Let's go outside: 5 hidden jewels to explore amid Cleveland's Emerald Necklace

If fresh air is the only thing getting you through in this age of social distancing, chances are you're looking for some new spots off the beaten path in order to avoid like-minded crowds. Think outside the box with these five spots, which are lesser known but definitely deserve a spot among the "greatest hits" of Cleveland's great outdoors.

Fall for Cleveland all over again

With folks on Reddit saying things like, “I’ve lived in the area for years and didn’t even know it was there,” it’s safe to file this one under “hidden gem.” Located in Slavic Village, Mill Creek Falls stands 48 feet high as Cuyahoga County’s tallest waterfall.

Linked to Garfield Park Reservation via a 1.2-mile recreational trail, this not-so-small wonder can be admired from multiple overlooks. (However, it wasn’t always visible—the falls were hidden from public view for almost a century after relocation of the adjacent Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906, but the Mill Creek Trail project changed that in 2002.)


Where to find it: Mill Creek Falls is near the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Warner Road off Webb Terrace; parking is available nearby. See a map here.

Visit this vacant lot turned vibrant oasis

Industrial meets inspirational at the Morgana Bluffs nature preserve, set on the former Worsted Mill Company site in Slavic Village. Dedicated in October 2018, the four-acre urban nature preserve features trails, boardwalks, and an amphitheater amid approximately 125 species of plants, trees, animals, and insects. (Pro tip: Try to spot a rare sharp-shinned hawk!) Thanks to its location 30 feet beneath street level, Morgana Bluffs provides a quiet, unexpected place for reflection and recreation.


Where to find it: Morgana Bluffs Nature Preserve is at 5701 Linton Ave. in Cleveland. Parking is available at Mound Elementary School (5935 Ackley Road, Cleveland).

Blaze a new trail

#ThatLakeErieLife just got better, thanks to the addition of a new recreational waterfront trail in Euclid. A project in the making for more than a decade, the highly anticipated three-quarter mile trail has reached substantial completion and is open for exploration. Traverse the scenic trail on foot, and stay to explore Sims Park or take a peaceful perch on the adjacent fishing pier (installed in 2013 as part of the city’s three-phase waterfront improvement plan).


Where to find it: This trail is at Sims Park (23131 Lakeshore Blvd, Euclid). Park near the Henn Mansion and head down the small hill toward the fishing pier. The entrance to the waterfront trail is directly east of the pier.


Walk this way

Though the Derek Owens Memorial Park isn’t exactly set in nature, this recently christened park has plenty to offer seekers of solitude. Dedicated in November, Buckeye’s newest park features a mindfulness labyrinth, along with a Little Free Library and a serpent mound meant to symbolize the journey of life.

Labyrinths have long been hailed as havens for mindfulness and stress relief—so why not give it a whirl?


Where to find it: Derek Owens Memorial Park is in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood at 10404 Parkview Ave. Read more about this unique and impactful project here.


Celebrate life

Though a cemetery may seem like an illogical choice for escaping the stress of the COVID-19 crisis, Lake View Cemetery proves the exception to the rule. Stretched over 285 acres, the scenic grounds act as an arboretum of sorts—laced with Moses Cleaveland trees, Japanese maple, weeping hemlocks, and many more. Explore it all via the 2.9-mile Lake View Cemetery loop, or take a pause to breathe in the beauty of Daffodil Hill for your own spring awakening.

Where to find it: Lake View Cemetery is at 2316 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland, near Little Italy and University Circle.

Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.