Known by regulars and locals as simply “Nelson Ledges,” the Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park in Nelson Township, Portage County, Ohio has always been notorious for its eclectic visitors and risky rock-strewn terrain. Located just under an hour away from my hometown of Hubbard, it was here that I first got a thirst for traveling the state to visit adventurous parks and trails. My friends and I would drive out to Nelson Ledges during the summers of high school and college ready to hike, swim, and explore.
Because of the dangerous crevices and chasms that exist at Nelson Ledges, our parents were sometimes leery of allowing us kids to visit the park. However, if you stick to the officially marked trails, you will remain safe and out of danger! This is one park in particular where the majesty of Mother Nature is best to be viewed from a distance. The established trails (all named after a color: White Trail, Yellow Trail, Red Trail, Blue Trail) allow hikers to experience the beautiful and dramatic quartz and sandstone rock formations, such as Old Maid’s Kitchen, Dwarf’s Pass, Fat Man’s Peril, The Squeeze, and Devil’s Icebox.
The trails here are not very long, adding up to just 3 miles in total length. However, there is a great variety of terrain that one can experience when hiking here, from a nice and leisurely jaunt on the rim of the park to the very rough and rugged channel in between the bottoms of the cliffs. There are also caves and waterfalls to add to the splendor park-goers can see on a visit. My favorite part of Nelson Ledges is the aforementioned Devil’s Icebox, which can literally cool you off if hiking on a hot summer day. There are rock formations that resemble a devil or demon that seems to be overlooking the cool spot. I also enjoy and get a chuckle out of the “Fat Man’s Peril” which would truly be a peril to someone who was obese, as they would have a hard time getting through the passageway.
Rock climbing is not allowed at the park, although one may be tempted. But, as I mentioned before, these cliffs are extremely dangerous, and you should exercise extreme caution when in the area. It is quite a sight, however, to see wildflowers, ferns and trees growing along the walls of the cliffs, their roots reaching all the way down in plain sight. When finished hiking, my friends and I would typically head down the street to the Nelson Ledges Quarry Park where we could spend time swimming and laying on the beach at the amazingly beautiful quarry. Aside from swimming, there is a designated spot for cliff jumping which provides a great thrill. A lifeguard is on site in a kayak to ensure safety.
The campgrounds here do tend to attract a specific group of free spirits, who may even refer to themselves as “hippies,” and thus there are often musical celebrations and festivals full of tie-dye, headbands and tambourines. But seeing this from afar can be a fun spectacle and provide a nice slice of culture in your life!