October 2010 Issue
Cycling Through Autumn
Some of Ohio’s best fall colors can be seen from the seat of a bike.
Wherever you find yourself in the state this fall, cool temperatures, crisp air and Technicolor forests are best experienced on two wheels. Try some of these easy-to-challenging rides for a unique autumn experience.
Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Start at Frazee House (between miles 14 and 15) and roll down the crushed limestone towpath under the shade of maple trees to the Beaver Marsh (mile 28) for a roughly 27-mile round trip.
“Fall colors are just beautiful about the third weekend of October,” says park ranger Scott Van Houten. “We have a lot of sugar maple, which turns a beautiful orange color.”
Van Houten’s favorite section of the towpath is the Beaver Marsh, where a boardwalk takes you over the wetland. You’re likely to see — in addition to beavers — great blue herons, muskrats and Wood Ducks.
“To see the full moon rise at night from the beaver boardwalk is spectacular,” he says, noting that the towpath is open to visitors 24 hours a day. Century Cycles (330/657-2209, centurycycles.com
) leads a series of night rides on the towpath trail. You might even be inspired to ride all the way to Akron, where you can return on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train for $2, courtesy of the Bike Aboard! program (cvsr.com
). You can flag down the train at other boarding points along the trail. Just remember, if you want a ride, wave both hands — one is considered a greeting. 330/657-2752, nps.gov/cuva
County Road 79 Bike Ride, Marietta
Appalachian Ohio is like no other region in the state, a fact made obvious by the 300-foot ridges that rise over the river valleys. Nearly every ride in the region is a fall foliage ride, and the folks at the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club have graciously mapped out a few winners, like the 23-mile County Road 79 Bike Ride (assuredly less hilly than most).
“That’s my favorite ride,” says club president Dan Jones. Start on Gilman Street in Marietta and ride to Co. Rd. 4, then Co. Rd. 79, and Co. Rd. 60 to Lowell, where you can stop for water and a restroom at the Lowell Lock and Dam on the Muskingum River, which dates back to the mid-1800s and is still hand operated today. Return along the small farms edged between the river and forest on Twp. Rd. 32 back to Co. Rd. 4.
Jones offers another option, St. Rte. 60 back to town. “It’s only got one hill — it’s a hill that peels your eyeballs back!” mariettarcc.org
Scioto Trail State Forest
Scioto Trail State Forest is within two hours of both Cincinnati and Columbus, yet when you take your bicycle on the paved and gravel forest roads, the cities will seem as distant as the last forested ridge undulating toward the horizon.
“A lot of people come here for the fall foliage — it is pretty awesome here during the fall,” says forest manager Brian Kelly. The lightly traveled roads, which cut narrowly through the forest, are perfect for two wheels. Start at the Forest Service Center and hop on Forest Road 1 (Stoney Creek Road) and ride west up the hill to the fire tower — you can climb the tower, though the cabin at the top is closed. Then you’ll hit one-way Forest Road 2 (North Ridge Road) where you can take it along the ridge past several vistas. At trail marker 3, hop off your bike and walk about 100 yards to a nearly 180-degree view.
“You can see a lot of fall foliage colors there. That’s about the best vista we’ve got,” Kelly says. Enjoy the downhill that dead ends into Forest Road 1 and head west again to complete a less than 10-mile loop. Twenty-six miles of bridle trails also are open to mountain bikes, but they are rather rough. 740/663-2538, ohiodnr.com
Kokosing Gap Trail
“I would describe it as one of the nation’s best rail-to-trail systems,” Knox County Park District Director Kim Marshall says of the Kokosing Gap Trail.
And she’s not alone. Enthusiasts from bloggers to the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy have called the trail one of the best. For starters, there’s the scenery. The trail often parallels the Kokosing River, a state scenic river and designated water trail. Ride through forest, farmland and small towns while watching the bluebirds that fly to and from their birdhouses along the route.
Then there are the trailside amenities. Starting in Mount Vernon, take your time pedaling the 28 miles to Danville and back. Stop in Gambier to stretch your legs at the 480-acre Kenyon College Brown Family Environmental Center right along the trail. Even the grasses in the 7-acre prairie change color in the fall. Nearby attractions include a restored 1940s steam locomotive (don’t forget to ring the bell!) and a 1920s caboose. The trail ends in Danville, where you can get a drink or a bite to eat before returning to where you started. Marshall recommends you not only enjoy the look of the trail in fall (“glorious”), but also the feel.
“What we encourage folks to do when they come to Knox County is take a deep breath and relax.” 740/392-PARK, kokosinggaptrail.org
Miami & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, Metroparks of the Toledo Area
This eight-mile section of the historic towpath connects three metroparks: Farnsworth, Providence and — for the self-powered only — Bend View.
“The only way to get to [Bend View] is by walking or biking two miles. It gets you to a beautiful view of a 90-degree bend in the [Maumee] river, which many people have called the most scenic spot in northwest Ohio,” says cyclist Scott Carpenter, who is also the public relations director for Metroparks of the Toledo Area.
Start at Farnsworth and ride the 16-mile round-trip route, where you might see hawks, ospreys and bald eagles. Take a rest at Providence Metropark, where a water-powered sawmill and mule-drawn canal boat operate much like they did in the 1870s. Along the way, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples and oaks shade views of both the canal and river.
Come fall, the scenery is all new, Carpenter says. “It gives you a great excuse to go back someplace where you haven’t been in a while since we’ve redecorated.” 800/837-5282, metroparkstoledo.com
Ready to Bike!
For more detailed trail information, download these maps and head out for a fall foliage bicycling adventure.
1. Ohio & Erie Canalway
Trail Map: ohioanderiecanalway.com/interactive%20map.aspx
2. County Road 79 Bike Ride, Marietta
Trail Map: mariettarcc.org/bikemaps.html
3. Scioto Trail State Park
Trail Map: ohiodnr.com/parks/sciototr/tabid/787/default.aspx
4. Kokosing Gap Trail
Trail Map: kokosinggaptrail.org
5. Miami & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Trail Map: media.aeoned.org/metro/content/items/digital/greenways_map.pdf
Leaf Peeper Alerts
Want to know where to find the state's best fall colors? Visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources fall foliage homepage, dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/9584/default.aspx
, to get updates on fall foliage scenery as well as autumn activities in state parks, forests, preserves and natural areas.