For those unfamiliar with Ohio bikeways, finding facilities along the trail may be problematic, depending on which trail you ride. So we put together this little primer to let you know what to expect and to help you find facilities and amenities along the way.
We're using facilities as a general term that refers to restrooms, water sources and parking, the trailside stuff that's most important to trail users. Think of them more as a necessity for your ride, like when you're about to run out of water on a hot day.
Amenities are nice extras such as food concessions, bike shops and ice cream stands. These are trailside perks or bonuses that provide useful goods or services that can make a long day in the saddle even more enjoyable.
Some Rules Of Thumb
Ohio boasts a wide variety of bikeways. Some have numerous facilities, parking and amenities, while others have, well... mostly just trail. Sometimes economic factors don't allow for trailside development and in other cases -- such as in protected natural environments -- eco-intrusion is frowned upon and kept to a minimum.
So if you're riding through a nature preserve, expect facilities to be sparse. Parking may be limited and water may not be available here.
The Blackhand Gorge Trail is a typical example. It does have parking at each endpoint, but no water is available and only one latrine at one end of the trail.
Older bikeways, such as the Olentangy Trail or the River Corridor Bikeway, use a system of parks along their routes to provide users with what they need during their journey. The parks are often trailside, however the facilites may not be. Here you can expect to venture inside parks to seek out a restroom or water fountain.
In the past, the Emerald Necklace Trail had provided the most challenging water hunt that we'd experienced. However, that's no longer the case as more latrines with anti-bacterial soap dispensers have been added along with nearby water fountains. The Necklace ties a long string of linear parks together that covers about 70 miles and involves some road riding between park reservations. For those few remaining picnic areas that may not have these updates, look for a small fountain or spigot that's close to the ground and usually found near shelters or pavilions.
Ohio parks may have drinking water and restrooms with plumbing, latrines or simple portable toilets, depending on the area. Water and restrooms are generally open in-season, during the warm weather months which typically range from late April into October. The closer you are to an urban or developed area, the more likely you'll find plumbing and drinking water.
The Ohio & Erie Towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one exception where facilities are open year-round. One late season November visit brought a pleasant surprise of a heated restroom facility at the Pennisula trailhead. Beware, however, that the current economic climate can affect park budgets and the availability of those facilities.
Occasionally you'll have to improvise on bikeways that do not offer restrooms and water by using nearby stores, drive-thrus or gas station facilities. This is seldom a problem for cyclists as most establishments near bikeways are accustomed to trail users as customers. On more secluded rural trails, however, you may have to plan a side trip or two for water if the next stop along the trail is too far away. Carry a map with you if you're exploring an unfamiliar trail.
More popular trails or those in well-developed areas, often have trailside facilites and amenitites that cater to users. No time is lost searching for water sources or restrooms. One can roll up to trailside break stations, use the facilities, fill water bottles and carry on. In some cases vending machines with sports drinks are also available.
When cafes, food stops and ice cream stands line the route, the commuter or touring cyclist is well-provided for and can enjoy more time on the trail, rather than searching for sustenance.
The 18-mile Richland B & O Trail is a good example. It's route features two break stations along the trail, as well as park facilities at each endpoint. There's also a deli / ice cream shop, a trailside restaurant, numerous parking locations and a trailside bike shop.
Check Out The Route
Ok, so you have an idea of what you may encounter. Now, how do you learn more about a particular trail's facilities? Simple, just lookup the trail's review or find the trail listing on the Region Trail & Map List. The reviews provide a 'Trail Specs' section and classes that gives you info on the the trail surface, parking and available facilities.