watch from above in the picnic area while you munch on some snacks from The Noshery. Huntington Reservation is the perfect spot to catch an incredible sunset where the views are barely obstructed.
Don’t Miss: Visiting the park during winter
Most of you probably don’t consider visiting a beach during the winter, but this is one you won’t want to miss. Huntington Beach during winter is a literal wonderland. Depending on if Lake Erie has frozen over, or how much it has snowed, you’re going to get some phenomenal photographs.
The Best Photo Op(s):
The Break Walls: These 4 iconic break walls jut out into Lake Erie which helps break up the landscape, makes a great photo prop for people (or just themselves), and sometimes you can find interesting carvings from 20+ years ago on them.
Beach Glass & Colorful Stones: I love scavaging the beach for beautiful colorful stones and glass that has been tumbled endlessly by the lake. I like to leave pretty rainbows of color that make great photographs and maybe even make someone’s day who stumbles upon it.
Porter Creek: This hidden, fairy-like creek is one of my favorite places to sneak off when visiting Huntington Reservation. There is a valley just outside that is another secret photoshoot spot I love.
North Chagrin Reservation
Visit | 3037 Som Center Rd, Willoughby Hills, Ohio (approx. address)
Just east of Downtown Cleveland is North Chagrin Reservation and it’s got a great variety of outdoor elements. From a medieval-looking castle, a cascading waterfall, a serene marsh with a boardwalk, and one of the only old-growth forests in Northeast Ohio (the A.B, William’s Memorial Woods, not pictured). It’s easy to see why this park has made my list of 5 Amazing Cleveland Metroparks.
Try This: Explore a Castle
While Squire’s Castle is only a shell of a building today, the original plans were for it to be a very rustic gatekeeper’s house, but after difficulty in building the project was abandoned by wealthy Standard Oil Executive Feargus B. Squire. Today, it’s a photogenic landmark that you can explore inside and out. One fun thing to do is have a picnic in the field adjacent to the castle for a unique experience.
Don’t Miss: Walk the Sanctuary Marsh Loop Trail
This peaceful boardwalk takes you over a quiet marsh just outside of the North Chagrin Nature Center. Relax on one of the benches and enjoy the views, enjoy the walk-through, or catch views of a variety of wildlife.
The Best Photo Op(s):
Buttermilk Falls: This isn’t a grand waterfall with rushing waves, but its simplicity is part of its beauty. Enjoy the sounds of the falls as you get your photos from either side of the bridge that crosses over it.
Squire’s Castle: Perfect for photoshoots, the castle has several areas within and outside of it to make the perfect backdrop. Or, have fun trying to get a shot of the castle no one else has done yet with unique angles and perspectives.
Sanctuary Marsh Loop trail: You might want to bring your telephoto lens if you’re serious about getting animal photos. The boardwalk is also perfect for capturing unique photos.
Visit | 7600 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland, Ohio (approx. address)
One of the newer Cleveland Metropark Reservations on my list of 5 Amazing Cleveland Metroparks is the Lakefront Reservation. Composed of multiple former state-run parks (Edgewater Park, Gordon Park, and E 55 Street Marina), this lakefront park spans the shore of Lake Erie close to Downtown Cleveland. We’re focusing on the Edgewater Park part of the park in this list. Enjoy a variety of activities from swimming to boating, fishing, trails, and more.
Edgewater Beach along the Lakefront Reservation is a local favorite. It’s the closest beach to downtown and you can expect it to be packed on sun-filled summer days. It’s also a great park to visit during the winter months when the Lake freezes over. It is also home to Cleveland’s favorite tree and the Beach House, a fun summer staple.
Try This: Enjoy Under The Pier Views
Carefully climb under the Edgewater pier to get a whole new perspective. Just make sure to keep an eye out for any signage as this may not always be a welcome activity, especially if the lake is rough or there is inclement weather.
Don’t Miss: Hanging Out at The Beach House
A large beach house was added to the beach a few years back providing a place of shelter to enjoy a snack, a cocktail, or some shade on a sunny day. If you’re lucky, you can get one of the large porch swings to relax on.
The Best Photo Op(s):
The Willow Tree: No one really knows where this beautiful willow tree came from, but we know it showed up around the mid-1950s and in the modern day it’s a Cleveland icon. This tree is the star of many portrait photoshoots, wedding backdrops, and in many a dreamy lake photo. Each season brings a new personality, from bare leaves during the winter, to lush and flowing green tendrils that flow in the wind during late spring and summer. It’s always a good time to get a photo of Cleveland’s favorite tree.
Frozen Lake Erie: This is another place you will find amazing views once the lake freezes over. Lake Erie is the shallowest of all the Great Lakes and has a tendency to freeze over too many Clevelander’s delights. You might find people playing hockey, trudging across the frozen lake, and others just enjoying the views. I’ve been known to walk on the frozen lake for the novelty of it, but I stay close to the shore as possible just in case.
I do not recommend walking out on the ice as there is no way to know where the ice thins out and the danger is. If you choose to do so, you do at your own risk. Be safe out there!
Incredible Sunsets: Just like the other coastal reservation, Lakefront Reservation / Edgewater Park really knows how to do a sunset. Watch the sun melt into what many of us consider a mini-ocean, Lake Erie from the beach, the rocky coast, or off the pier for the best views.
Visit | 432 Bellus Rd, Hinckley, OH 44233
This Reservation takes you to the southern point of the Greater Cleveland area to a park with some unique features. Known for being a nationally-known destination for the annual return of the Buzzards, its huge ledges, some intriguing carvings, and its beautiful lake.
Try This: Find The Carvings at Worden’s Ledges
These unusual carvings were made in the 1940s by the son-in-law of the ledges namesake. While they aren’t exactly hard to find, you might miss a few as they are sneakily placed and the moss growth can help camouflage them. I’m just showing you a few, see if you can find them all. (Tip: they aren’t all faces!)
Don’t Miss: Hiking Whipp’s Ledges
If you’re looking for a good workout then you’ll want to hike Whipp’s Ledges. With an elevation of 350 feet, your heart will be pumping by the time you get to the top. Explore unique, rocky formations of exposed sandstone ledges of Sharon Conglomerate. The geology also provides an opportunity for rock climbing in the park, too.
The Best Photo Op(s):
Worden’s Ledges Carvings: These unique carvings make your hike through Worden’s Ledges extra fun, especially if someone wasn’t expecting to find them. They show up around halfway through your hike and there are some very unique carvings to find, including non-face carvings and a few names. See if you can find them and get creative with your photos.
Hinkley Lake: (pictures coming soon) a 90-acre lake that takes up a large portion of Hinkley Reservation. Catch a sunset or sunrise here and enjoy the serene views (with your camera, of course).
West Drive Scenic Overlook: (pictures coming soon) a scenic overlook of the east branch of the Rocky River before it flows into Hinkley Lake. A perfect overlook to visit during the fall to see endless fall colors.
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