For some reason my daughters track coach likes to schedule meets that are a long distance away from home. About a month ago the meet was over an hour and forty five minutes away from and not wanting to waste that drive I had talked the family into stopping for a day hike at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park located in Nelson Township, Ohio.
This park sits on the dividing line between the great lakes and the Mississippi watersheds but what really makes this park interesting are the massive sandstone cliffs and rock out crops. Well massive for Northeast Ohio anyways. The more interesting formations have names that call for exploration; Dwarf’s Pass, Fat Man’s Peril, Devil’s Icebox and more.
There are also two beautiful waterfalls at each end of the park, Cascade Falls formed by Crystal Creek and Minnehaha Falls formed by Sylvan Creek. Both are creeks that run off the top of the sandstone cliffs. Cascade Falls is the easiest to reach by hiking north along the ledges staying at parking lot level and eventually connecting with the Yellow trail or take the yellow trail the entire way if you want a bit more challenge. Minnehaha Falls is also easy to reach but does require you to follow the White Trail to the top of the ledges. Minnehaha Falls are in a Southerly direction from the parking lot.
Speaking of trails, there are four official trails that are named after the color of their blazes but the ledges are covered in unofficial trails. The official trails are:
White Trail – 1 Mile – Easy – Runs above the ledges
Yellow Trail – 3/4 Mile – Moderate – Winds through the ledges hitting Old Maid’s Kitchen, Dwarf’s Pass and Cascade Fall’s
Blue Trail – 3/4 Mile – Moderate – Follows the base of the ledges
Red Trail – 1/2 Mile – Difficult – Winds through the ledges past Fat Man’s Peril, Indian Pass, Devil’s Hole and Devil’s Icebox
The difficulty rating for each trail is from the ODNR and are not my ratings. I did not find any hard to hike but I made sure to take it easy as I was accompanied by my wife who is having a knee replacement in three weeks. She did fine through all the sections we hiked. We did not hike any trail in it’s entirety.
My hike started on the Yellow through Dwarf’s Pass, then to the White over to Minnehaha Falls, a bit of the Red to see Devil’s Icebox and finally back to the Yellow to see Cascade Falls. With all the unofficial trails and interesting things to explore I found the trails somewhat difficult to follow.
Despite the difficulty of following the official trails a person with average navigation skills will not get lost in the ledges area of the park. But be warned, there a very dangerous ledges, cliffs and drop offs. Some rocks have a spacing between each other of only a couple feet but not noticing could result in a fall of nearly 40 feet. There were many teenagers doing a lot of dangerous and stupid antics the day I was there. Once to the point I had to just turn and walk away as a boy was showing off for his girlfriend and wanting here to follow.
This is really an an interesting place to explore and an easy park to find. The park itself is just a couple minutes from route 422 and Amish country. A morning hiking and afternoon in Amish country would make a great day trip for anyone visiting the Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown area.