Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Ritchie Ledges Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park: The Place to Visit in Winter

January 12, 2012, 8:47 am

One of Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s (CVNP) special places is the Ritchie Ledges. Here in winter, you can enjoy rocky cliffs highlighted by ice, green hemlock trees contrasted against the stark winter forest and expansive views of the Cuyahoga Valley. Make this one of your destinations to discover the beauty, intricacy and mystery of nature in winter. The Ledges Trail is a 1.8-mile walk, which you can shorten or lengthen, to discover nature’s wonders at the Ledges.

The Ritchie Ledges are one of many named “ledges” in Northeast Ohio. All are outcroppings of the same ancient rock — Sharon Conglomerate — formed from sand and pebbles deposited about 320 million years ago. Geologists refer to this time period as the Pennsylvanian.

It stretches the imagination to think about what the land was like then. The Earth’s crust shifts positions over time. During the Pennsylvanian, this area sat closer to the equator. A steamy climate favored ancient tropical plants including tree ferns, early conifers, reeds and rushes. Giant insects, like dragonflies with wingspans of over a foot, were likely common. The Appalachian Mountains were rising and streams flowing from the new mountains toward an inland sea carried the sand and pebbles here. Many of the world’s coal deposits, formed from the remains of vegetation built up in the Pennsylvanian swamps also date to this period.

Start your exploration of the Ritchie Ledges at the Ledges parking lot on Truxell Road. The most visible feature from the parking lot is an expansive field, great for flying kites in warmer weather and practicing cross country skiing when snow conditions are right. This field sits atop the plateau formed by the Sharon Conglomerate; the Ledges Trail encircles the plateau to give you up close and changing views of the rocks.