5 of 5: Exploring the Burton Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"

Blog Date
Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

Burton Section - Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
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The Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" is the over-250-mile part of the Buckeye Trail in Northeast Ohio that goes through the following counties: Lake, Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Portage, and Geauga. On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, at the northern terminus of the Buckeye Trail at Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, I completed the loop which I had begun on Sunday, November 4, 2018.

My plan was to slowly complete, by hiking and biking, all the sections of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" over several years. With the onset of the March 2020 COVID-19 crisis, my plans radically changed, and I decided to complete the "Little Loop" this year. Below is the blog post about the Burton Section, which is the fifth of five Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" blog posts.

You may find it helpful to first read the background information about the trail in the first blog post:

Here are links to all of the section blog posts, along with a list of the counties and some of the parks that are part of each section:

  • 2 of 5: Exploring the Bedford Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
    - Lake County, Cuyahoga County
    - Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, Headlands Beach State Park, Cleveland Museum of Natural History's Mentor Marsh, Lake Metroparks, Cleveland Metroparks, and more!

  • 3 of 5: Exploring the Akron Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
    - Cuyahoga County, Summit County, Stark County
    - Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio & Erie Canalway, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Summit Metro Parks, and more!

  • 4 of 5: Exploring the Mogadore Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"
    - NOTE: I included the small part of the Massillon Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" in this blog post.
    - Stark County, Summit County, Portage County
    - Stark Parks, Summit Metro Parks, Portage Park District, Mogadore Reservoir, West Branch State Park, Mantua Bog State Nature Preserve, and more!

  • 5 of 5: Exploring the Burton Section of the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" (See below)
    - Geauga County, Lake County
    - Geauga Park District, Lake Metroparks, Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, and more!

Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" Map
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Burton Section - Buckeye Trail "Little Loop"

There are 26 sections to the Buckeye Trail, each named for a town or feature within the section, and each with its own unique experiences. As you read the descriptions, you will come to realize the tremendous variety and history that hiking Ohio offers. We strongly urge you to obtain a detailed map from the Buckeye Trail Association for the section (or sections) you wish to hike.

This blog post covers my experiences on the Burton Section from Friday, August 21, 2020,  through finishing the "Little Loop" on Thursday, November 10, 2020.

Burton Section
56.9 Total Miles / 30.5 Off Road Miles (53.6%)
Map Publication Date: March 2018

The Burton Section begins at the northern terminus of the Buckeye Trail, in Headlands Beach State Park on the shores of Lake Erie. BT heads south away from Lake Erie on streets through Grand River into Painesville. BT passes The Rider Inn, waypoint on Underground Railroad and joins Lake County Metroparks Greenway. Trail climbs steadily up low Appalachian escarpment and visits Girdled Road Reservation. After crossing into Geauga County, the trail passes through Big Creek Park, where camping is permitted by reservation. The trail continues south approaching the headwaters of the Cuyahoga River, continuing through the village square of Burton. Century Village on Burton Square is a site of various festivals highlighted by the annual Apple Butter Festival every autumn. South of Burton, the trail passes Hiram Rapids on the Cuyahoga River before passing into the Mogadore Section.


Here is information about trail towns in the Burton Section:

Chardon – Trail Town Dedication October 5th, 2019

Chardon was founded in 1812 and later incorporated into the Village of Chardon in 1851. In the 2000 census, Chardon's population reached 5,000, changing the community from a village to a city. Even though the town achieved City status, the close-knit community still maintains its charming, rural character while still offering residents desired, modern day amenities.

Located approximately 35 miles east of downtown Cleveland, Chardon is among the early communities in the Western Reserve. Today, Chardon remains a town rich in history and culture with its Square as the heart of the City. Many activities and events are held there throughout the year, including summer concert series, car shows, farmers' market, and most notably the annual Geauga County Maple Festival which celebrates the county's maple syrup production industry and kicks off the spring season.

Those utilizing the Buckeye Trail will find there is something new and exciting going on all the time in Chardon. From visiting our fantastic antique and resale shops and dining in the City's Main Street district to exploring the park system or arts and culture offerings, Chardon keeps residents and visitors engaged all year round!

For a listing of available retailers along the trail and upcoming community events, visit http://www.ChardonSquareAssociation.org

Read more about Chardon and all is has to offer at http://www.chardon.cc



From: Headwaters Trail Parking (at the Cuyahoga River), Mantua, Ohio
(The End of the Mogadore Section is at the Point Where the Buckeye Trail Leaves the Headwater Trail to Enter the Woods)
To: Eldon Russell Park, Geauga Park District

Day #18 - Friday, August 21, 2020

I started the day at the Headwaters Trail Parking (at the Cuyahoga River), Mantua, Ohio, which you can read about in the last part of my Mogadore Section blog post:

Leaving (at approximately 0.1 miles past Asbury Road) the rail trail bike path of the Headwaters Trail, I entered the woods which marks the southern end of the Burton Section -- my last section as I travel counterclockwise around the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" starting/ending at Lake Erie.

Camp Asbury, located in Hiram, Ohio is a year-round camp and retreat center operated as a ministry of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church.  People of all faiths are invited to use Camp Asbury facilities, programs, and property. Camp Asbury has been in operation since 1957 and is accredited by the American Camping Association.

During the summer, Camp Asbury hosts a variety of week-long day camp and residential camping programs for kids from 1st-12th grade. Summer staff utilize a core curriculum to teach Christian values and build Christian community through age–appropriate activities.  All programs are designed to connect campers and staff to the natural world through direct experience.

During the school year, Camp Asbury hosts congregational retreats, family reunions, leadership events, and outdoor education programs for congregations, schools, colleges and universities, non-profit agencies and organizations. 

Upon leaving the woods on Camp Asbury's (@CampAsbury57) property, there is a beautiful lake, followed by open fields -- very nice views. Then, when reentering the woods after passing the camp's Shaw Retreat Center, I enjoyed a very nice walk in the trees. It is a great privilege that Camp Asbury allows Buckeye Trail travelers to cross their property.

Here is a map from Camp Asbury's website that I looked at while writing this blog post, but did not have while on the trail. It shows the locations of the surprises I found on the trail, including ponds and camping shelters in the woods.

Camp Asbury and Retreat Center
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Thank you, Camp Asbury, for the journey on your property following the blue blazes.

Be sure to see my photo of the spider web on trail in one of the following tweets:


Country roads bike ride:

Eldon Russell Park, Burton | Geauga Park District

This 132-acre park is a favorite for birders, canoers and kayakers along the Upper Cuyahoga River, a state-designated Scenic River. Two trails total .87 miles. Children can have fun on a playground here. A section of the statewide Buckeye Trail also passes along the roadway bordering Eldon Russell Park. Please note that high water may make the riverside trail inaccessible.

Cuyahoga River Water Trail

Little River, Big Story

The U-shaped Cuyahoga is 100 miles long. It flows south from its headwaters near Burton, bends in Akron, heads north through Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Cleveland, and spills into Lake Erie.

. . .

The Cuyahoga is an Ohio Scenic River (upper portion 1974), a National Heritage Corridor (Ohio & Erie Canalway 1996), and an American Heritage River (1998). In becoming an Ohio Water Trail (2019), the river that burned now sparks excitement, a symbol of efforts to clean up America’s waterways.

The Buckeye Trail passes right in front of Eldon Russell Park, but instead of biking by the park, I entered, and ended my day there. This was my first time at this park, and I am glad I stopped, since I learned that it provides an access point for "Cuyahoga River Ohio’s 13th Water Trail" -- learn more about this Ohio water trail, that was new in 2019, at: CuyahogaRiverWaterTrail.org


I would like to come back someday to bike all of the Portage Park District's Headwaters Trail.



From: Eldon Russell Park, Geauga Park District
To: North Gate of Geauga Parks District Headwaters Park on East Branch Reservoir (Akron Water Supply)

Day #19 - Tuesday, September 15, 2020

It was a foggy morning and 44 degrees as I started my day at "Cuyahoga River Ohio’s 13th Water Trail" in Geauga Park District's Eldon Russell Park.

The Buckeye Trail goes right through Pancake Town USA -- Burton, Ohio as it travels north. My family goes to the town's annual pancake breakfast every year, and every year I look at the Buckeye Trail's blue blazes going through town and wonder where they lead next. Having completed the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop," I now can say I know the trail's path.

Due to COVID-19, this was the first year my family did not go to Burton's pancake breakfast, so I was glad to see the Geauga County Historical Society's Century Village Museum (@Century_Village), and to buy a maple sugar snack at the Burton Chamber of Commerce Log Cabin (Maple Sugar House)(@Burton_Chamber).


Related blog posts about "Pancake Town USA" and Century Village:


I let the James A Garfield National Historic Site know about President Garfield's connection to the history of Burton, Ohio, and they gave me a shout-out in the following tweet. Learn about my tour of the James A Garfield National Historic Site in my blog post:

Follow @GarfieldNPS on Twitter to learn more about the James A Garfield National Historic Site.

Geauga Park District's Welton's Gorge

This approximately 87-acre park is home to an impressive 45-foot gorge exposing Sharon sandstone and Sharon conglomerate formed around 300 million years ago. The park’s first trail, traveling along the gorge with two scenic overlooks, totals .33 miles. Geauga Park District’s purchase of this property happened in large part because of a Clean Ohio Grant through the Ohio EPA in 2009.

Please help us protect this unique place. Access into Welton’s Gorge is restricted, but you may find exclusive seasonal opportunities to explore this sensitive area with a naturalist by searching Programs & Activities above.

When riding by Geauga Park District's Welton's Gorge, I saw construction happening in the park. I did not take time to stop at the park, but after my ride, I learned from the Geauga Park District's website that this area is nicknamed the "Little Grand Canyon." I know that I need to visit this park in the future to see this!


Related tweets with information about the "Little Grand Canyon"

Geauga Park District Headwaters Park

This 926-acre park is leased from the City of Akron in a partnership that allows for conservation of natural areas as well as enjoyment of recreation and outdoor education. Five trails total 4.7 miles. More than two miles of the statewide Buckeye Trail winds along the western shore of East Branch Reservoir. The eastern shore and all islands are designated preserves and only accessible during naturalist-led programs. A secondary entrance is located at 15055 Mayfield Road (Rt. 322).

My wife and co-blogger, Julie, and I had visited Geauga Park District Headwaters Park in July 2020 for the first time, and were very impressed by this park. I was glad to be back today while on the Buckeye Trail.

The park even has a camping area which offers shelter camping and tent camping. The Geauga Park District Maple Highlands Trail goes through the park. The Headwaters Boathouse has kayaks and canoes that can be borrowed (free for Geauga County residents).



From: North Gate of Geauga Parks District Headwaters Park on East Branch Reservoir (Akron Water Supply)
To: Skok Meadows, Lake Metroparks Girdled Road Reservation

Day #20 - Thursday, October 22, 2020

A rainy morning turned into a beautiful, warm October day for a bike ride, following the blue blazes of the Buckeye Trail on the Maple Highlands Trail.

Geauga Park District Maple Highlands Trail
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Geauga Park District Maple Highlands Trail

This trail’s three sections stretch a total 21.1 miles across the entire county featuring two award-winning covered bridges to the south. Three links to this trail add another 1.08 miles. Horseback riding is only permitted along the south section.

The Maple Highlands Habitat
Depending on which way you’re headed, The Maple Highlands Trail travels through a variety of habitats, including woodlands, wetlands, farm fields and Amish neighborhoods. Opportunities abound to spot Wild Turkeys and White-tail Deer, as well as turtles and snakes crossing the trail.

 It was an incredible autumn day for a bike ride on the Maple Highlands Trail, from the north entrance of Headwaters Park, through the Buckeye Trail Town of Chardon, Ohio, to the spur to Geauga Park District's Big Creek Park. I need to come back someday to explore the rest of the Maple Highlands Trail.

Geauga Park District High Ropes Course

Do you have what it takes to climb up 32 feet and challenge yourself to eight 23-to-32-foot-long challenge elements including the Wobbly Logs, Icicle Traverse and Multivine? Give it a try at Claridon Woodlands! Ready to come back down to earth? Your exit  is a hold-your-breath-and-jump, 100-foot-long zipline finish!

High ropes require a trained staff member’s assistance to ensure fun and safe adventures for all. Group sizes are limited to six climbers per session. One-hour sessions are free to Geauga County residents (ID REQUIRED) but cost $20 per hour for out-of-county residents (credit card only, paid onsite).

All participants under the age of 18 years old are required to have their parent or legal guardian sign a waiver. Accompanying adults need not climb the course except under certain circumstances that may require it; please inquire at the course.

By following @GeaugaParks on Twitter, I learned on August 28, 2020, that the Geauga Park District has a High Ropes Course! I was pleased to discover that the Buckeye Trail (Maple Highlands Trail) took me right to the park's High Ropes Course location. It looks like a fun adventure.


Maple Highlands Trail covered bridges:


I enjoyed lunch at the beautiful park in the middle of Chardon's town square.

Geauga Park District Big Creek Park


This 644-acre park is bisected south to north by the scenic Big Creek, creating a landscape of varied relief. Nine trails total 3.8 miles, plus a 2.05-mile mountain bike trail through the woods that opened in 2020. Recreation areas include a campground, playground, play area, activity field backstop, sand volleyball court and tetherball. Accessible by two separate entrances, Tupelo Pond/Bridle Trails in Big Creek Park adds an additional two trails totaling 2.9 miles. A section of the statewide Buckeye Trail also passes through Big Creek Park. New features include a reservable lodge, a Nature-based playground, and a unique “tree house” camping facility opening in 2020.

 The Buckeye Trail leaves the bike path of the Maple Highlands Trail and continues on to the spur to Geauga Park District Big Creek Park.


Geauga Park District Big Creek Park. has camping shelters and tent camping!!!


Thank you to the Geauga Park District for the great ride in Geauga County! The Buckeye Trail now enters Lake County and some of the parks of the Lake Metroparks System.



From: Skok Meadows, Lake Metroparks Girdled Road Reservation
To: Northern Terminus at Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve

Day #21 - Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Completing the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop!!!" -- Approximately 254.3 Miles!

It seems like a long time ago when I started my journey around the loop by badly spraining my ankle on Sunday, November 4, 2018. I had expected to complete the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" over several years, but here I was on this November 10, 2020, morning, driving to Skok Meadows to complete my last section of the loop just two years later.

As I drove to the trail, I listened to a podcast by @TheHikePodcast with an interview of the Buckeye Trail Association's Executive Director Andrew Bashaw. It felt like an appropriate interview to listen to on the day I was to finish the "Little Loop" of the Buckeye Trail.


As I started this final section of the Buckeye Trail, I was reminded of other last days on different trails. While there is joy in finishing a trail, there is also sadness for the journey's end.

I started out from Skok Meadows while listening to the the Proclaimers' song, I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), that is used in the YouTube video: I would walk 600 miles on the PCT. The video does a good job of reminding me of my 600+ Pacific Crest Trail backpacking adventure in 2019, capturing the views and the fun spirit of the trail. Since backpackers were encouraged not to hike long-distance trails in 2020 due to the pandemic, the video reminded me of how grateful I am that we have the long-distance Buckeye Trail in Ohio, and that I am looking forward to post-coronavirus travels on other trails.


It was great weather in November for my last day . . . passing through places that have very good memories for me!

Girdled Road Reservation

Audubon Ohio has designated this park as an Important Bird Area. The Buckeye Trail, marked with light blue blazes on trees, runs through Girdled Road Reservation. This statewide trail travels through public and private properties as well as along back roads. Here it enters at the parking lot on Girdled Road and exits onto Rt. 608 at the Big Creek bridge.

Girdled Road Reservation was purchased by Lake Metroparks in 1965. It is named for the first road that the early European settlers built from the Pennsylvania line to the new city of Cleveland in the early 1800s. A small path was cut first. Settlers knew that a larger road was needed, so they "girdled" the trees along the path. (Girdling a tree means cutting through the bark around the entire tree. This cuts off the flow of nutrients so the tree dies. Once a tree dies, it is much easier to remove it and thus widen the road). Today the remaining section of Girdled Road is the northern boundary of this park.

In February 8, 2020, I visited a very snowy Girdled Road Reservation, and really enjoyed exploring this park for the first time. Therefore, I was pleased to find myself here again, following the Buckeye Trail. I highly recommend visiting the area where the suspension bridge crosses Big Creek.


Related tweets -- winter 2020 hike in Girdled Road Reservation:


Many years ago, when I lived and worked in Lake County, I had seen this unique home -- I was surprised to see it again while bike riding on the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop!"

Lake Metroparks Environmental Learning Center

The Environmental Learning Center is located on beautiful and ecologically-diverse open space, rich in both cultural and natural history. Hikers will enjoy more than 2.5 miles of trails with a variety of trail surfaces including natural surfaces, in addition to well-manicured trails. Two Grand River tributaries, Big Creek and Jordan Creek, run through this property.

The Greenway Corridor can be easily accessed from a trail near the parking lot at the Environmental Learning Center. The Greenway Corridor, a 4.8-mile paved trail, links the municipalities of Painesville, Painesville Township and Concord Township, allowing visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of these communities in a safe environment.

Lake Metroparks Greenway Corridor
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Lake Metroparks Greenway Corridor

The Greenway Corridor is a 4.8-mile paved trail for visitors to exercise in the beauty of nature.

The trail links the municipalities of Painesville, Painesville Township and Concord Township. Travelers will cross two bridges and experience varied levels of terrain ranging from a 660 ft. elevation in Painesville to an elevation of 895 ft. in Concord Township. The southern end of the trail connects the Greenway Corridor with The Maple Highlands Trail to Chardon.

The beautiful waterfall locally known as “Chair Factory Falls” is a natural feature accessible by a pedestrian trail off the Greenway Corridor in Concord Township.

Lake Metroparks installed a 0.3-mile trail to provide safe public access to view the falls, which were previously privately owned. The project was made possible by the donation of 4.5 acres of land by Laura MacMillan Crago, Johanna Bates and Julia MacMillan in loving memory of George V. Bates, III and Susan Bates MacMillan.

Please note: The trail leading down to the overlook of the falls is on a steep descent.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, founded in 1827, owns a prominent place in the cultural and economic history of the United States and that of Lake County. Countless memorable events mark the progress and succession of the railroad during its 160-year span of operation. Original tracks linking the nation's rail system to Lake Erie were laid in Lake County in 1870 and acquired by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the 1890s. The railroad provided freight service in and out of Painesville, moving some five million tons of coal and iron ore annually.

I have been in the area around Lake Metroparks Environmental Learning Center before, but have never been inside the Center. The Center was closed, but I talked to a Lake Metroparks staff person who told me about some interesting things to do in the Center. I will need to come back when it is open.

Julie and I had biked from the Lake Metroparks Environmental Learning Center to the city of Painesville on July 15, 2017, on the Lake Metroparks Greenway Corridor. I had heard about this bike trail for years, but I only rode on it in 2017, and now doing the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop." The Greenway Corridor connects to the Geauga Park District Maple Highlands Trail, making one very nice, long, green rail trail for Northeast Ohio.

It was great to be back bike riding on this rail trail on this autumn day!


Related tweets --  July 15, 2017, bike ride on the Lake Metroparks Greenway Corridor


The Buckeye Trail goes past the territory of which I was in charge when I was a BSA District Executive for eastern Lake County -- many memories from the start of my first career.

Headlands Beach State Park
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Headlands Beach State Park is a public beach in Mentor and Painesville Township, Ohio, United States. It is the longest natural beach in Ohio[3] and attracts two million visitors annually.[4] The breakwall at the eastern end of the park, frequented by fishermen, has Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light. Amenities include hiking trails, playground, picnic areas, and the adjacent Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve.[3][5]

Headlands Beach State Park is at the northern terminus of State Route 44 and the Buckeye Trail.[6] The park is between the Mentor Marsh and the Grand River. It is next to Fairport Harbor Coast Guard station and the local Morton Salt mine.


Extensive development along the shores of Lake Erie has all but eliminated the presence of sandy beaches and dunes. Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, located adjacent to Headlands Dunes State Park, is one of the last of its kind in Ohio. This community is much more than just an accumulation of sand along a shoreline. It is a living assemblage of fascinating and highly specialized plants and animals occurring in an environment too hostile for most other organisms to survive.

I completed the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" at its Northern Terminus!!

I finished the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" where I began, at the Northern Terminus
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On Tuesday, November 10, 2020 (Day #21), I finished the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" where I began, at the Northern Terminus at Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve.

I want to thank all the Buckeye Trail Association volunteers who make this Ohio trail possible. I enjoyed the experience of exploring Northeast Ohio, and I look forward to revisiting many of the places I saw on the journey.


I ended the day as I started it -- listening to @TheHikePodcast's podcast.

It was great to hear Mei-Ling Liber talk about her Buckeye Trail Thu-Hike through the Warrior Expeditions program, and about her Appalachian Trail section hike. It brought back fond memories for me of hiking on the southern part of the Appalachian Trail.


Thank you to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio State Parks for the shout-out on Twitter:



Please use these links to read more about the Buckeye Trail and my experiences completing the "Little Loop."

I hope you enjoyed learning about the Buckeye Trail "Little Loop!' I enjoyed both the journey around the loop, and the time I spent reliving my trail experiences by writing these five Buckeye Trail blog posts!

Buckeye Trail "Little Loop" Completion Patch - "I Completed The Little Loop"
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