The Old Carriage Trail is a 3.5 mile loop trail in the northern portion of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Of the 3.5 miles, approximately a half mile is spent on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
The Old Carriage Trail is primarily a wooded dirt trail that begins in the upland areas at the top of the Cuyahoga Valley and dips down into the Valley to the Towpath Trail within sight of the Cuyahoga River and then it ascends back to the top of the Valley to the Trailhead.
On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best, I would rate the Old Carriage Trail as a 2.
In my opinion there were two major detriments to the trail. First, there is no dedicated parking at the trailhead. I had to park about a quarter mile away from the trailhead on a residential side street. Second, for much of the trail, over two miles at least, backyards and residential subdivisions are visible and within easy earshot (picture 2).
Now for the good things about the trail. The scenery when away from people's backyards is very nice. There were three steel-frame bridges that span deep gullies (picture 3). Also, approximately 1/4 mile from where the trail meets the Towpath Trail (northern loop) there is a sign for a scenic overlook, which takes you about 500 yards away from the main trail, but is worth it. From this vantage point you can see the valley below, and to the west I was just able to see the sun glinting off of the Cuyahoga River.
At the bottom of the valley, on the Towpath Trail portion of the Old Carriage Trail, you can see the Ohio & Erie Canal and abundant wetlands habitat. I briefly watched a family of ducks foraging in shallow water (picture 4) and saw a Great Blue Heron fly overhead.
The southern section of the loop trail had signage connoting the existence of ancient indian burial mounds, but I was unable to visually locate them.
The 3.5 mile trail took me approximately one hour and 45 minutes to hike at a brisk pace. I saw about 15 other hikers while out.
The website link below will take you to a map of the Trail.
Salt Run Trail is located within the Virginia-Kendall Unit of the CVNP and is one of the longer trails in this area. It is located between Truxell and Quick Roads and is accessible via the Pine Hollow Trailhead, the Kendall Lake Trailhead and even from Akron-Peninsula Road.
Overall, this is an enjoyable trail. I liked its length and the moderate relief (for Ohio anyway). However, much of the trail is located too close to roads in my opinion and even when they are not visible, they are within earshot, at least half of the trail is within earshot of roadways. The trail itself was packed dirt with occasional gravel interspersed in places.
I hiked this trail the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) 2007. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground and I was the only person on the trail. It was a pretty good day for birding along this trail. Though I am not a "birder", my interest in the hobby is beginning to grow.
I had read in the Cleveland paper earlier this week that Northern Saw-Whet Owls have frequented Northeast Ohio in abundance the past couple weeks. While hiking the lowland section of the trail (near the Salt Run floodplain) one encounters a lot of vegetation that just looks "birdy" - grapevines, fruiting trees, etc... Sure enough, I saw a flash of something large in front of me, approx 75 yards up the trail. I approached slowly, but lost sight of it. I continued to creep up hoping to catch a glimpse of what I thought was an owl. Suddenly, the large bird takes off from a tangle of vines about 5 feet over my head. It was an owl of some type, but I only was able to get a moving view. Too large for a Northern Saw-Whet Owl I think.
Later, while hiking the high ridge tops, I got a very good view of a Pileated Woodpecker, that appeared to be pecking at small fruit on a vine, but was probably pecking insects off the fruit. It was calling to another Pileated Woodpecker several hundred yars away. I was able to get a picture of this bird below.
If you really want to get away from the crowds, then this trail is for you. I did this 7.5-mile (one way) section of the Buckeye Trail (which ultimately circles the entire State) as a primer for my ascent of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in a couple weeks.
This is a difficult section of trail that should only be undertaken by hikers with considerable experience or those in very good shape. The trail only has 200 feet of elevation change; however, the elevation changes frequently - up and down from one ridgeline to the next.
The trail is beautiful and for most of its travel was completely devoid of people. The northernmost couple miles as it parallels Valley Parkway in the Brecksville Metropark was near a roadway and a couple picnic areas; however, I saw only 2 people the entire route on the trail itself. They were pretty hardcore hikers and, like me, were prepping for a larger trip (a rim to rim backpacking expedition of the Grand Canyon - I will be sure to add that to my life list!)
For the most part the trail is within hardwood forest with frequent grassy canopy openings where wildlife seems to congregate. It crosses several ridgelines and streams and occasionally had downed trees within the path that had to be overcome. And since this is part of the Buckeye Trail, the route was very well marked with blue blazes, even in the few areas where the path itself was difficult to discern.
Because the trail is 7 miles one way, you will either have to leave a car at the opposite trailhead, or do as I did and make a loop by hiking the Towpath Trail 2.5 miles back to your car.
The Oak Hill Area of the CVNP is the most remote/has the least roads of anywhere in the park. I find this to be much nicer than the Old Carriage Trail that often meanders within eyesight of people's backyards.
The Oak Hill Trail is a 1.5 mile loop that connects with the Plateau Trail (a 4.9 mile loop) in many places. The trail starts through an area that was previously farmed and is now reverting back brushy and immature forest. About a half mile into the trail you begin to encounter more mature woods just before arriving at Sylvan Pond - a couple acre manmade farm pond. After Sylvan Pond the woodlands are pretty mature - mixed hardwoods with occasional groves of pine.
The trail surface is a gravel/dirt mixture and the topography is pretty mild. A few small hills, but nothing very extreme. It is rated easy by the Park Service. Personally, I prefer all dirt trails because I find the gravel to be somewhat noisy and intrusive. On this trail much of the gravel has been worked in to the soil so it isn't too bad.
I did this hike after work as the sun was setting. While finishing the last half mile I heard an owl hoot five times, about one every two to three minutes. What a soul stirring, yet somewhat lonesome sound. I also heard a woodpecker working on a dead tree looking for insects. It was a beautiful evening.
The hike took me about 45 minutes. I walked at a very brisk pace; however, I hiked an additional half mile over a section of trail connecting to the Plateau Trail and I stopped for about ten minutes to listen to both the owl and the woodpecker, respectively.
So far this has been my favorite hike within the National Park.
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