The task: Pick five of the area’s best and most scenic places to hike. The experts: Jared Shive, Stark County Park District, and Matt Cribbs, avid hiker and former guide who is Wilderness Education Association certified. Here are the trails they selected:
SHIVE’S TOP FIVE:
1. SHORELINE TRAIL at Walborn Reservoir in Alliance. 11324 Price St. NE. Horseback riders and hikers will enjoy this quiet and rugged 2.3-mile trail through pine woods, brushlands around the dam, and oak and hickory forests. Mayapple and trillium provide a backdrop, where trail users may spot white-tailed deer, wild turkey, osprey, bald eagles and migratory waterfowl.
2. THE TOWPATH TRAIL (extends along Stark County from Canal Fulton through Navarre). The 25-mile Congressman Ralph Regula Towpath Trail features bitternut hickory trees, boxelders, large flowered trillium, skunk cabbage, and wild red raspberries in its northern section, and silvery maples, sycamores, and sassafras trees in the south. The calls of chickadees, goldfinches, wood ducks and spring peepers are prevalent.
3. HOOVER PARK TRAIL in North Canton. West of Market Avenue N on Maple Street. This urban trail connects a variety of habitats around Washington Square, Hoover Park, North Canton’s baseball fields, and nearby residential areas. This area provides ideal habitat for hawks, foxes, groundhogs, rabbits, goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, wild red raspberry, and elderberry bushes. Hikers and bikers will enjoy the 2.2-mile loop trail with a crushed limestone surface.
4. SIPPO LAKE TRAIL in Perry Township. 5712 12th St. NW. This trail follows the contours of the land, providing an aesthetic view of the 100-acre Sippo Lake. Several different habitats offer perfect viewing spots for yellow warblers, green heron and butterflies. Numerous species of trees such as white oak, wild black cherry, and wetland dogwoods border the trail. This .95-mile trail connects the Exploration Gateway to the east entrance of Sippo Lake.
5. EAGLE SCOUT and WETLAND TRAILS behind the David Fichtner Center in Hartville. 12833 Market Ave. N. This area used to be a cow pasture but now flourishes with songbirds, waterfowl, rabbits, foxes, and white-tailed deer. Work your way around a small pond and through a wetland to take a closer look at the wildlife and 19 species of butterfly during the spring and summer on this 1-mile, natural surface, trail.
1. QUAIL HOLLOW WOODLAND SWAMP TRAIL in Hartville. 13480 Congress Lake Avenue. Enjoy a mix of deciduous and pine trees as you weave through the forest on this short hike, which takes you past several scenic marshy areas on wood boardwalks.
2. HEADLANDS DUNE STATE NATURE PRESERVE in Mentor. 9601 Headlands Rd., at the east end of the park. Wander along one of the few undeveloped sand beaches on Lake Erie. Expect to see many rare and unique Atlantic coastal plain plants on this 6-mile hike, along with a variety of migrating birds and butterflies.The vast accumulation of sand along the Lake Erie shoreline was created by wind and water along the western side of the mouth of the Grand River. Each year, the sandy shoreline builds up and extends farther out into the lake because of the breakwall at the river’s mouth.
3. VONDERGREEN TRAIL at BEAVER CREEK STATE PARK in Columbiana County. A beautiful 10-mile out-and-back hike through a steep-walled gorge along the banks of the scenic and wild Little Beaver Creek. Explore waterfalls, wildlife and more. The hike begins and ends near Gaston’s Mill and Pioneer Village.
4. SPANGLER PARK in Wooster. Off of U.S. Route 250 just five miles west of town. More than 300 acres and six miles of trails run through pristine Ohio woodlands. Stop at scenic overlooks to view Rathborn Run, or weave your way down to the stream for a quick splash.
5. CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATION PARK, LEDGES TRAIL in Boston Heights. This is the most popular hike in Ohio’s only national park. Hike along huge sandstone outcroppings that tell a story about our glaciated past. The area is dotted with rare and sensitive plants and numerous bird species.You will see eastern hemlock, the peeling smooth bark of yellow birch, and the tall, straight tulip tree. About a third of a mile down the trail, going counterclockwise, you will find a small cave, known as Icebox Cave. The forests around the cave consist of a diverse mix of tree and herbaceous species that benefit from the cooling effect of the shady ledges, and the groundwater that seeps from the base of the ledges.