Ravenna, Ohio (Portage County)
To access The Portage Hike and Bike Trail, you may park at Towner’s Woods Park,2296 Ravenna Road, Franklin Township. (From State Route 43, head east on Ravenna Road about 2 miles, the entrance is on the left just before a bridge). Alternatively, you may park at Cleveland Road where the trail crosses the road about a half mile north of Main Street in Ravenna.
- Length: 6.2 miles
- Duration: Two to four hours
- Surface: Crushed Limestone
- Type: Multi-purpose hiking and biking
- Difficulty: Easy
- Accessibility: Yes
The Portage Hike and Bike trail is a multipurpose trail, suitable for hiking, jogging, walking or bicycling. Eventually the trail will connect the Summit Bike & Hike Trail into Kent, Ravenna, Brady Lake, Frnklin Township and Ravenna, and then on to other regional trails being developed in Trumbull County. As it stands today, the Portage Park District has completed just over 6 miles of this wonderful path, allowing the hiker or biker to travel on a well-surfaced trail from just north of downtown Ravenna to Towner’s Woods Park. This trail is a vital part of northeast Ohio’s growing alternative transportation infrastructure, as well as providing outstanding opportunities to learn about the natural world while exercising and staying healthy at the same time. For a map and brochure about The Portage Hike and Bike Trail, visit the Kent Parks and Recreation Department’s web site.
The Portage is a flat, level trail you will find easy to enjoy. Traveling through successional areas adjacent to young forests and fields, a variety of plant and animal species call the corridor of this path home. As you enjoy this trail, keep an eye out to the sides of the trail. During a cool spring morning, you are likely to see garter snakes sunning themselves in the margin of the path, or cardinals calling from branches just a few yards away.
During late summer and early fall, the trail edges are alive with brilliant colors, from the golden-yellow of Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) to the purple of New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae). Later in the fall, and throughout the winter, the tree and shrub species along the trail continue to provide colorful scenery as well as wildlife benefits. For example, at several points along the trail you will see velvety-red clumps of sumac berries.
These small red berries were used by native americans to flavor a drink that looks much like pink lemonade, but tastes nowhere near as good. Sumac, despite not tasting that great to some of us, is a vital winter food for both songbirds and gamebirds. If you have the time and inclination, plop down next to the trail near some of the staghorn sumacs and quietly observe who visits. You may or may not get to see birds, but you will at least enjopy the opportunity to quiet you mind and feel your intrinsic connection to nature. So, birds or not, you will come away from the experience richer.
Another colorful plant you will see in winter along the Portage is the red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea). The red twigs of this bush show up beautifully in contrast with freshly fallen snow. During the spring, and summer, their red is mostly obsured, but still noticeable if you are observant enough.
The most surprising sights along this trail are periodic patches of native prairie grasses. Big bluestem grass (Andropogon gerardii), Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and other plants more typical of the prairie thrive along the trail. While 90 percent of Ohio was forested at the time of european arrival here, native prairie plants such as those found along this multipurpose trail did grow naturally in Ohio. As with most grasses, these species are shade-intolerant. Because of this, these small prairie pockets can only survive when site conditions or management prevent the forest from closing in on the prairie.
For example, in actively slumping areas where trees often fall as the hillside slifes, native prairie plants live in a dynamic patchwork known as a “hanging prairie”. As older slump areas re-grow with trees, new trees fall, leaving open ground for the prairie species. Railroad corridors and roadsides are other places that prairie species may be found in Ohio. No matter where you see them, it is interesting to reflect on how the plants might have come to thrive there. Were they planted? Were they waiting in the seed bank to come up when the conditions were right? How did the seeds get into the seed bank? Have they been there since pre-european times? As you walk the trail, stretch your mind a bit and think about it.
No matter your age, fitness level or interestse, you will find something you like along The Portage Hike and Bike Trail. To top off the beautiful scenery and abundant natural features, the trail is less used than such nearby amenities as the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail or the Summit Bike & Hike Trail. If you love those trails, you will absolutely adore this one. Get outside and ex