Fall Foliage on Walking Trails

in Ohio Parks and Natural Areas

With nearly one hundred species of trees growing in Ohio, our fall colors are nothing short of breath-taking. The cool September nights and the shortening but still bright days bring on changes in leaf chemistry that we see as the beautiful fall colors along our roads and trails in the Buckeye State.

During spring and summer, the green color we see in leaves is caused by a pigment called chlorophyll that is present in leaf tissues. In late summer this pigment, which is a chief factor in photosynthesis, begins to fade as days grow shorter. Then, orange, yellow and brown pigments, called carotenoids, and red-purple pigments, called anthocyanins, which are already present in the leaves become visible. It is various amounts of these pigments that give maples, sweet gum, oaks, dogwoods, beeches, hickories, and all of our other tree species their unique fall colors.

Vibrant early fall colors against a vivid blue sky
Late summer-early fall leaves in a northeast Ohio park

Leaf viewing is not just a drive-by experience. Many trails in Ohio offer hikers the opportunity to walk in and enjoy nature while viewing the vibrant, brilliant fall colors of our parks and natural areas. By slowing down the pace and looking closer, it is easier to feel the meaning of fall, and realize that we, as parts of the natural system, also change with the seasons. In a civilization increasingly isolated from the natural world, it is important to get out in nature and feel the connection with our primitive selves, which will often fill a void in our souls, if only for the brief time we are able to be outdoors.

A generation ago, many more of us would have been working with the rythm of nature, rather than holing up inside our cozy houses against the coming winter. We would have been bringing in the harvest, storing up food and supplies for the winter, and living in tune with nature.

Get out and enjoy a fall hike, watch the leaves turning, the squirrels packing away their nuts. Feel the crisp autumn winds, and smell the decay of last year's leaves as they begin to nourish next years growth in the forest. Make it a fall ritual to prepare yourself spiritually for the coming season. Here are a few of the trails we have walked that offer nice views of fall color:

Scenic Overlook Trail
This trail is in Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation, and offers fine overlooks of Chippewa Creek. The browns and earth tones of the oak leaves mixed with the remaining green of the hemlocks lining the Chippewa Creek Gorge are a fine sight.

Highbridge Trail
Views of the Cuyahoga River Gorge between Akron and Cuyahoga falls abound on this trail in Metro Parks, Serving Summit County's Gorge Metro Park.

Ledges Trail This trail includes a scenic overlook from the top of the Ritchie Ledges in the Virgina Kendall Unit of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It can be an especially patriotic view when the U.S. Flag is flying in the distance at Camp Manatoc.

Overlook Trail
Overlooking the Olentangy River Valley, this Highbanks Metropark trail just north of Columbus offers views of the foliage below contrasted with the peeling white bark of sycamore trees in the river valley.

Rising Valley Park Trails
The trails in Rising Valley Park in Hinckley offer short views across the valley which are sure to please the hiker.

Fort Hill Loop Trail
Offering a hilltop view of the Rocky River Valley from Rocky River Reservation in North Olmsted, this trail is a prime spot for fall photography.

For information on fall color along trails not yet available on the NeoNaturalist.com web site, please see the Ohio Department of Natural Resources page on Fall Hikes.