By Mary Vlahos
The Place to go for Winter Fun
Most people think of the Cleveland Metroparks system as a place for fun, summer activities for the whole family. While that is true, the Metroparks do not shut down for the winter; quite the contrary.
Visitors will still find a variety of activities to choose from such as sledding, ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, attending programs and lectures, and the most famous for family fun, the Mill-Run Toboggan Chutes. Did you know the Cleveland Zoo is part of the Metroparks and open all winter long?
Most every part of the Cleveland Metroparks system of parks has sledding. Whether you hit Hinkley Reservation to the south or Big Creek Reservation with its 2.4-mile lake-to-lake trail, you will find sledding available. For the thrillseeker, try Barrett Sledding hill. It’s known for its steep incline and is located off Valley Parkway.
The Big Met Golf Course has sledding by the 11th tee. It has a gradual incline and nearby fireplaces. This location is perfect for younger children or those of us who want a more leisurely ride down the hill. Below is a complete list of sledding locations.
- Memphis Picnic Area – Big Creek Reservation
• Sleepy Hollow Golf Course – Brecksville Reservation
• Kelley Picnic Area – Euclid Creek Reservation
• Sledding hill off State Road – Hinckley Reservation (night lighting)
• Pawpaw Picnic Area – Mill Stream Run Reservation (night lighting)
• Old River Farm Picnic Area – North Chagrin Reservation (night lighting)
• Sledding hill north of Barrett Road – Rocky River Reservation
• Big Met, Little Met, and Mastick Woods Golf Courses – Rocky River Reservation
• Sledding hill corner of Sulpher Springs Drive/Chagrin River Road – South Chagrin Reservation
• Sledding hill off Hawthorne Parkway south of Solon Road – South Chagrin Reservation
The Cleveland Metroparks have been offering fishing since 1917. It is one of the most popular park activities. That doesn’t have to stop just because it’s winter.
Ice fishing has grown in popularity. Some of the area lakes to visit are Ledge Lake, Ranger Lake, and Rocky River’s East Branch, Main Channel, or Oxbow Lagoon. You can also try Shadow Lake, Wallace Lake, Beyer’s Pond, Chagrin River’s West Branch, Hinckley Lake, and Judge’s Lake. You could visit a different lake every week.
Not all park activities are outdoors. The Cleveland Metroparks also offer classes and lectures all year long at various park locations. Classes range from learning to kayak, to plants that change the world. There are also nature art lessons, bird sketching and a kids’ clay owl class for the artist in your family.
Northeast Ohio does not have the tall mountains for downhill skiing that many states have, but the terrain of Ohio does lend itself to cross country skiing especially in the Cleveland Metroparks. There are many trails for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the park system.
The Rocky River Reservation has trails that go near their shale cliffs, creeks, and through forests. You can ski the high ridges of the North Chagrin Reservation and its numerous ungroomed trails that run through the river valley and pass the old English, Squire’s Castle. Mill Stream Run Reservation has trails that run through their forests and meadows, and pass by the remains of Native American settlements.
The Brecksville Reservation, located near the Cuyahoga National Park, offers ten trails that traverse seven gorges. The park system also owns five golf courses that allow cross country skiing. They ask that skiers wait until there is at least four inches of snow on the ground before skiing and stay on the fairways and the rough areas. The Big Met course has groomed trails for cross country skiers. There are many more trails through the park system that can be challenging to a cross country skier, but the views of the parks and the wildlife are all worth the trip.
The Chalet at Mill Stream Run Reservation, located in Strongsville, opened in 1967 and is celebrating their 50th season. The toboggan run boasts 700-foot refrigerated chutes that are the tallest and fastest in Ohio.
Their sophisticated refrigeration system allows them to operate with or without snow. There are two chutes that send riders zooming down the ice at top speeds of 50 miles an hour. Don’t miss the speed reader at the bottom of your run to gauge your own top speed.
It’s like an icy roller coaster ride. In the past riders have had to carry their toboggans back up the hill, but since 2012 riders can put their toboggans on a lift and pick them up at the top. For those who can’t quite muster up the nerve to go blasting down an ice chute at 50 mph, there is ample space in the Chalet where you can observe from a safe, warm distance or sit outside next to the outdoor fireplace.
It’s the perfect family activity and also available for birthday parties or other group outings. The toboggan chutes run through March, weather permitting. There are all-day rates of $12 for adults, $10 for children under 11, or for the real toboggan enthusiast you can get a season pass for $60 for adults and $50 for children.
Yes, the Cleveland Zoo is open in the winter. Grab a hot chocolate or coffee from their concession stand, hop on the complimentary, heated shuttle bus and take a ride to some of the zoo’s indoor exhibits such as the Australian Adventure Primate, and the Primate, Cat and Aquatics building.
Enjoy the lion exhibit where lions are kept warm by heated rocks. Learn about animal care from the Center for Zoological Medicine. Hike through the Wilderness Trek to see cold-climate animals such as Bactrian camel, sea lions, bear, wolves, and harbor seals. Get out of the cold and come inside to experience the 80-degree weather of the Rain Forest. This is a two-acre, two-story building that features hundreds of animals and thousands of plant species. What a unique thing to do with your family this winter.
Don’t get cabin fever this winter. Take your family out and explore the Cleveland Metroparks. Whether you want to experience the quiet snowfall and view the vast variety of wildlife while cross country skiing through the park or go zipping down a toboggan chute with your family and friends. There is something for everyone at Cleveland Metroparks. For a complete list of winter activities and locations go to the website www.clevelandmetroparks.com.
Photos courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks/Kyle Lanzer.
Tobogganing Cleveland Metroparks