Nelson Kennedy Ledges is a most unusual state park located in Portage County in northeastern Ohio. The park is a relatively small 167 acres with 3 miles of trails. The main section of the park consists of a massive rock outcropping. The outcropping is cracked with narrow passages between tall cliffs, small streams flowing through them and huge slump blocks broken off of the cliff face. The trails go around, over, and through the openings and resemble an enormous stone maze.
The entrance to the park is located off of SR-282 and consists of a parking lot, restrooms, and a picnic area in a field. The trail-head starts across the road and goes uphill towards the stone outcropping. There are four trails – the white trail is listed as easy and goes from the entrance to a small relatively flat loop on one edge of the park. The blue and yellow trail are moderately difficult. and the red trail is listed as difficult.
We entered on the white trail, passed between some cliffs and took the second left onto the red trail. It quickly descends down into a narrow chasm. The cliff walls tower over you, small side passages beckon, and the channel grows narrower till you reach Fat Main’s Peril. We were able to pass though, but it was narrow, and I wouldn’t have been able to turn around with a backpack on.
The red trail widens slightly and continues on between cliffs and massive slump blocks. After some time it narrows again sharply at a place called “The Squeeze”. My daughter Dee was in the lead and went on ahead. She called back “It’s REALLY narrow here. I’m having to duck and crawl”. She told me I’d need to take off my backpack. Then she said that she was barely able to squeeze through.
Now, my daughter is a trim, young adult, and I’m … not. I figured that I wouldn’t make it through “The Squeeze”. She made it through and ended up back on top of the outcropping. I performed a strategic retreat and then went around and reunited with Deb and Dee on the other side of “The Squeeze”.
From there we looked for the continuation of the trail. After a few false starts, we found the trail continued on to the left of “The Squeeze”, heading down a boulder strewn slope into another chasm.
At the bottom we emerged into sunlight, where our N/S chasm crossed a second E/W channel with a stream flowing through it. Stone steps crossed the stream. To the west, the stream emerged from a small cave-like opening. Cool air flowed from the opening. I checked for small treasure chests, or perhaps an Orc with a stone club, but didn’t see any such thing. Stone steps led upstream into the cave.
We followed them into the “Devil’s Icebox”. The recess cave had an opening on two ends. The stream flowed in from a small open chasm that sloped up and flowed out the other end to the chasm crossing where we’d entered. It was cool inside. Alas, previous visitors had sprayed parts of the rock in the cave with graffiti. We emerged where we’d originally entered and headed downstream.
We found the blue trail which winds around the periphery of the outcropping and then joins the white trail near the entrance. We retraced our path on the white trail and then took a right onto the yellow trail. The yellow trail goes through several chasms and opens out into an area surround by cliffs, it then turns sharply and goes through “Dwarf’s Pass”. Once again, our intrepid daughter Dee went first. The narrow cleft forming the pass tilted sharply to the right. Dee negotiated it and then I leaned far forward and handed her my backpack. I turned sideways and leaned far right with both hands on the cliff wall and made my way through. Deb took a different approach and bent real low and scuttled under the passage.
The path opened up and then twisted and turned through several more chasms, finally opening up to a wider area. The cliffs still towered over us. Ahead we saw wooden boardwalk and we could here the sound of falling water. The boardwalk ended in a viewing area for a waterfall known as “Cascade Falls”. The water flowed over the cliff high above and bounced off the rock flowing into a small stream at the bottom. After admiring the falls, we retraced our steps and returned to the entrance and then over to the picnic area for a trail lunch.
- TrekOhio: Portage County Parks & Preserves — This is the county where Nelson Kennedy Ledges is located; check out this page for links to the official site and for information on nearby parks and preserves.
Address: 12440 State Route 282 Garrettsville, OH 44231