Claridon Woodlands makes for a lovely fall hike

Claridon Woodlands
The landscape surrounding the lodge building at Claridon Woodlands offers hues of orange, red and sage green. (Julie Geiss photo)

Usually in the fall, we squeeze in a final camping trip of the year. Cooler temps allowing for blazing campfires and fallen leaves crunching under hiking boots make our last camping adventure of the year more enjoyable. 

However, this year we had some commitments that changed our trajectory. Instead of booking a reservation at a campground, we set up camp on our property. The price was right and the packing was light. 

Still wanting to explore, we added a few one-tank trips to our agenda for the month. We traveled a little north to visit an area known for sugar maples. 

Ohio typically ranks fourth or fifth in the nation for maple syrup production. On average, Ohio’s maple syrup producers make a combined 100,000 gallons of maple syrup. The industry brings $5 million to the state’s economy. That’s a sweet contribution! 

Founded in 1798, the village of Burton in Geauga County, Ohio, is the quintessential American hometown. As with many early settlements in the Connecticut Western Reserve, it has a town square like many village greens in New England. 

The town square, which is more like an elongated oval, was accentuated with brilliantly red sugar maple trees on the day we visited. The color of the leaves was so vivid, the trees almost seemed to be neon or glowing. Our timing was perfect for fall foliage viewing. 

We made a quick stop at a favorite coffee shop just past the square and continued towards our destination, Claridon Woodlands. The Geauga Park District manages over 20 parks. Encompassing 127 acres, Claridon Woodlands has plenty of space for a variety of outside fun. Two man-made ponds are surrounded by forested areas bright with color in the fall. 

Claridon Woodlands
Claridon Woodlands has plenty of space for a variety of outside fun. Two man-made ponds are surrounded by forested areas bright with color in the fall. (Julie Geiss photo)

Pump track

The park has something to offer for all ages. Three easy hiking trails have a combined 2.2 miles. While my daughter and I walked our dog on the paved trail, my youngest son jetted past on his mountain bike. He was headed towards the pump track and single-track mountain bike trail. 

A pump track is a unique riding experience that features rolling hills and slopes. Riders can complete the circuit without pedaling. Instead, the momentum created on the track propels the bike forward. The goal is to make continuous loops without pedaling. With the woodlands as the gorgeous backdrop, the mountain bike trail features several bank turns and narrow bridges. 

The park also has an entrance attached to the Maple Highlands Trail which covers 21.1 miles across the county from Chardon to Middlefield. The asphalt trail passes through two covered bridges and is connected to several other parks. 

My daughter and I walked along the trail, admiring the beauty of falling leaves and the peaceful atmosphere. Several cyclists passed by after offering us a jovial greeting. Pleasant weather and beautiful scenery have a way of bringing out the best in people. 

Boulder wall

After biking, we made our way to the freeform boulder wall. I have climbed a rock wall before, but this was different. It was a 12-foot freestanding boulder with hand and foot holds of varying shapes and sizes. We overestimated our abilities and tried to start in an area that jutted out. Not only were the holds spread apart, but the inverted angle also required a lot of upper body strength. 

We were humbled when we realized we had to start with the biggest holds shaped like woodland creatures. I did not feel very hardcore when I was clinging to an oversized dragonfly with my foot resting on a ladybug. It was really hard to pretend I was an avid climber. At one point I thought I was going to plummet to the ground if I lost my grip, but then realized I hadn’t even climbed two feet.

Next to the boulder wall, a nature playground was extremely inviting to smaller guests. A rustic log cabin and a stationary canoe are perfect props for imaginary play. It is also a great resting spot overlooking the lake with views of the lodge as well. 

Lovely landscape

Our wildlife watching veered towards the smaller size; chipmunks and squirrels darted among the trees. At one point in history, the area was dense with hardwoods like oak, ash, cherry, and maples. Wildlife at that time included elk, bears, wolves, and even mountain lions. 

Before leaving, we took one last look at the landscape surrounding the lodge building. The panoramic view showed hues of orange, red and sage green. Even the plants were thoughtfully and purposefully planted. 

Bioretention cells are used to keep the wetlands and surrounding areas cleaner. The plants in the bioretention cells filter out water contaminants. Excess algae growing nutrients are eaten up by deep-rooted plants. Clean water can then be reabsorbed into the soil. 

The ride home was pleasant as we admired large, Amish farms and pointed out more blazing red maple trees. We made plans to return soon with the goal of completing all 21 miles of the Maple Highland Trail on our bikes. 


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at



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