Posted in Hiking, Northeastern Ohio, Park review

Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park

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.

Deb about to go between slump blocks.

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.

View of the ledges from the parking lot
Going into one of the crevices that are part of the red trail
Dee pausing before entering another crevice. The red trail’s blaze can be seen on the tree.

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.

So narrow that I couldn’t turn around while wearing my backpack.

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”.

Dee getting ready to go into “the Squeeze”.
Already turning sideways to slide into “the Squeeze”.
This is where “the Squeeze” comes out. When you exit you are on top of a plateau. You need to descend once again to continue the Red Trail.
Up on top
A bridge over one of the crevices. Note it’s short and without railings.

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.

If you get to this point, and you are wondering how you are supposed to get down again, there’s a very scary looking descent to the right — don’t go that way! If you walk some distance to the left, there’s a steep, rocky descent that is part of the red trail.
The steep, rocky descent
Some people make it look easy!
Deb got to the bottom first and is looking back up at Dee and me. As you can see, the trail is challenging.
Once you enter this crevice the ground is mucky, but there are logs on the floor that you can use to walk through it without getting too muddy.
Animated GIF of Dee going through the crevice.

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.

Dee pointing out the “Devil’s Icebox” sign.
The entrance to the “Devil’s Icebox” is the crevice to the left. You can see the sign on the cliff wall that Dee was pointing out in the previous photo.
I’m standing in the “Devil’s Icebox” looking at the entrance as Deb starts to come in.

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.

We are up on the plateau again with crevices all around us.
In the distance there is a slanted slump block that Dee is approaching. That’s supposed to look like a sinking ship.
Dee decided to lean her way through Dwarf’s Pass.
Deb got small.

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.

You can see some intrepid souls up above the falls.
On our way back to the parking lot.
Additional information
  • 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
  • GPS Coordinates: 41.328462, -81.039201
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

More Parks with Ledges

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

14 thoughts on “Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park

  1. I have been going there for 43 years, it’s a beautiful place, take a picnic lunch for after the hike there are picnic tables and enjoy nature at it’s best.

  2. Deb,
    thanks for showing your photos today. This Park is incredible. I never new about it even though I have been living in Ohio for 47 years. I will go and visit it.

  3. Incredible post. I admire Your gorgeous photos. Passages between tall cliffs are something which I have not seen before in my life. I really enjoyed making the walk thru Your photos. Thank You very much for this inspiring post!

    1. This rock outcropping is relatively soft sandstone formed hundreds of millions of years ago when Ohio was covered with a shallow sea. During the last period of glaciation, it was covered with ice 2 miles (3.2 km) thick. Freezing / melting cycles and water flow from large volumes of glacial melt water produced these interesting patterns of chasms.

    1. Probably don’t want to estimate hiking time based on us, as we’re slow, spending a LOT of time taking pictures (we publish a small fraction of them).

      The park has three miles of trails – the mild ‘white’ trail is about a mile, and the other three combined are two miles. Expect slow going as some of the trails are steep and the scenery is worth savoring..

  4. …. Absolutely wonder place to visit, Bob! That’s the kind of place I would dub “the hiker’s playground”. Most of Ohio is dull, placid paradise; but this place is really cool!

    1. It was fun. Don’t agree with the ‘dull’,part, as we keep finding completely new and interesting places to hike. Hope to describe some of them as we work through the back-log from our recent trip.

  5. wow, adventurous trail or night mare if your caustaphobic, lol. pretty place tho ever been to virginia kendell park? it is almost identical in geography and crevices but nothing like you went through however, it has a ice box cave, where bats live and is closed off to protect them from white nose syndrome (fungus) I doubt that human presences is hte cause but one never knows.

    1. Haven’t traveled much in Virgina, except to a few historic sites around DC. Unfortunate about the bats. We used to watch 750,000 bats swirl out from under a bridge when we lived in Austin, TX. They were interesting and beloved in the area as they ate tons of mosquitoes.

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