Vermont and New Hampshire may get more press about their beautiful displays of autumn foliage, but Northeast Ohio has plenty of fall color too. However, since many people aren't aware of the sightseeing opportunities in Ohio, the roads are much less crowded with tourists than other popular spots. You can also enjoy the season's typically warm days. Leaves start their autumnal displays in late September and continue through October; mid to late-October is usually the peak viewing time. If you are driving through the northern part of the state, check out some of the best views at national and state parks, local farms, scenic roads, the Lake Erie Islands, and additional destinations. It's also a fun time to check out festivals like Fall Harvest Weekends at Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland, where people of all ages can enjoy a corn maze, live music, and pumpkin painting. Or head to the Old West Pumpkin Fest in Columbia Station, which features a hayride and costume characters.
The Covered Bridge Festival and the Geneva Grape Jamboree have been canceled for 2020. One of the best places to see fall leaves is the northeast corner of Ohio due to its dense deciduous forests and sparse population. For the nicest views, drive south on State Road 534 from Geneva to Windsor, and you'll be rewarded with miles of vineyards as well as two of the county's many covered historic bridges en route.
Other scenic routes include State Road 84 east from Madison to Ashtabula and State Road 307 to State Road 528 heading toward Jefferson, where there are also apple farms for refreshment stops along the way. Ashtabula County celebrates the season with the Covered Bridge Festival, held the second weekend in October, and the Geneva Grape Jamboree on the last full weekend in September.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio's only national park, is located between Cleveland and Akron and boasts some of the best displays of nature in the region. Autumn is no exception. Wherever you drive through the 33,000-acre park, you'll see bursts of red, yellow, orange, and even purple. State Road 303 (which bisects the park) is known as one of the best fall foliage drives in the Buckeye State. The park offers more than 125 miles (201 kilometers) of hiking trails and a few picturesque waterfalls. There is no entrance fee.
Explore the Amish Country of Geauga County
Geauga County, located south of Lake and Ashtabula counties, is another great place to view the fall leaves. This largely-rural county rewards visitors with scenic farms, rolling hills, Amish communities, and a host of antique stores.
You can take State Road 322 from Chagrin Falls to Chardon and farther to Big Creek Park. Mesopotamia, a township on State Road 534 near State Road 322, is also centrally located around colorful places to sightsee. Located in Mesopotamia, the End of the Commons General Store, the oldest such shop in the state, offers Amish craft items, candy, cheese, housewares, and other fun things. Nearby Middlefield is home to Middlefield Original Cheese Co-op, Mary Yoder's Amish Kitchen, and some interesting shops.
Hike Through Rocky River Nature Center in North Olmsted
Rocky River Nature Center is closed for 2020 until further notice. Rocky River Nature Center in North Olmsted is a beloved place to view fall leaves in Ohio. Located just a few minutes south of Interstate 480, this area offers plenty of hiking trails, river views, and fascinating nature and history exhibits.
The Nature Center isn't the only place to enjoy fall in the Cleveland Metroparks. Check out various golf courses, and the Marina at the mouth of the Rocky River in Lakewood is a popular fall fishing spot. The West Creek Reservation between Seven Hills and Parma hosts a full schedule of fall events including nature walks and food truck pop-up gatherings.
Discover Lanterman's Mill Near Youngstown
Lanterman's Mill makes another lovely fall outing from Cleveland, which will take about one hour, 20 minutes by car on Interstate 80. Located just outside the small community of Youngstown, the historic landmark offers plenty of fall events.
The mill, built between 1845 and 1846, sits adjacent to the Mahoning River and still grinds out corn, wheat, and buckwheat much as it did nearly 200 years ago. Nearby is an authentic covered bridge, a beautiful waterfall, and a gift shop where you can buy pancake mix and other items made by local artisans. You can also take the East Gorge Walk or the West Gorge Trail, a two-mile loop, to get an up-close view of the leaves.
Bike, Hike, or Ride the Ohio & Erie Canalway
The Ohio & Erie Canalway extends about 110 miles (177 kilometers) from Lake Erie near the mouth of the Cuyahoga River to New Philadelphia along Interstate 77. It's a continuous green space passing through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Akron, Canton, Massillon, and historic Zoar Village before terminating at Zoar Bridge near New Philadelphia. Many of the locks of the former commercial artery have been restored and The Towpath Trail—ideal for hiking and biking—hugs the path of the former canal.
In autumn, the area is rich with vibrant leaves, gorges, historic buildings, and over 250 species of birds. One particularly nice way to explore the Canalway is via the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. There are a number of special fall trips, such as one exploring Cuyahoga Valley National Park or a festive Halloween train.
Wander Through Chester Township Near Chesterland
Some activities at Patterson Fruit Farm are canceled for 2020; see the farm's website. Located off State Route 306, Chester Township includes the communities of Chesterland as well as parts of Kirtland and Chardon. The area features rolling hills, horse farms, produce stands, and lots of fall color. Take Route 322 east along Mayfield Road from Gates Mills to the scenic countryside covered in fall foliage.
One of the most popular area stops is Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland, which not only offers an abundance of apples and pumpkins, but hosts hayrides, a corn maze, and other fun autumn events.
Return to the Wild West at Malabar Farm State Park
Many fall events at Malabar Farm State Park are canceled for 2020. Malabar Farm State Park, located in Lucas is about one hour, 30 minutes southwest of Cleveland on Interstate 71. The park was built by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, a best-selling writer in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, who was also a pioneer in sustainable farming. He created one of the country's first truly organic farms at Malabar. His house at Malabar Farm was the site of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart's 1945 wedding and honeymoon as well as featured in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption."
During the fall, the park features hayrides, special fall color hikes, and barn dances. The farm market on the property also offers abundant apples, pumpkins, squash, and other fall produce. For current admission fees, contact the park.
Visit the Lake Erie Islands
Jet Express ferries are not available for the 2020 season. Fall offers one last chance to enjoy South Bass, Middle Bass, and Kelleys Islands before the cold weather shuts access off until the spring. Your efforts will be rewarded with fewer crowds, crisp fall lake air, and a panorama of beautiful red, yellow, orange, and purple leaves. In addition, the sunsets are much more vibrant during the cooler fall season.
Miller Ferries goes to Middle Bass Island and Jet Express heads to Kelleys Island through the end of November (weather permitting). The campground at the South Bass Island State Park and most of the private hotels and bed and breakfasts also stay open until late November.
Spend the Night at Mosquito Lake State Park
About one hour southeast of Cleveland on U.S. Route 422, Mosquito Lake State Park features almost 2,500 acres of wooded areas and marshland, as well as one of the largest lakes in Ohio. This uncrowded park offers miles of trails for exploring the changing leaf colors.
Facilities at Mosquito Lake include a campground with over 230 sites, cabins, and yurts (round tents) for rent. There's also a boat dock, an equestrian center, an archery range, and plenty of picnic areas. As an added bonus, the popular concert venue Nelson Ledges Quarry Park is just a 20-minute drive away. Contact the park for information on admission and camping prices.