With its rugged cliffs, waterfalls, and natural landscape, Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park provides a thrilling experience for visitors of all ages. The park's spectacular rock formations are among the few in northern Ohio still exposed to view. Hikers will enjoy trails that take them to formations like Devil's Icebox, Indian Pass, and Old Maid's Kitchen. Visitors are reminded to exercise caution and stay on the trails at all times.
Tables and grills are provided at picnic sites. No trash receptacles available; this park is Carry-in/Carry-out, so visitors are asked to take their trash with them.
Park rules prohibit off-trail hiking and beverage containers on hiking trails.
The park features four scenic hiking trails:
- White Trail - 1 Mile - easy
- Yellow Trail - 3/4 Mile - moderate
- Blue Trail - 3/4 Mile - moderate
- Red Trail - 1/2 Mile - difficult
Hikers will enjoy the several trails that wander through the Nelson Ledges to formations like Devil's Icebox, Indian Pass, and Old Maid's Kitchen.
All visitors are urged to exercise caution while hiking and are advised to restrict their travel to established trails only. Wear appropriate footwear based on the conditions and the season. It is not advisable to wear flip flops or shoes with no tread.
History & Natural Features
This area was of vital importance to the Native American tribes. The Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Seneca, Mohawk, and Cajuga tribes were among those said to have lived at Nelson Ledges.
The park lies near one of the highest points of the state and is close to the watershed divide between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. Several major foot trails and canoe routes passed through this vicinity. This area became an important trade center for both pioneers and Native American.
The area developed into an important agricultural and dairy center. Cheesemaking was prominent and began nearly as soon as the first settlers arrived. By 1834, northeast Ohio cheese controlled the southern markets. Eventually, canal and rail transportation increased the area's importance.
The town of Hiram, west of the park, is home to Hiram College where James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, was educated. At the age of 26, he was chosen president of the college. The college was opened in 1851 as the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, received its charter in 1867, and was rebuilt and enlarged in 1886.
The Nelson-Kennedy region has always been a popular vacation spot and eventually came under state protection. In 1940, the state purchased land at Nelson Ledges, and in 1948, it bought 101 acres of the area known as Kennedy Ledges. The state of Ohio created Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park in 1949 to preserve the area for future generations of Ohioans to enjoy.
The spectacular rock formations at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges have become trademarks of the park. These rock formations are among the few outcrops in northern Ohio still exposed to view. Most of the outcrops elsewhere have been covered with soil and rock left by receding glaciers.
The remarkable sandstone cliff formations resulted from the forces of erosion — wind, water freezing and thawing — that wore away at the softer rock layers. As these soft layers eroded, large blocks of rock called slump blocks fell away leaving more resistant layers to form ledges above.
The jumbled rocks and shaded rock faces are home to a wide variety of wildflowers, trees and ferns. The spring wildflower show includes spring beauties, hepatica and trillium and features the rare red trillium, which grows in great numbers along the ledges.
The beech-maple forest harbors a few tree species that are more common in cooler climates: yellow birch, Canadian hemlock and Canada yew are common here. Some of these trees cling to the rock faces, their roots pushing into every available crevice. In the shelter of the roots and shaded by the leafy canopy above, ferns such as the Christmas and maidenhair fern grow in abundance. Others such as the marginal shield fern, grape fern, wood fern and common polypody are more unusual for this part of the state.
The leafy canopy is home to a variety of songbirds, while small mammals such as skunk, raccoon and fox squirrels inhabit other areas of the park.