By Mady Stoner
Posted On: Sep 1, 2021
We're quickly approaching one of the most scenic times of the year for Ohio – fall foliage season! And if you want to experience all the orange, yellow and red leaves Ohio's beautiful scenery has to offer, a road trip should be in your future.
Each area of the state has its own little quirks and it's worth making a visit to every corner – plus you'll get your fill of the most colorful time of the year! So, load up the snacks, fill up the gas tank and hit the road for this ultimate Scenic Route Road Trip.
Oak Openings in Swanton
If you've never been here before, fall is the perfect time to experience this Toledo Metropark. Famously known for the giant red pine trees planted more than 60 years ago to stop soil erosion. However, beyond viewing these incredible trees there are trails and activities for just about anyone. From hiking to fishing to horseback riding, you'll be sure to find something you enjoy here.
Favorite Trail: The Oak Openings Ferns and Lakes Trail is one of my personal favorite trails if you have the time. It's an easy 2.9-mile loop, with a variety of scenery along the way.
Insider Tip: If you're in need of a caffeine boost before hitting the park, check out the charming Maddie & Bella Coffee Roasters in Perrysburg on your way. If you have the time to spare, take a little detour to explore downtown Toledo. Black Kite Coffee is another great coffee shop to try, and Maumee Bay Brewing Co offers a variety of local draft beers if you're in the mood for something stronger. Plus, you can grab a bite while you're there!
Lake Erie Bluffs
Hoping to catch a sunset during your road trip? Look no further than the Lake Erie Bluffs. With the easy access to the beach, and a 50-foot observation tower you can decide how you want to experience a sunset over the water.
Favorite Trail: All the trails here are relatively short, but I’d suggest the Eagle View Loop Trail which brings you to the observation tower. For more views of the lake, try the Shoreline Trail. Between those two trails you'll get about a mile of hiking in, perfect for a quick stop along the way!
Insider Tip: This is area to check out if you've been wanting to try some of Ohio's wines! A quick detour will get you to a plethora of wineries. Good wine, delicious food and beautiful views on the patio can all be found at Laurentia Winery. For a unique experience, try the South River Winery which is known to many as the "church" winery because it's housed in a century old church with the original stain glass still intact.
If you can find yourself a rental on the water to help break up the road trip, this is where you want to unload and unwind for the night! With a lively downtown you'll find no shortage of food, drinks and fun for the entire family.
Favorite Trail: Make your way to Geneva State Park for beach access, bird sightings and more. I personally love the Orange Trail, which is just under two miles and provides wooded views as well as some nice lookouts of Lake Erie along the way.
Insider Tip: There's plenty of benches and grass behind the Old Firehouse Winery. Bring your favorite foods, a blanket and buy yourself a bottle of wine to set up the perfect picnic where you can enjoy the leaves changing with water views as well. If you're bringing the kids along with you, definitely check out the Adventure Zone Family Center which has putt-putt, go karts, ziplines and so much more.
The Holden Arboretum in Kirtland
One of the few spots on this road trip you'll need to pay to get into, but it's worth the expense. You can also experience the canopy walk and emergent tower (which I HIGHLY recommend).
Favorite Trail: In the fall, I personally love the Woodland Trail which is about 1.5 miles and takes you through the forest. With all the changing colors, it's a beautiful sight to see! Although any trail through here will have you in awe during the fall season.
Insider Tip: Try visiting during the weekday to beat the crowds, especially during the fall time as it can get extremely busy. Your views won't be as obstructed, and you'll feel like you can take your time a little bit more to soak it all in.
Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park in Nelson Township
Like the famous ledges at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Nelson Ledges are another area with the same incredible sandstone rock/cliff formations that you don't want to miss (and likely less crowds than CVNP).
Favorite Trail: I love the Red Trail which takes you through the Fat Man's Peril and the Devil's Icebox, two of the coolest formations (and names) in the park. The red trail is labeled difficult as you must go through the "Squeeze" which requires some scrambling. But don't let that scare you from giving it a try!
Insider Tip: Take your time through this park and try to walk all the trails if you can. Since they're all under a mile, it's worth it to take all the different paths to get unique perspectives. Drive into the town of Garrettsville and grab a bite at Two Travelers Tavern, known as one of the best places to eat by locals.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Summit County
Hands down my favorite park in the entire state of Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) truly has something for everyone to enjoy. The overlook at the Ledges is the perfect place to catch a sunset and watch as the trees change colors in the distance. The Cuyahoga Scenic Valley Railroad is the most unique way to catch all the stunning colors throughout the park.
Favorite Trail: There are so many great options in the park to choose from, but I really enjoy Salt Run Trail. This is a moderate 3.5-mile hike with a lake, dips, bridges and lots of wildlife to enjoy along the way. It also features a beautiful overlook where you can enjoy the stunning fall colors.
Insider Tip: Stop in at Szalay's Farm & Market and grab fruit, vegetables, cider and more from local farms nearby. During the months of September and October there's also plenty of pumpkins to pick from and a corn maze to get yourself lost in. Do yourself a favor and grab the buttered corn on the cob while you're there. Some of the best I've ever had!
Photo credit: Isaac Helterbridle
Mohican-Memorial State Forest in Perrysville
It would be incredibly easy to spend an entire weekend here exploring all of the areas Mohican has to offer. This is truly a perfect park for a road trip, as you wind through the roads you can experience the fall foliage without even having to leave your car, though I suggest you do!
Favorite Trail: Hog Hollow Trail is about a 4.5 mile out and back trail, with the halfway point taking you to the Fire Tower Overlook – a must-do during this season (if you aren't afraid of heights)! Climbing to the top here will provide you with 360 views of the park, a unique perspective you won’t find anywhere else.
Insider Tip: Make sure you plan before heading into this park, as the cell service is pretty spotty. If you don't have time for a long hike, stop at the Gorge Overlook for an amazing photo opportunity! The colors in the fall in this spot are out of this world gorgeous.
Hocking Hills State Park in Logan
This state park will make you feel like you've driven out of Ohio and into an otherworldly location! It has it all – from waterfalls, to overlooks, to incredible rock formations – everyone in the family will find something they enjoy here.
Favorite Trail: The trail from Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls is the way to really experience the park in all its glory. It's a longer hike, covering around 6 miles, but worth it! If you aren't feeling up the whole hike it is an out-and-back, so you can turn around whenever you'd like.
Insider Tip: While you're in the area, drive over to Conkles Hollow Nature Preserve. This area tends to be a little less busy than Hocking Hills, but offers some of the same incredible views.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve and Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs
Want to feel like you've gone back in time? These two parks are right outside the city limits of the charming town, Yellow Springs. Before you hit the trails, spend a little time walking around the town and stopping in some of the unique shops nearby. Between sightseeing in the park and walking around the town, you'll find you can easily spend an entire day in this area.
Insider Tip: Experience some of the area's history by eating at Clifton Mill. Walk around the building and get a picture of the mill that butts up to the Miami River. It's one of the largest water-powered grist mills still in existence. A perfect photo opportunity for you and your family!
Between the leaves, the apple cider and pumpkin patch stops along the way, I promise, this Road Trip won't disappoint this fall season. There's no reason to leave the Ohio this season if you're looking to enjoy nature's most wonderful show!