March 2015: Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park

Garrettsville, Ohio

Retreating glaciers covered much of the prehistoric Ohio seabed with soil and rock but the formations at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges remained exposed. At the mercy of eroding winds and ice the sandstone cliffs have fissured and surrendered giant slump blocks of rock. In 1940 the State of Ohio began acquiring land in the area and in 1949 the park was created to protect the one-of-a-kind landscape.  

Your dog’s hiking day here will be confined entirely to the Ledges that run north-south in a confined area that is bracketed by waterfalls at either end. Four color-coded trails fan out from the same trailhead opposite the south end of the parking lot. Following the prescribed routes can be difficult and it will take a few false turns before you get used to picking up the trail blazes. Or you can also disregard the trails altogether and let your dog investigate the rock formations and slot canyons as she will. The Yellow Trail is the only one of the quartet that heads north, poking through slender passages at the base of the cliff wall on its way to Cascade Falls that plunge across a vertical rock face. Gold Hunter’s Cave under the falls was the site of a brief and fruitless gold rush in the 1870s. The southbound trails each offer a unique Ledge experience. The easy-going White Trail ascends to the top of the Ledges and morphs into a traditional woodland canine hike. It climaxes at two-tiered Minnehaha Falls where Sylvan Creek slides into a twisting canyon. The Blue Trail traverses the front of the Ledges and is the best route to view their striking natural beauty. Several species of ferns cling to the ledges and the cool, moist rocks breed spectacular wildflowers such as the rare red trillium in spring. Adventurous dogs will want to challenge the Red Trail that descends imaginatively into the heart of the Ledges. Don’t be ashamed to turn back trying to follow your dog’s wagging tail into seemingly impossible passages like Fat Man’s Peril and the Squeeze. Eventually you pop out in the dark chill of the Devil’s Icebox.  

The ledges in Northeast Ohio are composed of a sedimentary rock known as puddingstone in which white speckles of quartz have cemented together over millions of years. Mixed with it is a combination of other pebbles and stones of various sizes, shapes and colors that give it a vague resemblance to old-style, chunky Christmas pudding. Some may even contain tiny fossils from ancient river beds, swept down from Canada. Your dog will find easy trotting on the good-gripping puddingstone that makes a fine ornamental stone when cut and polished properly.

Northeast of town on Nelson Ledge Road (SR 282), north of SR 305 and south of US 422.