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Winter sports opportunities abundant in national park

1/1/2009 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Hikers take part in a Cuyahoga Valley National Park winter hiking program.
Photo: Sara Guren; courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
CVNP — If cabin fever is setting in, Northeast Ohio’s national park has many activities that serve as a cure.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) provides many opportunities to get out and play in winter. Hiking, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing, sledding and ice fishing all take place within the park’s boundaries during winter.

On Saturdays, Sundays and some holidays, if there’s at least 4 inches of snow on the ground, the park’s Winter Sports Center at Kendall Lake Shelter is open for business. The center is located at 1000 Truxell Road in Peninsula, 2 miles west of Akron-Cleveland Road.

According to park spokeswoman Mary Pat Doorley, the snow requirement is a change from previous years, when the center was open regardless of how much was on the ground.

The center is the place to go for equipment rentals and instruction, offered for a nominal fee. Snowshoes can be rented for $5. Cross-country ski rental, including a limited number of children’s skis, is available for $15 per day or $7.50 for three hours, when snow depth is 6 inches or greater. A valid driver’s license or credit card is required as a deposit for rentals.

The rustic center itself is worth a trip, as it was built from native chestnut and sandstone by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, according to Doorley. Hot drinks are available, and staff is on hand to provide information about trails and scheduled activities in the park.

From Jan. 3 to March 1, the Winter Sports Center is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center also is open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19, and Presidents’ Day, Feb. 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cross country skiing

Several cross country ski classes are offered in the coming weeks at the Kendall Lake Shelter. They include:

Handling Hills — Jan. 3 or Feb. 8, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Park Ranger/certified ski instructor Paul Motts will instruct on the important skills needed to cross country ski on hills and novice trails. Participants must bring their own equipment. If there is no snow, this workshop will be rescheduled. The fee is $10.

Beginning Cross Country Ski Workshop — Jan. 4 or 18, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Participants can learn the basics of cross country skiing at this workshop, held with or without snow. Free ski time will follow approximately two hours of instruction. Participants are encouraged to bring their own equipment, but a limited supply will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee is $10, or $15 with rentals.

Ski Preparation — Jan. 10, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. With waxable or nonwaxable skis, certain preparation methods can help to protect them and allow for maximum performance. Motts will detail the important aspects of cross country ski preparation and allow participants to prepare their skis for the season. The fee is $10.

Intermediate Workshop — Jan. 17 or Feb. 21, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Motts will lead this workshop designed for intermediate skiers with a good wedge or snowplow. Participants also can learn a variety of intermediate skiing techniques and should come prepared with their own equipment ready for outdoor instruction. If there is no snow, this workshop will be rescheduled. The fee is $10.

Some trails are more suitable than others. According to CVNP officials, the following are recommended areas and trails for cross country skiing:

• Ledges Field, 405 Kendall Park Road in Peninsula, is adjacent to the Ledges Shelter off Truxell Road. It is a large, flat open field, excellent for beginners.

• Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail features 19.7 miles, with many access points. It is an easy multi-purpose trail, with the Hunt Farm to Peninsula section especially scenic.

• Cross Country Trail, 5249 Quick Road in Peninsula, is 2.5 miles and designed for cross country skiing. Access to the trail can be found from Kendall Lake on Truxell Road or Little Meadow parking lot on Quick Road. This intermediate-to-difficult trail passes through mixed woods and old fields and has several steep hills.

• The Bike & Hike Trail follows the eastern border of the park for 10 miles and many miles beyond. A favorite section of the straight, flat path is north from state Route 303.

• Tree Farm Trail, 2075 Major Road, Peninsula, is 2.75 miles. The loop trail is accessed at Horseshoe Pond on Major Road. It is an easy-to-moderate trail through open fields, across gently rolling hills and into coniferous tree stands.

• Oak Hill Trail, 3901 Oak Hill Road, Peninsula, is 1.5 miles, with the loop trail accessed at Oak Hill Trailhead on Oak Hill Road. It is an easy-to-moderate trail through mixed woods and past a pond.

• Boston Run Trail, 501 Streetsboro Road in Boston Heights, is 3.5 miles, with access from the Happy Days Visitors Center north parking lot on state Route 303. This is an advanced intermediate route with steep terrain through mixed woodlands.

• The Old Carriage Trail is 5.25 miles if reached from Red Lock Trailhead, 1175 Highland Road in Sagamore Hills, and 5.5 miles if reached from Station Road Bridge Trailhead, 13513 Station Road in Brecksville. This intermediate 3.25-mile loop trail winds across and through wooded ravines starting and finishing at the Towpath Trail. Here there needs to be at least 8 inches of snow to ski.

Snowshoe hikes

Snowshoe hikes with a park ranger also are scheduled throughout the season. The ranger will give a brief lesson on how to snowshoe before each hike. Park officials recommend children between the ages of 7 and 12 use snowshoes. Participants should bring water and dress for an active outdoor outing. Space is limited. When snow is less than 4 inches, programs are conducted as hikes without snowshoes and are free. No advance payment is required.

The following snowshoe hikes are planned:

Evergreen Forests — Jan. 11 or Feb. 1, 1 to 3:30 p.m., Kendall Lake Shelter. Particpants can discover what it is like to snowshoe through large stands of eastern white pine. This 2.5-mile moderate snowshoe hike takes participants over hills and along the plateau of the Pine Grove Trail. The fee of $5 includes snowshoe rental.

Evening Recreational Snowshoe — Feb. 7, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Oak Hill Trailhead. A park ranger will lead a trek along the inner loop of the Plateau Trail on this 2.5-mile moderate-to-difficult hike. The fee of $5 includes snowshoe rental.

To register for programs or check on the Winter Sports Center’s opening status, call (216) 524-1497. 

Snowshoe rentals also are available at the Boston Store Visitor Center, located at 1548 Boston Mills Road in Peninsula. Snowshoe rentals are available there Wednesdays through Sundays through mid-March from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fee is $5, with a driver’s license or credit card required as deposit. 

Park officials said many of the park’s trails are suitable for snowshoeing.

Sledding, hiking, ice fishing

If sledding is more your speed, CVNP offers a place suited for the task at Kendall Hills on Quick Road, about 1 mile east of Akron-Peninsula Road. Parking is located in lots at Pine Hollow (5465 Quick Road), Crow Foot Gully Picnic Area (5365 Quick Road) and Little Meadow (5249 Quick Road). Separate areas are designated for sleds and toboggans. Rentals are not available.

Some areas are closed to sledding to prevent conflicts with cross country ski trails.

For winter hiking, the park features more than 125 miles of trails that are open year around. Though many trails are especially scenic in winter, the Ledges Trail, 405 Kendall Park Road in Peninsula, is among the most popular due to the dramatic icicles on the rocks, according to CVNP officials. Park officials stress that in winter it is especially important to take some precautions while hiking:

  • Obtain trail maps before venturing into unfamiliar areas.
  • Inform family or friends of your intended locations and estimated time of return.
  • Do not climb on the rocks at the Ledges, and stay back from the bluff edges.
  • Always use caution where ice and packed snow make footing hazardous.
  • As a courtesy and for the safety of everyone, always yield to skiers and avoid walking in ski tracks.

Ice fishing at your own risk is allowed in CVNP. Large-mouth bass, crappie and bluegill are among the fish caught in the park’s lakes and ponds. Ice thickness is not monitored for ice fishing, so be extra careful when venturing onto the ice. Thin spots can occur on the ice, causing it to become unstable. Fishermen must follow federal and state regulations.

For more details on winter sports opportunities in CVNP, go to www.nps.gov/cuva/ or www.dayinthevalley.com.

Downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing

Downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing is offered within the parks’ boundaries at Boston Mills Ski Resort, 7100 Riverview Road in Peninsula, and Brandywine Ski Resort, 1146 W. Highland Road in Sagamore Hills. Equipment rental and instruction are available. Polar Blast Tubing Park, next to Brandywine Ski Resort, offers snow tubing Fridays through Sundays for those who want to enjoy the slopes without skiing or snowboarding. For more information, call (800) 875-4241 or go to www.bmbw.com.

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