Big Book of Cleveland: Mud, Sweat & Gears

Craving exercise? Yeah, we've got plenty of that too

Share on Nextdoor

Nothing builds body and spirit like conquest. Hillary had his mountain, but what's your fame and fortune?

Northeast Ohio offers an endless supply of epic and entertaining ways to feed your competitive nature — even if you're just competing against that lazy voice in your head.

Need some ideas to get you started? Here comes our picks for the region's most entertaining and satisfying exercise spots. Just remember: It's not the mountain that we conquer — it's the jerks in the office who make fun of us at lunch.


Headlands Beach State Park

As many as 10,000 sun and sand lovers fill Headlands Beach on summer weekends — families, singles, surfers, sand-castle masters, and crews of volleyball, football, and paddle-ball persuasions. Headlands Beach is a mile-long "natural" stretch of sand outfitted with changing booths, picnic tables, a concession area, and nice restrooms. The break wall is a great spot to reel in smallmouth, rock bass, or yellow perch. Then you've got Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve at the east end of the park, one of the finest beach-and-dune communities in Ohio.

9601 Headlands Rd., Mentor,

216-881-8141 or

Huntington Beach

Extending about 1,200 feet along Bay Village's Huntington Reservation, Huntington Beach is lakefront gold, bejeweled with soft sand that gets the royal treatment from the park's beach-cleaner system. The nice volleyball court (on the beach, weekends) and Mitchell's Ice Cream and concession on the bluff above attract both the lazy and athletic along this three-mile stretch from Westlake to Bay Village, a short drive west of downtown. Visit the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center right up the road (440-871-2900 or and work out your brain too, learning from 100 live animal exhibits, including one with an American Bald Eagle.

Porter Creek Dr. (off Lake Road),

Bay Village, 216-635-3200 or

Edgewater Park Beach

This is where city dwellers come to enjoy water, sand, and sport in its most urban setting, backdropped by Cleveland skyscrapers and within walking distance of one of the city's hottest rehabbed neighborhoods. Families, twentysomethings, wind surfers, and boogie boarders gather into crowds of thousands on the weekends, soaking up a 900-foot stretch of sandy land. There are restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic areas, concessions, a pavilion, and a band shell for rent. A nearby fishing pier provides access for anglers, a boat ramp is available for the adventurous, and the big city is always within sight.

6500 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland, 216-881-8141 or


Cleveland Lakefront Bike Trail

Cyclists who love gliding through grand landscapes should journey the nine-mile Cleveland Lakefront Bike Trail, tracing the Erie shoreline along Cleveland's Lakeshore Boulevard, providing access to Gordon Park (six boat ramps, picnic area, and an Exploration Station nature center), Euclid Beach (a 650-foot swimming beach with shaded outdoor eating areas), and Villa Angela Park (a 900-foot swimming beach, scenic boardwalk, and fitness trail). Just make sure to hop off at Dike 14, a reclaimed dredge site that has grown into a beautiful nature preserve and has been designated as an Important Bird Area by Audubon Ohio.

8701 Lakeshore Blvd.,

216-881-8141 or

Back Roads & Beaches

Long-distance road dogs looking for a challenge should visit Lorain County's multi-sport tour website — Back Roads & Beaches — where you can plan biking journeys that explore the expanse of this most excellent west Cleveland county. Choose multiple routes of rolling, rural roads with beautiful scenery (farmland to forest), where you'll find kayaking, mountain biking, and swimming, as well as wineries, museums, galleries, shops, and eateries. The route from Vermillion to Findley State Park (near Wellington) is especially awesome.

8025 Leavitt Rd., Amherst,

440-984-5282 or

The Harrison Dillard Bikeway

Roadies looking to exercise and explore Cleveland culture at the same time should traverse the Harrison Dillard Bikeway, which connects the Lake Erie shoreline with the University Circle district. Beginning at Gordon Park, where the trail links with the Cleveland Lakefront Bike Trail, this 3.74-mile tour mixes nature (like historic Rockefeller Park) with urban backdrops (beautiful Victorian homes) before arriving at University Circle (a short distance to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and a slew of other cultural attractions). Visitors can find parking at the Cleveland Lakefront State Park.

8701 Lakeshore Blvd.,

216-881-8141 or


North Coast Parasail

Lake lovers looking for maximum adventure need go no further than North Coast Parasail on the beach behind Cedar Point's Hotel Breakers. Strap yourself to a boat, get a parachute, and fly hundreds of feet in the air for 10 or 15 minutes, eagle-eyeing Kelleys Island, enormous Lake Erie, and Cedar Point's amazing collection of 17 roller coasters (most in the world). It costs $85 to $130, but you get a T-shirt, action photo, and the view of a lifetime. Plus, the thrills of wave-runner riding are right next door.

1 Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky,

419-627-2279 or

AerOhio Skydiving Center

On the borderland of Medina and Wayne County, located in the pastoral town of Rittman, AerOhio offers one of the best opportunities to step out of a flying plane and plummet 125 mph to the countryside 12,000 feet below. The pro skydiving center is located on a private airport that capitalizes on a Cessna 182, offering opportunities for both professional paratroopers and greenhorns — equipment demos, rigging services, air-conditioned video and student classrooms, souvenirs, and free camping with hot showers. Your first tandem jump will cost you $199. Just make sure you get a video (only $99 extra) so you can show the world on YouTube.

11679 Blough Rd., Rittman,

330-925-3483 or

Whipp's Ledges

An old kingdom of stone sits in the forest of the Cleveland Metroparks' Hinckley Reservation. Whipp's Ledges rises 350 feet above Hinckley Lake. The 250-million-year-old stone metropolis is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, bird watchers, and serious climbers. Rock wranglers can scale enormous boulders and giant walls of Sharon Conglomerate Sandstone, enjoying a mix of sun, shade, and beautiful forest vistas as they climb. This is the only place to legally climb outdoors in Cuyahoga and Summit counties, so a permit is required — but there is no fee.

Hinckley Lake Loop Trail, Hinckley,

216-635-3200 or [email protected]



Put-in-Bay is known for two things — partying and fishing, often at the same time. The Erie island destination is famed as one of the walleye capitals of the world, but it's also great for smallmouth bass and yellow perch; crappie, rock bass, and smallmouth bass can even be taken along the island shoreline. Fishing licenses can be purchased at the Wharfside downtown (419-285-4511), public boat ramps are located next to the Jet Express dock ( and at South Bass Island State Park, and fishing charters are popular and plentiful (especially at Put-in-Bay Marina downtown).

Put-in-Bay Marina, 227 Bayview Ave., Put-in-Bay, 419-285-2571


Wildwood Park and Marina

This boatyard at the Cleveland Lakefront State Park is one of the busiest warm-weather destinations for water sports. Its break walls offer great fishing access on Lake Erie, and access to Euclid Creek — best known for its coho salmon in the spring. There is a six-lane boat launch ramp at Wildwood and a marina that offers gasoline and boating gear, transient and seasonal docks, food, fishing licenses, fish cleaning, and walleye fishing charters. There's also a scuba diving concession that offers charters and air tanks, kayak rental, and a nice little beach where jet skiers can launch their personal watercraft.

16975 Wildwood Dr.,

216-481-5771 or

Wallace Lake and Rocky River

Two of the best inland angling spots in Northeast Ohio can be found in the Cleveland Metroparks — Wallace Lake and the Rocky River. The former, in Mill Stream Run Reservation in Berea, has all the amenities a rodman needs, including a concession stand for bait, three fishing platforms, and great spots for hooking panfish, largemouth bass, and catfish. Rocky River (flowing through Rocky River and Mill Stream Run reservations) is for the more adventurous, wading through a stretch of stream, fishing for smallmouth bass, various panfish, carp, and catfish. Wallace Lake is located off Valley Parkway in Mill Stream Run Reservation, south of Bagley Rd. in Berea. The Rocky River ends at the northern end of Rocky River Reservation in Lakewood by the Emerald Necklace Marina and winds around many other cities and townships, including Hinckley Reservation.


The Quarry Golf Club

When it comes to unique courses, the Quarry Golf Club in Canton is one of the most singular and serene in Ohio, built on an old quarry dating back to the 1800s. All 18 destination holes get the royal treatment with 100-foot-plus cliffs, splashing streams, deep water lakes, velvet fairways, and pristine greens. Opened in 2007, the Quarry was quickly recognized by Golfweek magazine as one of the "Best New Courses in the Nation for 2008." Amenities include large chipping areas, a full practice facility with target greens, putting green, and an expansive clubhouse, strategically located on the tip of a huge quarry lake that offers dramatic views of the finishing holes.

5650 Quarry Lake Dr., Canton,

330-488-3178 or

Little Mountain Country Club

This Concord country club comes with prestige, selected as 1 of 17 public access courses in the United States to earn five stars from Golf Digest (and the only one within 30 minutes of Cleveland). Opening in the fall of 2000, this modern man's duffer destination has 18 holes designed by the famed Hurdzan and Fry team, built in a mature forest of tall trees, peppered with fast greens, the occasional McMansion, and some of the deepest bunkers you'll ever play. Compared to the other five-star courses, Little Mountain is probably the most affordable too: only $40-$70 per person for 18 holes. It'll make you want to check out StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights, Ohio, and Cumberland Trail Golf Club in Pataskala, Ohio — all owned by the same folks.

7667 Hermitage Rd., Concord Twp.,

440-358-7888 or

Cleveland Metroparks

Golf Courses

Peppered throughout Greater Cleveland are eight excellent golf courses operated by the Cleveland Metroparks: Manakiki in Willoughby Hills (a Donald Ross-designed course); Sleepy Hollow in Brecksville (designed by Stanley Thompson); Shawnee Hills in Bedford; Big Met in Fairview Park; Little Met and Mastick Woods in Cleveland; Washington in Newburgh Heights; and the parks' newest course — Seneca in Broadview Heights. All are open daily from dawn to dusk, mid-March through December. The courses offer golfers of all ages and skill levels 144 holes of recreation. Duffers can enjoy the challenging championship layouts, attractive clubhouses, great pro shops, full catering opportunities, and PGA Pro-instructed golf lessons.

Tee time reservations are available 24/7 thru the Tee Time Line:

216-635-3673 or


Rocky River Nature Center

Without nature, man's heart becomes hardened, so journey to Rocky River Nature Center and its vast array of hiking trails to reinvigorate your shape and spirit. The infamous Fort Hill trail climbs up 135 stairs to a spectacular view of the Rocky River Valley, where the east and west branches unite to form the main river. In contrast, the West Channel Pond trail (.5 mile) winds around the wetlands, revealing three beaver lodges, wood duck nests, and water-loving trees along the entire path. Before starting your safari, stop in the nature center between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily to get a trail map, borrow some binoculars, or speak with a naturalist.

24000 Valley Parkway, North Olmsted, 440-734-6660


Look About Lodge

In South Chagrin Reservation in Bentleyville, surrounding Look About Lodge, there are footpaths that pioneer a hemlock forest overlooking Sulphur Springs gorge. Look About Lodge is a beautiful log cabin built from more than 300 chestnut logs in 1938 as the meeting place for the Cleveland Natural Science Club. Right outside, Hemlocks Line Trail leads hikers into an aging forest in constant change — showcasing wildflowers in the spring and colorful leaves in the fall. Walk the hilly bridle trail behind the lodge and find one of the only cold-water streams in the parks — Sulphur Springs Creek. South Chagrin Reservation also offers access to the Buckeye Trail, the 1,444-mile path that loops around the state of Ohio.

37374 Miles Rd., Bentleyville

440-247-7075 or

Brecksville Nature Center

Hikers who love history can study the past around Brecksville Reservation, where ancient geological rock formations and caves are enveloped in evergreens. The 2.5-mile Hemlock Loop Trail follows the edge of Chippewa Creek through a forest and into an expansive floodplain. The 4-mile Deer Lick Cave Loop Trail is a rugged hike through the heart of the reservation, traversing rocky ridges until you find the sandstone formation known as Deer Lick Cave. The Wildflower Loop Trail (.75 mile) visits the Harriet Keeler Memorial and Woods, and the Prairie Loop Trail (.5 mile) is paved and easy, exploring a peaceful tall grass prairie, perfect in late summer.

Chippewa Creek Dr.,

Brecksville, 440-526-1012


Indoor Sports

Chenga-World Skateparks

Long before Cleveland was talking to the Tony Hawk Foundation about skateparks, Chenga-World was providing urban athletes with a stellar indoor playground for all seasons. Started in 1995 by two local BMX professionals, Chenga's vision was to provide a haven for skateboarders, BMX, and mountain bike riders, rollerbladers, and scooter gauchos alike. Now boasting two locations (Brook Park and Lorain), Chenga's indoor parks have completely different layouts, offering a foam pit, padded-resi-box, a huge bowl with a volcano, various half pipes, handrails, and ledges for all levels of riders.

Chenga 57: 2224 Fairless Dr.

Lorain, 440-240-7588

Chenga 2: 14700 Snow Rd., Brook Park, 216-433-7588 or

Cleveland Rock Gym

There are many paths to the mountaintop, but at the Cleveland Rock Gym, the best route is usually the one that's the most fun. Alpine wooden walls, covered with textured surfaces and challenging formations, provide climbers with excellent opportunities for fun, training, and all-around wall ascension, pulling through indentions, protrusions, overhangs, underhangs, and cracks like Spider-Man. For $20, you get a two-hour introduction-to-climbing class, usually running Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m.; belay, technique, and lead-climbing classes are also available — along with space for birthday bashes.

21200 Saint Clair Ave., #B3,

Euclid, 216-692-3300 or

Ray's Indoor

Mountain Bike Park

This is what Cleveland is all about: taking an abandoned old industrial complex and making it into one of the most unique bike courses in the country. Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park is a hippodrome for bike buffs, offering beginner, intermediate, and expert areas of two-wheeled entertainment and exercise. The place is enormous, with rooms slated as Street Park, Jump Room, Pump Track, and Grind Room, full of hills, boards, logs, rocks, stumps, teeter-totters, ramps, rails, and lots more. You can even strap a rented GoPro HD wearable video camera to your body and capture all the mayhem; lessons and rentals are also offered.

9801 Walford Ave.,

216-631-7433 or


Vulture's Knob

For serious mountain bikers and trail runners, there's no better place to off-road in Ohio than Wooster's Vulture's Knob — 125 acres of dirt trails, rolling hills, summer creeks, and biking nirvana. Dodge death cookies (small rocks), conquer multiple grinders (big hills), and survive track challenges with names like Fern Gully, Oh Sh#!, the Cradle, and Friar Bryan's Forest. Hundreds of national races have been run at the Knob (epic 12-hour and 24-hour tours), and the facilities (just over an hour south of Cleveland) are open 365 days a year to both novice and expert mountain bikers and trail runners. Upon arrival, head to the pavilion, sign a release form, and make a donation to help with this awesome, privately owned trail.

4300 Mechanicsburg Rd.,

Wooster, 330-461-9331 or

West Branch State Park

The dedicated crews at the Cleveland Area Mountain Biking Association (CAMBA) took old snowmobile trails in Portage County's West Branch State Park and turned them into a mountain biking arcadia. Divided into two sections, the trail is both beautiful and rugged. The West Branch Lake side trail is tight, twisty, and rooty, with a few flow sections, and the trails to the south of Cableline are tight, twisty, and rocky, with some very interesting features. These trails are accessed by Cable Line Road, which is a gated fire emergency road, running east and west through the park, allowing for o­nly cyclists and hikers.

West Branch Park Office, 5708 Esworthy Rd., Ravenna,

330-296-3239 or

Medina Reagan Park

There's a secret base of extreme sports in Medina's Reagan Park. First off, its 10.5 miles of Medina Mountain Bike Trails (separated into two trail systems) offer experience and adventure for beginners and advanced riders alike. The 2.5-mile Huffman/Reagan Park Trails and the 2.6-mile River Trail were built by CAMBA, challenging intermediate and advanced bikers with bridges, log crossings, boulder hills, forest, and wildlife. The 2.55-mile Old Reagan Park Trails (built by local Medina mountain bikers) is much easier, navigating a number of slow speed technical logs and stunts, fast flowing sections, and some great greenery. The park is also home to a 10,000-square-foot skatepark, which can be utilized by in-line skaters, boarders, and BMX bikers.

855 Weymouth Rd., Medina,

330-721-6950 or


The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath

Runners who love nature and history can quest through the heart of Ohio's only national park, the Cuyahoga Valley, traveling the historic route of the Ohio and Erie Canal on the same path that mules walked to tow canal boats. The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath stretches over 20 miles, connecting Akron and Cleveland, and runners travel cross-country on hard-packed crushed limestone (easy on the body), exploring the lush valley of the Cuyahoga River. If timed correctly, distance runners can conquer the Towpath and then catch the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad back.

Boston Store Visitor Center, 1550 Boston Mills Rd., Peninsula,

330-657-2752 or

Rocky River Reservation

At the heart of Rocky River Reservation is the snaking Rocky River, backdropped by massive shale cliffs, sycamores and cottonwoods, meadows and wildflowers, and more than 20 miles of paved all-purpose trails that are great for running, walking, and biking. Starting at the northernmost point in the reservation (Scenic Park), the Valley Parkway all-purpose trail is a 13-mile path that mirrors the river, passing picnic areas, sports fields, Rocky River Nature Center, Frostville Museum, and Little Met, Big Met, and Mastick Woods golf courses. Also look for the Rockcliff Springs Physical Fitness trail, located off Valley Parkway. Scenic Park is located off Valley Parkway in Rocky River Reservation, just off Detroit Ave. in Lakewood.

216-635-3200 or

The Morgana Run Trail

One of northern Ohio's best rails-to-trails success stories (the old Wheeling and Lake Erie Rail Line), the Morgana Run connects residents and visitors to the Cleveland Metroparks Mill Creek Park and Trail through the Slavic Village, Broadway, and Aetna-Union neighborhoods of Cleveland. A symbol of urban transformation, the two-mile paved path explores metro-nature, touching four schools and Morgana Park as it doglegs from Stella Walsh Recreation Center past a MetroHealth neighborhood center. It makes running through the suburbs fun and relaxing. The on-road portion of the trail begins at Mill Creek Park, travels west on Broadway Ave. to Jones Road, crossing over Broadway before coming out on 49th Street, entering the Washington Park Reservation, continuing south to the Metroparks Canalway Reservation and the Towpath trail.

Scroll to read more The Big Book of Cleveland articles


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.