Built in the 1820s and 30s, the Ohio and Erie Canal provided a much need mode of transportation
for the newly formed state of Ohio. While short lived, the Erie Canal System made it possible for
Ohio's farmers and manufacturing to sell their goods on the world market. In time, the canals became
obsolete with introduction first of railroads, and later with automobiles.
Today, many of those old canalway's have all but disappeared. However, some are making a remarkable
resurgence, not as canals, but as hiking trails and bikeways. One such example is the Ohio & Erie
Currently, about 70 miles of a 101 mile recreational trail are available to visitors traveling
north to south on foot or by bicycle. These towpath trail stretches roughly on a line from Cleveland
to Akron and then south of Akron.
Visitors can wander along the trail at their leisure and see the scenic forest, flowing waters
and visit many historic sites along the trail. Museums, visitor centers and parks provide a wide
variety of points of interest along the trail.
Activities along the Towpath Trail include hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. There are
also in many areas inside the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, ranger-led programs designed for all
The natural beauty of the Cuyahoga River Valley include protected wetlands that attract many of
Ohio's native wildlife.
The Towpath Trail follows in part the Ohio & Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River. When traveling
on the Towpath Trail, keep in mind your fellow travelers. Always travel at a safe speed and keep
to the right when biking. Remember with all bike paths, bicyclists must yield to all users. Everyone
must yield to horses on the trail. Horses can be startled by sudden movements and could cause harm
to you, the rider and the horse. In areas where pets are permitted, they should be kept on a short
leash and walked on the right side of the trail.
American Hiking Association
The American Hiking Association named a portion of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, one
of the 10 top family trails in the country.
The Ohio & Erie Canalway is a National Heritage Area: a place to experience trails,
trains and scenic byways, canal towns and ethnic neighborhoods, working rivers and great lakes,
industrial landscapes and green spaces. Stretching from downtown Cleveland to the Tuscarawas
River Valley, the Canalway extends through Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark and Tuscarawas counties.
The towpath followed along one side of the canal to provide a path for mules to pull a canal
boat along the route. These were handled by young boys who would either ride one of the mules
or walk along side. They would be paid about $20 a month.
Today, many of these trails have been converted in paths used by hikers and bikers that can
move along the canal.
One of these trails is the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail. This multi-purpose trail was developed
by the National Park Service and is the major trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
From it you can make connections to many of the natural and historic sites in the park and
to other trails that intersect it along the way.