Posted in Hiking, Northeastern Ohio, Park review

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Ledges Trail

The Ledge Trail is located in the Virginia Kendall Unit of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trail follows along the sandstone cliffs that make up Ritchie Ledges. The trail map at the kiosk says that the Ledges trail is a 1.8-mile loop. However, I have seen numerous other sites on the web say the trail is 2.2 miles. According to park officials it is a moderately difficult trail to hike. If the loop isn’t enough of a work-out, there are connector trails leading to other, nearby trails, so you can lengthen your hike to suit your available time and physical ability.

Large boulder at the foot of the cliffs.

History

Ritchie Ledges gets its name from William Ritchie, a farmer who once owned this land. In 1913 the land around Ritchie Ledges was purchased by Cleveland coal baron, Hayward Kendall, and Kendall used it as a hunting retreat. When he died in 1927, he left the land to his wife, Agnes, with the stipulation that it should eventually become a park called Virginia Kendall Park in honor of his mother. In 1929 Agnes donated the 430 acres around Ritchie Ledges to the state of Ohio under the conditions that the “property should be perpetually used for park purposes.” Ownership and management of the park land was transferred to the city of Akron in 1933 at which point it became a metropark. In 1974 the park was transferred to the National Park Service, and it officially became part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) in the year 2000. The CVNP continues to refer to this portion of the national park as the “Virginia Kendall Unit.”




Overview of Our Hike

The next photo is one that I took of the trailmap at the kiosk. The central portion inside the loop trail is a plateau. To see the scenic views of the cliffs and outcroppings, you have to descend from the plateau to the area below. The portions of the trail that feature cliffs and outcroppings are the outlined in gray on the map. It’s the same portion of the Ledges loop trail that we hiked (traced in yellow).

We began our hike near the center where the parking lot is located. We walked north a bit, then turned east and descended from the plateau to the base of the cliffs. We then hiked the loop in the counter-clockwise direction. Soon we were going past the Ice Box Cave. As we drew near the northern portion of the loop we did a side hike around the Haskell Run Trail (which I’ll discuss in a future post). Once we returned from the side hike we continued south along the western half of the Ledges loop trail. At the southern end of the loop we climbed back up to the plateau to take in the view from the Overlook.

Photo of the trail map on the kiosk. You can see a number of connector trails linking the Ledges Trail to others. A clean PDF of this map can be had from the National Park Service.
Parking Lot to the Ice Box Cave

Near the parking lot is the Ledges Shelter. It was built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). The timber was from American Chestnut tree (a huge tree that has been almost entirely wiped out by an Asian blight). The stone used in the construction came from Deep Lock Quarry which is now a metropark.

Picnic shelter

While heading eastward on the plateau, we passed through a hemlock forest.

Trail through hemlock forest

As we drew near the place where we would descend off the plateau, we began to see crevices in the bedrock below.

Looking down into crevices

After we were down near the base of the cliff, we headed northward and were soon going past the Ice Box Cave. Ice Box Cave is not a limestone cavern, but instead a sandstone recess cave. It received its name because of how cool it is inside the cave. Although people used to be able to explore the cave, sadly it is no longer accessible to hikers. So many bats have died from a fungal infection known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS) that people are barred entry because they might accidentally track in some of the lethal fungal spores (lethal to bats, not us). From the trail, we could only see the mouth of the cave. It looks like a dark square to the left-hand side of the photo below.

The dark square to the left is the entrance to Ice Box Cave. The cave is now closed to visitors in an effort to protect bats from White Nose Syndrome (WNS)
The entrance to ice box cave is barred to protect the bats in the cave from a fungal disease.
Cliffs made of Sharon Conglomerate

The exposed bedrock that makes up the cliffs and outcroppings here is called Sharon conglomerate. This rock was formed some 300 million years ago. It is a mixture of coarse sandstone and quartz pebbles. The light-colored quartz pebbles are known locally as “lucky stones.” Below you can see some embedded in the sandstone.

Sharon conglomerate has quartz pebbles embedded in sandstone.
Cliffs along the Trail

The trail hugs the cliffs. Below is a sample of the cliffs that we saw.

Photo showing the weathering of the cliff. The orange is from rust, while the greenish color is from lichens growing on the surface.
Small boardwalk near cliff. You can see sand gathering near the base of the cliff.
Trail near cliff
Sand is collecting at the base of the sandstone cliff
Looking up at one of the cliffs.
Boulder near cliff.
Bob near a cliff.
Stairs near the cliff
Rust-colored sandstone
Hemlock growing over boulders
Bob near one of the smaller cliffs.
Bob reaching the top of the stairs.
Crevices Viewed from Ground Level
Tree roots emerging from a gap in the cliff
Large crevice viewed from the bottom.
Crevice viewed from the ground
Crevice viewed from the ground
CCC and Stone Stairs

I mentioned earlier that the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) built the Ledges Shelter during the Great Depression. They also built stairs at various points around the trail. The one below is one of their most impressive. The photo immediately below shows workers constructing the stairs. After that there is another photo showing how the stairs look today. As was the case for the Ledges Shelter, the rock used was quarried from Deep Lock Quarry which is now a metropark.

This shows the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corp building a stone stairs.
This is the stairs built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. The rock for the stones came from Deep Lock Quarry.

Just because it was such a nice stairs, we climbed up at this point and discovered a very nice bench at the top. After relaxing there a bit, we returned down the stairs and continued our hike along the base of the cliffs until we reached a sign directing us upward toward the Overlook.

Overlook

Signs like the one below were located at points where you could choose alternative routes. There are no fancy stairs up at this point, but the slope wasn’t too steep.

Sign showing the way up to the overlook

The view from the Overlook was wonderful. It is just an open space on the rocky rim. I would imagine that the view in the fall is fabulous.

Bob standing on the overlook.
Near the Rim and Surface

If you explore around the rim just beyond the nicely, manicured lawn, you will see campsites. I believe that these are from some earlier incarnation of the park, so I don’t think you can currently camp at any of these places (but if anyone knows otherwise, correct me). You’ll also notice outhouses that presumably were there to service the campers. If you go to any of these, you’ll find that they are locked. However, near the Ledges Shelter there are restrooms with flush toilets.

Campsite. I’m not sure but I don’t think these are currently being used.

Here’s a look at the tree line from that central plateau on the same level as the Ledges Shelter. The lawn in this region is quite large.

This is on the same plateau as the Ledges Shelter.

Because I’m a fan of rock outcroppings, the Ledges Trail is one of my favorite hiking trails in Ohio. If you are going to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park it is certainly worth checking out.

Additional information




Location
  • Address (approximate): 479 Kendall Park Rd., Peninsula, Ohio 44264
  • Directions: The driveway leading to the parking lot for the Ledege Trail is about one mile west of the intersection of the Akron-Cleveland Rd. and Kendall Park Rd.
  • GPS Coordinates: 41.218885, -81.510874
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

More on CVNP

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and TrekOhio.com 2012 to 2017


One thought on “Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Ledges Trail

  1. Virginia Kendall is one of my favorite locales in the state. You surely encountered the state threatened Carex argyrantha there- there’s quite a bit on top of the west ledges. Virginia Kendall has been a day use facility since its inception, I believe; the areas that you’ve photographed are picnic sites.

    -Tom

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