Great Runs in Cleveland
Cleveland is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie. It is best known as home to Drew Carey, the Cleveland Browns and the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Running highlights, many of them easily accessible from downtown, include the beautifully restored Lake Erie and Cuyahoga River waterfronts, incorporating a 15-mile bike path and a 60-mile string of parks and treed greenbelts known as “the Emerald Necklace”. Additionally, the Towpath Trail begins in Cleveland and runs for 84 miles into the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. With all these beautiful and well- maintained places to run, it is no wonder that Cleveland has an active running community.
If you’re hoping to access all the parks that Cleveland has to offer, it is best to have a car. However, Cleveland has a well developed bus and light rail transit system, so getting around the city on public transit within the main metro area is easy. The Airport is only about 12 miles away from downtown and is accessible through public transit.
Typical of the Great Lakes region, Cleveland has four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid while winters are cold and snowy. From mid-November until Lake Erie freezes (usually in late January or early February), lake effect snow is typical in Cleveland. In the Snow Belt, extending from Cleveland’s East Side to Buffalo, it is not uncommon for seasonal snow totals approaching 100 inches. However, the West Side of the City is less burdened by snow. Frequent thunderstorms are common especially during spring and early summer. Depending on the season, be prepared for the weather.
- Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway
- Rockefeller Park
- Shaker Lakes Park
Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway
14.5 miles one-way. Start/End: Euclid or Lakewood. MAP
This path spans the entire length of Cleveland’s 17-mile Lake Erie shoreline from the City’s eastern border with Euclid to it’s western border with Lakewood. The Lakefront Bikeway consists of both off-road and on-street paths, but the route is clearly signed. Highlights of the route include Cleveland’s best architecture as it passes through traditional neighborhoods such as Collinwood to suburban Bratenahl as well as the scenic Edgewater State Park and the stately old homes along Edgewater Drive. The following routes, Downtown Waterfront and Edgewater Park, are highly suggested portions on this bikeway.
- Downtown Waterfront: 5.0 miles one-way. Start: W 3rd St Light Rail Station MAP
This section showcases the Cleveland Brown’s Stadium and Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, conveniently accessible from the downtown hotels. If you’re not staying downtown, take the Light Rail to W. 3rd St. Station to pick the route up from the start. It begins by looping around the NFL stadium. About 1 mile in take a left onto Marginal Rd, then enjoy a lake views as you run past the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and onto the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. It is easy to pick up this route anywhere along Marginal Rd. or adjust the distance to match your preference.
- Edgewater Park: 2.55 mile loop. Start Edgewater Park Main Parking Lot. MAP
As the name suggests, the park is located on Lake Erie about three miles west of Downtown Cleveland. During warm-weather months, Edgewater Park is the perfect place to soak up the sun on the 900-foot swimming beach, fish along the 200-foot pier, swim, boat, picnic and, of course, run. The paths offer beautiful views of Lake Erie as you wind through the upper and lower levels. In the summer on Thursday nights, Edgewater LIVE takes place. The park becomes fills with food trucks, live music, summer beverages and gorgeous Lake Erie sunsets. This event may not be the best time to run but could be a fun way to spend an evening. Of course, adding on other sections along the lake is possible.
6.6 miles out and back. Start: Cleveland Museum of Natural History MAP.
Rockefeller Park is a 7-mile linear park along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Superior Avenue. It is conveniently located near Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Botanical Gardens, as well as numerous hotels. This scenic route follows the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway to the North and ends at the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve. The running paths are paved and lit at night. The route borders Cleveland’s Cultural Gardens. These gardens were established in 1925 and currently contain 26 distinct gardens celebrating Cleveland’s multi-hued ethnic heritage. If you like historic stone bridges, wonderful landscaping and beautiful gardens, be sure not to miss this route.
9.5 mile out and back. Start: Cleveland Museum of Natural History MAP
Heading South from University Circle on the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway will lead you to Shaker Lakes Park. This route passes the iconic Cleveland Museum of Art, beautiful Wade Park, and the Kent H. Smith Quadrangle of Case Western Reserve University. Following the Harrison-Dillard Bikeway to the Lake-to-Lakes Trail leads runners through Shaker Lakes Park to turn around in Horseshoe Park. Runners can easily make this route shorter by selecting a different turn around spot. The route has a mixture of paved and dirt paths. These parks are nestled in the heart of woodlands. On your run, you can listen to the relaxing flow of streams, run by marshes and enjoy the shade of the covering trees.
- Rocky River Reservation
- North Chagrin Reservation
- Brecksville Reservation
- The Towpath Trail
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The Cleveland Metropark reservations are linked together to form the giant green (emerald) necklace around the outskirts of the city. This Emerald Necklace has a paved “all-purpose trail” totaling about 70 miles and nearly 20,000 acres. Unlike the Towpath Trail, described below, this all-purpose trail is not a rail-trail and therefore it is not a flat or straight. The trail winds its way, frequently along rivers and creeks, taking you up and down small hills. Some sections might be narrow or rugged for running. The highest recommended reservations are described below but more information about the other Metropark reservations can be found here. This is basically a series of linear parks that run into one another — a series of “reservations”.
- Big Creek Reservation. Closest to downtown. Start at traihead at Brookpark Rd.
- Rocky River Reservation: Northern Section MAP / Southern Section MAP.
Located on the west side of Cleveland about 20 minutes away from downtown, Rocky River Reservation is a must see! The all-purpose trail runs for 13.9 miles and is best for out and back runs. Traveling along Rocky River, you’ll see the massive shale cliffs, huge sycamore trees, numerous bird species and possibly white-tailed deer. Conveniently, this Reservation is located directly next to the International Airport. If you are stuck in an Airport Hotel, this run is accessible from your doorstep.
- North Chagrin Reservation MAP
North Chagrin Reservation, located in Mayfield and Willoughby Hills, is about a 25-minute drive west from downtown Cleveland. The reservation is a member of the Cleveland Metroparks and includes a nature center, a multipurpose trail, many gravel and dirt trails, and playing fields. The park is also home to Squires Castle, a common attraction for many. The multipurpose trail offers 4.2 miles of paved trail. This is a good option for trail running. Be warned that North Chagrin Reservation is known for its hills.
- Brecksville Reservation MAP
Also about 25 minutes south of Cleveland, the Brecksville Reservation borders Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The park includes horse stables, the Sleepy Hollow Golf Course, a nature center, many picnic areas, and a myriad of trails on which to run. This park has a very hilly geography. With some hills up to a mile in length, you’ll get a great cardiovascular workout. The all-purpose trail extends 9.3 miles and passes Chippewa Creek Gorge scenic overlook. Additionally, the park includes the Dear Lick Cave, which makes for an interesting stop on your running route.
The Towpath’s northernmost Trailhead is located just east of the intersection of Jennings and Harvard Ave West, about 5 miles south of downtown. From here, this mainly gravel path travels South for 84 miles right on into the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Along the trail, you’ll find historic buildings, museums, niche little villages, restaurants, pubs, incredible wildlife, retail and all that nature in Northeast Ohio has to offer. The best place to join this trail is in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. One convenient location is the Lock 39 trailhead on Rockside Road. The best part about running along the Towpath in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is that you can access the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. See the most of this beautiful National Park by running one-way along the Towpath to one of the many Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Stations (marked by a red dot on the maps). Board this vintage railroad ($3 per person) and relax as it returns you to your start point. Our map has the mileage between key distance points.
Cleveland’s downtown area is focused near the Lake Erie shore. The main portion of hotels are clustered in this area near the Cleveland Brown’s Stadium and Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Hotels in this area have easy access to the Downtown Waterfront Loop and Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway. A second cluster of hotels are located near University Circle where Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Wade Park and Case Western Reserve University are located. The Rockefeller Park and Shaker Lakes routes are accessible from these hotels without a car. The Lakewood neighborhood hosts a few hotels which are close to Edgewater Park. Of course, there are a few hotels near the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Airport hotels are conveniently located near Rocky River Reservation.
Running Stores and Group Runs
West of Downtown
Fleet Feet Sports Westlake. Hosts a pub run the 3rd Wednesday of every month, see website for meeting point and details
South of Downtown
Fleet Feet Sports Northfield and Strongsville. Hosts monthly pub run, see website for meeting point and details
Vertical Runner Brecksville and Hudson. Hosts group trail runs, see website for groups and details
East of Downtown
Fleet Feet Sports Pepper Pike. Hosts monthly pub run, see website for meeting point and details.
Some of the major events are:
Cleveland Marathon May. Also a half marathon, 10K and 8K.
The Towpath Trilogy: Race series to benefit trail development
- Towpath Half Marathon April. Also 3 mile and 5 mile race.
- Towpath Ten-Ten June. 10K and 10 mile
- Towpath Marathon October. Also 10K, half-marathon.
Rock Hall Half Marathon August. With the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as the event’s title sponsor, this race is guaranteed to end your summer with a blast!
Buckeye Half Marathon. October. Popular half-marathon and two-person relay.
Hermes Cleveland 10 Miler April. At Edgewater Park.
Cleveland Turkey Trot Thanksgiving. 5K and 5 miler.