Buckeye TrailPine Lane to Boston Mills
National Park Service
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Peninsula, Ohio (Summit County)
Park at the Pine Lane Trailhead on State Route 303, just east of Peninsula, Ohio. The parking lot is on the north side of the road.
Length: 4 miles.
Duration: 2 hours.
Type: In and back, or park a second vehicle at Boston Store Visitor Center on Boston Mills Road.
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
Blue Blazes like these mark the Buckeye Trail as its 1300 miles wind through the State of Ohio
The Buckeye Trail is a 1300 mile trail that circles the entire state of Ohio. It is maintened by the Buckeye Trail Association. The trail goes through park areas and natural habitats where possible, and along roads and other right-of-way when a more wild route is not available. The hiking trail is marked with blue blazes of paint on trees or poles. This particular section of the Buckeye Trail is located within Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Heading north from Pine lane, you will hike down a hill near a large overhead power line. You will walk steadily downhill through a planted stand of pines. As you descend, the pines will give way to hemlocks. These native conifers prefer a cool environment and are generally found in narrow gorges on north-facing slopes. While this trail is not in what would be called a gorge, the hiking trail in this area is going down a north-facing slope. As you hike, look at the hemlocks. Notice that nearly all of the green branches stop at about four to five feet above the ground, even on the younger trees. Also notice that there are no hemlock seedlings to be found. While this could be due to a variety of factors, at least one contributing element of the lack of hemlock regeneration is a high deer population. A browse line is becoming more apparent along this trail, as well as in other portions of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Over time, heavy browsing by deer could influence the variety of trees, shrubs and wildflowers present along trails like the Buckeye Trail.
Young Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, showing evidence of what may be a browse line developing due to a number of factors including heavy deer feeding.
After crossing under the powerlines, you will enter a forest dominated by oaks. Notice along the trail a thick layer of leaf litter. Oak leaves contain tannic acid, the same substance used to tan leather. Just as tanning leather prevents the leather from rotting and deteriorating, the tannic acid in these leaves keeps them from rotting as quickly as other leaves. The result is the thick layer of leaf litter in Oak forests. This thick layer sometimes makes the groundcover vegetation less abundant compared to a Beech-Maple forest for example.
Continuing through the Oak forest, you will head down into the floodplain of Boston Run, cross the stream and ascend the other side. At the top of the next ridge, the trail follows then crosses a closed section of Akron-Peninsula Road. The forests along the trail here appear to be older and less disturbed than many in the area. Soon the trail will take you to the edge of the valley wall. To the northwest you may catch glimpses of the Ohio Turnpike and Interstate 271 as they cross over the Cuyahoga Valley. As you hike through this area, it would be helpful to have a field guide for plant identification, as a number of interesting plants call these slopes their home.
Soon you will come to a large open field near the turnpike. The Buckeye Trail follows near the perimeter of this field, but a short detour into the field will yeild a rich experience, particularly in the late summer and fall. This field is known as the Bsoton Mills Borrow Pit, and is home to a planted but unmaintained prairie. Species more typical of western prairies can be found here, such as Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, Switchgrass, several species of native sunflowers, mountain mints, and a rich variety of other plants.
After the Borrow Pit (so called because the soil from the area was "borrowed" to help construct the turnpike), the Buckeye Trail follows Boston Mills Road for a short distance before heading back into the woods. Follow the blue blazes. Soon the trail will head down into the forest along the north side of the turnpike, and will join with the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which will lead you to Boston Store Visitor Center.