Looking for an activity that gets you out of the house after Thanksgiving dinner?
A hike is a great activity for the whole family. There are lots of hiking trails around the Cuyahoga Valley.
Recently, I discovered a nearby park with lots of trails and scenery.
Richfield Heritage Preserve is a dedicated historic park of 336 wooded acres located in Richfield, Ohio. It offers public hiking trails and plenty of beautiful scenery.
You can find the entrance to these woods from Broadview Road (Ohio Route 176).
I was excited to explore this new-to-me preserve.
History and natural beauty fill the wooded acres, as well as buildings, campsites, two lakes, and a refurbished mill.
In other words, there is plenty to look at as you accomplish your daily exercise.
Some social media reviewers complain that these trails lack markers, but I didn’t find this to be the case.
Plus, I’ve learned to study and take a photo of on-site trail maps when I hike a new trail.
This can save your battery and sanity in the event you can’t get a signal.
Day One: The Kirby Estate and Ghosts of Crowell Hilaka
So for my first hike, I started at Gund Hall and headed southwest on a connector trail to the upper lake (Lake Linnea) via the “Boat House.”
The lake is gorgeous.
The trail includes a walkway over the dam at the south end of Lake Linnea. You get an elevated view and can enjoy the pleasant sound of the water falling over the wall.
After soaking in the scenery, I hiked back toward Gund Hall and then took the main trail heading south to the lower lake.
Along the trail are several picnic shelters, and these dot the trails all over the preserve.
As I walked around the lower lake, I came to some structures built by inventor James Kirby.
These buildings include the Kirby home, dance hall, and mill. Kirby owned the lower lake property from the 1920s to 1937.
James Kirby built a dance hall just north of Kirby House. The dance hall included a wooden floor built on springs that would move as guests danced!
The mill just southeast of Kirby House generated power for Kirby’s home and workshop.
The mill is currently undergoing restoration but you can imagine how picturesque the red building with its big wooden wheel will look when completed.
Around the mill, I saw a trail heading northeast at a slight incline and took it to head back in the direction of the parking lot.
This bridle trail gave me a nice workout but it wasn’t too strenuous.
I spied an old chain link fence to my right and decided to investigate.
There was a small footpath leading past the enclosure.
As I got closer it became clear that I had stumbled upon what had once been a large in-ground swimming pool and bathhouse.
The pool probably was installed after the Cleveland Girl Scout Council purchased the property in 1937.
The property then became Camp Crowell Hilaka.
It felt like a ghost town, but I could imagine the pool once being a special place to spend a hot Midwestern afternoon.
Now, I was almost back to the car after about an hour’s worth of easy hiking. I was happy to finally discover Richfield Heritage Preserve.
I knew that I’d return.
Hike Two: The North End
On my second visit to the Preserve, I headed toward Lake Linnea again, but this time continued on the main road to a “storybook” home called Amity House.
It is one of two homes on the north side of the Preserve.
The Neal family owned these homes and surrounding 220-acre property before the property was sold to the Girl Scout Council. This completed the 336 acres that comprise Richfield Heritage Preserve.
Amity House has a verdant yard that slopes gently to Lake Linnea. Graceful old willow trees help frame the beautiful lakefront.
The house itself looks large and elegant, but it is not open for viewing.
Walking a bit further north from the house, I came upon a jaunty sign for “Spif’s Garden.” Never willing to miss the chance to see a garden, I headed down the footpath.
The garden looks like it once had been a little jewel among the hemlocks, but now like so many other wooded areas in our county, it has been ravaged by deer.
I walked back to the main road and continued to North House, similar in style to Amity House except smaller.
Walking past North House I came to a divide in the trail. I decided to bear right and explore the Northwest Forest trail via the Old Orchard connector.
The birds! They were chirping and flying through the branches around the Old Orchard.
They were still enjoying some kinds of fruits or berries here.
The hike was slightly uphill and eventually took me back to North House.
Along the way, I noticed old tent platforms restored with new boards, fresh paint, and insect netting.
Since this walk only totaled about half an hour, I decided to retrace my steps northwest past North House and across the bridge, then hike a trail immediately to the left of the bridge’s end.
Named Pine Lake Trail, this path follows along Lake Linnea on its west and south banks, then loops back to the main road.
At first, I wondered about the Pine Lake Trail because I wasn’t walking under any pine trees.
Soon, though, I came to a grove of pines spreading the fresh evergreen scent in the air. Who doesn’t love that fresh fragrance outdoors?
What I liked best about the day’s walk was peeking into the Amity and North house windows, picturing picnics on the grounds, watching and listening to the busy birds, and walking along the south side of the lake.
The beautiful fall weather certainly helped set the scene.
Hike Three: Happily Ever After Trails
Though my hikes took me along the north and south lakes in the Heritage Preserve, I could see from the map that there were still trails to explore.
The most western trail on the property connects the north and south through an area called the Green Cathedral and Storybook Forest.
I started this hike as I did the last one, walking past Amity House and North House on the main road and continuing across the bridge. Instead of turning quickly to Lake Pine Trail after the bridge, I walked a few feet further before heading left via a trail sign pointing the way to “Gemini.”
Gemini is the name of a cabin located in this road, and following it will take you to the Story Book Forest trailhead.
This is a pretty trail and is the most isolated of the hiking trails available.
Because of the leaves covering the floor when I was visiting in October, it was somewhat difficult to follow.
The flip side is that you can see the lake from this high ground, and you don’t feel lost.
Eventually, this forest trail opens up and connects to the main road at High Lea Shelter. Continuing on the main road will take you south to Kirby house.
But before that, I hiked up to the summer barn just to check it out.
Then, I continued back to the main road and ended up at Kirby House.
It was on this hike that I took time to read some of the signage around the restored mill. That’s when I discovered that the Lower Lake was not permanently dry, but had been drained in conjunction with the mill restoration.
So, this hike promises to be even more beautiful once the Lower Lake project is completed.
Looking for a family-friendly activity during this holiday season?
Explore Richfield Heritage Preserve, or a park near you.
It’s hard to beat the experience and memories you’ll make.
Have you visited and fallen in love with Richfield Heritage Preserve? Donate to the organization to help preservation efforts. For more information, visit the website here.