Favorite Natural Play Spaces or Family Friendly Hikes in NE Ohio- Chapin Forest Reservation
Updated: Mar 14
Hello! Welcome to a new blog series on our Favorite Natural Play Spaces or Family Friendly Hikes in Northeast Ohio, provided by Good Nature Therapy Services! Good Nature Therapy Services is a nature based occupational therapy practice based out of Solon, Ohio and serving the Northeast Ohio area. This blog series will highlight some of what each location has to offer in respect to child development, as seen through a pediatric occupational therapist’s eyes.
For this edition of our blog series, Favorite Natural Play Spaces or Family Friendly Hikes in Northeast Ohio, we are highlighting Chapin Forest Reservation (specifically the Arbor Lane loop trail) in Kirtland, Ohio!
Chapin Forest Reservation-Pine Lodge
10381 Hobart Rd.
Kirtland, Ohio 44094
Chapin Forest Reservation offers a family friendly hiking area that serves as a snowshoeing/cross country skiing path in the winter and has beautiful outdoor lights that light up the path during those days where darkness comes early. It is a part of the Lake Metroparks and is located in Kirtland.
Chapin Forest Reservation as a whole consists of multiple entrances, 6 miles of trail and over 400 acres of land to explore, with forest and rock features as well as a quarry overlook.
We are going to be focusing on the Arbor Lane Loop Trail, a family friendly trail that offers hiking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and lights at night.
Pine Lodge, at the Hobart Road entrance, is open Monday-Friday noon to 8 and Saturday-Sunday 10 to 8.
Pine Lodge Ski Center rents skis and snow shoes throughout the winter. There are 2 large Adirondack chairs for photo opportunities and a fire pit that sometimes has a fire going.
They also offer a webcam to check conditions before going that can be viewed here.
Read on for more information about all of the fun things Chapin Forest Reservation has to offer!
We receive sensory input in many different ways and varied experiences are important for developing these sensory systems (such as sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing).
Children are also developing their vestibular and proprioceptive systems. The vestibular system receives sensory input from moving your head or body through space and helps with balance and body position and the proprioceptive system receives sensory input from push, pull or resistance and helps us understand what our body is doing and where our body is in space.
Chapin Forest Reservation has many opportunities for sensory input!
Here are just a few:
The main loop path has dirt and gravel footing and the and is accessible to wheeled mobility devices during dry conditions and has a large hill. There is a cut through area that is built with wood planks, similar to a boardwalk, that runs through the woods and avoids the hill. Varied terrain provides sensory input through helping the body understand where it is in space as well as different levels of resistance or push/pull on muscles. It also moves your head through space in different, varied ways, as opposed to on a steady plane as happens when walking on flat surfaces.
Climbing or running up and down the various hills on the trail is a great opportunity to get vestibular input by moving your head through space quickly or slowly.
During snowy conditions, parents often bring sleds and pull kids on the trails, which provides vestibular input in a different way than walking or running. Sleds are able to glide while the child is low to the ground
Walking through mud or through snow engages the large muscle groups in a different way than they are engaged during dry conditions. Mud and snow requires more stabilizing with your core, greater force used to step as well as some resistance to placing your foot down and picking your foot up. All of these provide more proprioceptive input because the push/pull/resistance force is greater, which engages the force on your muscles and joints.
Beautiful outdoor string lights line the looped path to illuminate the trail for early darkness during the winter months. Often times, children do not have the opportunity to experience nature in the dark and these lights offer a unique sensory experience where some sensory input is removed or decreased (visual), unique to night time.
The connector trail, which includes a boardwalk through the woods
We like to lovingly refer to leaving the trail as ‘off-roading’ where it is appropriate (and there are no signs telling you not to!) The trail is wooded and the brush is clear in the winter, providing some squishy dirt and puddles or snow slightly off the trail.
Motor Strength and Coordination
Motor strength and coordination involves the development of and strengthening of all muscles in the body. For children, motor strength and coordination develops through a variety of movement opportunities. Some of our favorite include:
The Arbor Lane Trail is 1.25 miles and rated as moderate with a marked connector trail that cuts through the woods over a boardwalk and avoids the large hill at the rear of the hike so you can choose the type of trail that would meet your needs
As previously mentioned, if you take the rear loop, there is a large hill to climb up or run down, depending on which direction you start from the parking lot. Climbing up and down hills help engage different muscle groups that aren’t always targeted when walking on flat ground
The boardwalk has a lip, where you can practice balance and stability as well as balance during wet or icy conditions.
Navigating various terrain in various weather
Icy, snowy, wet, muddy, dry all offer different experiences. When the trail is icy you have to rely more on core strength and stability and focus on balance. Deep snow engages the core and LE muscles as well as mud
What is visual processing?
Visual processing is the strength and coordination of the muscles in your eyes as well as the brain making sense of the information the eyes are sending.
Scanning for wildlife
As the hike winds through the woods, there are many opportunities to scan the forest for wild animals!
Well labeled trails
At the trailhead is a map and throughout the trails are well labeled signs. Reading and following the map and the signs works on a number of different visual skills.
Nature Connection and Mindfulness
What is nature connection and mindfulness?
Nature connection is the relationship between humans and nature and the feeling of awareness and closeness to nature and the natural world. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware.
Immersive hike- Parts of the hike are immersed in the woods, which gives the hiker the feeling of being “away”. The feeling of being “away” is part of the Attention Restoration Theory (you can read more about it here). The feeling of being “away” refers to being separate from your thoughts or concerns and being physically away helps. On the hike, you are fully immersed in the forest (with easy access back to the parking lot!) which helps you feel disconnected from the demands of daily life and focusing on nature or practicing mindfulness.
Some Things To Know Before You Go:
If you type in Chapin Forest Reservation on Google Maps it will not take you to this location! Please use the address: 10381 Hobart Rd. Kirtland, Ohio 44094 to reach this hiking trail. There are no other trails in Chapin Forest Reservation that are lit at night
The lights are on seasonally- please follow Lake Metropark's social media to be notified of when they turn the lights on for the season. This trail can be enjoyed year round but if you are interested in the unique night time experience, skiing or snowshoeing, follow Lake Metropark's social media for updates.
The hike is accessible during dry conditions but not during wet, snowy or icy conditions
1.25 mile loop with a connector trail half way over the boardwalk that avoids the large hill
There is a playground set fairly near the trailhead if you start the trail to the right of the parking lot. We like to start the hike to the left of the parking lot as the playground can sometimes be difficult to transition away from to continue on the hike.
Hill, with option to go around- There is a large hill on this hike, which you can climb up and go down, depending on where you choose to start, but there is an option to go around about halfway through the hike- this section cuts through the forest and has a dirt and wood plank walkway
There are toilets available at the lodge with running water
Drainage- in some areas it is important to stay on the trail as there are a few areas with small to medium drainage ditches lining the trail
We hope you enjoy Chapin Forest Reservation! If you are able to visit, please comment below about some of your favorite aspects or experiences at this beautiful park!
Thank you for reading- if you have any questions about any of the developmental areas above please schedule a free 15 minute discovery call here!