words and photos by Anthony Boarman
For the first time in nearly a decade, the full Old Carriage Trail loop has been reopened to the public after a long period of closures, from the removal of three deteriorating bridges in 2009 to the construction of a new bridge beginning in 2018. The removal of the three beautiful steel box truss bridges forced the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to re-route portions of the original trail, but visitors can once again enjoy a similar 3.5-mile loop in its entirety.
As the Erie Canal started to take shape, carriage roads were crucial to transporting goods from farms through rugged and hilly terrain to the Ohio & Erie Canal. Multiple historical markers along the southern portion of the trail tell the story of archaeological findings of the 1800s and 1900s.
The Old Carriage Trail is a moderate to difficult hike that will give you elevation changes through trails that border deep, wooden ravines. You can access it from one of three areas: the Red Lock Trailhead (5 miles round trip), Station Road Bridge Trailhead (6 miles round trip) or the Bike & Hike Trail via Holzhauer Road.
I chose the shortest and most popular access route, which was to park at the Red Lock Trailhead and walk 0.7 miles on Towpath before arriving at the wooden footbridge at the southern entrance to the Old Carriage Trail. The southern portion of the trail is bike accessible because it is also a connector trail between the popular Summit Metro Parks Bike & Hike Trail and Towpath Trail. However, bikes are not allowed beyond this point on the Old Carriage Trail.
After a week of frigid temperatures, I was able to experience some sun and snowmelt as I walked the winding trails with beautiful views of the steep ravines below. I saw more white-tailed deer than people during my two-and-a-half-hour journey, but that is what I love most about the CVNP in the winter.
At the end of the northern portion of the trail as I started to descend down toward the Towpath, I found an overlook that provided a beautiful view of the valley that has undergone so much restoration in the last several decades.
If you’re looking for a trail less traveled by park visitors that will challenge you physically and provide you with a better understanding of the transformation of the valley throughout the centuries, the Old Carriage Trail is a perfect destination.
Anthony Boarman lives in Wallhaven with his wife Emily, daughter Sadie and his dog Ava. He is a lover of all things Akron. To check out more of his work, follow Anthony on Instagram at @aboarman.