Trail Mix

Hit one of these themed-trails to see Lake Erie in a new light — and enjoy birding, history, food, wine and more along the way. 
Whether you’re looking for active pursuits, bold culinary journeys or deep dives into history or culture, the Lake Erie region has a trail that will get you on the right path to adventure. The following routes make it easy to sip wine in the oldest grape-growing region east of the Rockies, dip your paddle in this Great Lake’s island region, sink your teeth into Buffalo’s spicy food legacy, greet the return of birdsong on Canada’s South Coast or drive through time along rural backroads of Ohio. In other words, it’s time to hit the trails.

Sip It!

Lake Erie Wine Country Trail 
The 50-mile-long ribbon of agricultural land bordering Lake Erie from Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, to Silver Creek in New York, is best known as the Concord Grape Belt — the largest grape-growing region east of the Rocky Mountains. Concord grapes account for the majority of grapes grown in the region for the last 150 years, but in the early 1960s, a pioneering farmer decided to try his hand at growing French-hybrid wine grapes. Johnson Estate Winery, the oldest continuously operating estate winery in New York State, paved the way for more than 20 additional wineries now operating in the zone.

“The thing I like about them all is that they tend to be really laid back and unpretentious,” says Amanda Williams, a Cleveland-based travel blogger for A Dangerous Business ( “The proximity to (and sometimes view of) the lake never hurts, either.”

As you meander along the Lake Erie Wine Country Trail, passing 30,000 acres of sun-drenched grapes ripening on the vine along the way, you’ll discover award-winning wines that suit all tastes from sweet to dry, white to red and still to sparkling. Some wineries, such as Mazza and Arundel Cellars, have diversified their beverage offerings to include house-distilled spirits or craft beer. They also have full-service restaurants. Lakeview Wine Cellar and Noble Winery boast unforgettable views of the glistening blue lake to enjoy when you bring your own picnic. For a map of all the wineries, visit

Where to Stay: The Barcelona Lakeside B&B not only puts you right in the center of the wine trail, but the former ship captain’s house also overlooks three acres of Concord vineyards in one direction and Lake Erie in the other. After a day of touring wineries, guests gather around the fire pit to chat about their adventures, then retire to one of five modern suites. In the morning, owners Russ and Lori Pitts will whip up a hearty breakfast with ingredients sourced locally when possible. Repeat customers rave about Russ’ traditional French toast, which he perfected in France.

While You’re There: Check out Presque Isle State Park, Panama Rocks, the National Comedy Center, Barcelona Lighthouse, Grape Discovery Center and Double D.A.B. Riding Stables.

More Drinks 

Ontario — Wineries, breweries and distilleries abound along Canada’s mostly rural Lake Erie coast. These trails make it easy to get a pour as you explore: Toast the Coast Trail (, Ontario’s Southcoast Wine Trail ( and the Barrels Bottles and Brew Trail (

Northwest Ohio — Raise a glass at one of the many breweries, cideries and wineries on the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Cheers Trail. When you visit five locations, you’ll earn your choice of pint glass or stemless wine glass, which can be picked up at any LESI Welcome Center.

Wing It!

Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail
In the spring and fall, Ontario’s Lake Erie shoreline is a hub of activity for migratory birds, not to mention the crowds that flock to see them resting and refueling at the start or end of an exhausting journey across the open water. With a little patience and good timing, you may be lucky enough to catch the flit and flutter of a rare or endangered species in your field of view. All kinds of neotropical songbirds steal the show in the spring. In particular, the sighting of a vibrant yellow male Prothonotary Warbler elicits excitement from birders, many of whom consider it one of the most notable marks on their checklist.

“They can be difficult to photograph as they are very small and extremely active,” says Jim Carmichael, an amateur photographer from Toronto, who spotted and photographed the diminutive warbler near Point Pelee National Park. “They can be found around marshes where they establish territories they guard jealously.”

Two migratory routes converge at Point Pelee, making the park a prime location for birdwatching, but the South Coast Birding Trail links 17 birding hot spots, including Rondeau Provincial Park and Long Point. A map of the route includes lodging and recreational opportunities while you’re there.

Where to Stay: Wake up to the sound of birdsong when you sleep in one of 24 oTENTiks designed to bring a little luxury to camping within Point Pelee National Park. The permanent structures are a cross between an A-frame cabin and a safari tent. Each comes equipped with a gas grill, cooking and eating utensils, table and chairs and sleeping platforms for up to six people.

While You’re There: Spend some time exploring Pelee Island, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, the Southcoast Wine Trail, Long Point Eco-Adventures, Port Stanley and Port Dover beaches, J.P. Wiser’s Distillery tour, or horseback riding with Horseplay Niagara.

More Birds

Ohio — The Lake Erie Birding Trail ( divides 88 birding trails into seven loops across Ohio’s northern boundary, from Ashtabula to Toledo. While birds can be spotted anywhere along Lake Erie, some of the best-known locations are in the western basin, which has one of the largest uninterrupted areas of coastal wetlands in the state. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory at the entrance to Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor organizes and hosts The Biggest Week in American Birding during the peak of the spring songbird migration. This year’s celebration will take place online May 6-10. For more information, visit

Relive It!

Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Trail

Covered bridges are monuments to a bygone era before cars ruled the road. When the oldest remaining bridge in Ohio’s Ashtabula County was built in 1867 on Mechanicsville Road, only the echoing clip-clops of a horse and buggy passing through the tunnel of crisscrossed, hand-hewn wooden beams would interrupt the gurgles of the Grand River below. At one time, this county in Northwest Ohio had about 80 covered bridges spanning its creeks and rivers. The remaining bridges and a few new ones — 19 in all — can be toured as part of the self-drive Ashtabula Covered Bridge Trail.

Each bridge has its own personality and setting. The bright yellow Windsor Mills Bridge tucked away in the southwest corner of the county and the barn-red neo-Victorian Netcher Road Bridge are undoubtedly the most colorful. 

“Netcher Road is my personal favorite,” says Marcus Shull, of Columbus, while touring the area. “I know it’s a more recent addition, but the style makes me smile.”
Some covered bridges are more heavily trafficked, only allowing for a quick drive by. You can stop for a picnic alongside others, like those on Graham and Harpersfield roads. The covered bridge capital of Ohio also features the shortest (Liberty) and longest (Smolen-Gulf) covered bridges in the United States. 
To see them all, plan an entire day to explore the backroads of Ashtabula County. A complete list and map of all the covered bridges can be found at

Where to Stay: Wedged between Geneva State Park and the summer resort town of Geneva-on-the-Lake, The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake is more than just a place to rest your head. The resort is an ideal base for all kinds of activities, both on the lakeside property or just beyond. Most guest rooms have lake views, and there are 25 two-bedroom cottages for larger family getaways.

While You’re There: Make a stop at Covered Bridge Pizza, Brant’s Apple Orchard, the many local wineries and farm stands, Geneva State Park, Geneva-on-the-Lake and Olin’s Museum of Covered Bridges.

More History

Ontario — The Welland Canals Parkway Trail follows the Welland Canal, where large freighters squeeze through a series of eight locks, bypassing Niagara Falls on their journey between lakes Erie and Ontario. Don’t miss the Lock 7 Viewing Complex in Thorold, where you can watch vessels climb more than 572 feet over sea level as they traverse the Niagara Escarpment.

Michigan — Given Detroit’s rich automotive history, it’s no wonder the second federally funded highway in the United States emanates from the Motor City. The U.S. 12 Heritage Trail follows the history and culture along this historic Detroit-Chicago route. Visit Aug. 13-15 to seek out hidden treasures during the U.S. 12 Heritage Garage Sale that takes place along the entire route Aug. 13-15.

Flex It!

Lake Erie Islands Water Trails
If you’re accustomed to kayaking on inland rivers and lakes, paddling on Lake Erie will feel more like bull riding unless the marine forecast is just so. When you’re ready to take the bull by the horns, this 60-mile trail system has five separate water routes encircling South Bass, Middle Bass, North Bass and Kelleys islands, plus a stretch of the mainland coastline between Catawba Island State Park and the Marblehead Lighthouse.

“The nice thing about paddling around the islands is that there’s always a calm side,” explains Susan Byrnes, an avid outdoor enthusiast and bed-and-breakfast owner on South Bass Island. “We usually check the conditions, then put in at the village beach, South Bass State Park or in the Put-in-Bay harbor.”

Byrnes and her husband, Mike, prefer the quieter side of Lake Erie’s most-visited island. Far and away from the strains of Jimmy Buffet tunes wafting from Put-in-Bay’s downtown bars, the rugged coastline has coves, caves and craggy cliffs to explore, giving visitors a whole new perspective and deeper appreciation for the natural beauty of the islands. 

The Lake Erie Island Water Trails guide provides details on access points, which are visible from the water along all the routes. Need to rent a kayak? Head to South Bass, Middle Bass and Kelleys Island state parks. For more information about the Lake Erie Water Trails, visit

Where to Stay: The Arbor Inn Bed & Breakfast is close to downtown Put-in-Bay, but far enough away to unwind amid lush gardens, three wooded acres and island vineyards. The couples-only retreat has four rooms and complimentary bicycles and on-site golf cart rental. Better yet, owners Susan and Mike Byrnes will happily give you advice on where to paddle.

While You’re There: Explore Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, Crystal Cave at Heineman’s Winery, North Pond State Nature Preserve on Kelleys Island, the Historic Lonz Winery at Middle Bass Island State Park and the Marblehead Lighthouse.

More Action

Ontario — The majestic and powerful Horseshoe Falls is the most impressive spot along the paved multi-use Niagara River Recreational Trail connecting Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake. But as you leave the crowds behind in either direction, you’ll be rewarded with more than 30 miles of historic sites, monuments and vineyards bordering the Niagara River.

Michigan — The Detroit Heritage River Water Trail offers diverse paddling opportunities on four Detroit-area waterways. Choose between an urban adventure around Belle Isle near downtown Detroit or the serenity of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, home to huge flocks of birds and raptors.

The Fallen Arch
A natural arch bridge known as the Needle’s Eye was one of Gibraltar Island’s distinguishing landmarks and a destination for kayakers until it fell into Lake Erie in March 2020. South Bass Island residents and frequent paddlers Mike and Susan Byrnes were among the first kayakers to survey the damage. “We came around Gibraltar and something didn’t look right,” says Mike. “A tree was growing down and out of a boulder as big as a semi. Then we saw all the fresh dirt above. It had been there thousands of years, and it was gone in an instant.”

Dip It!

Buffalo Wing Trail
According to the National Chicken Council, Americans ate a record 1.42 billion chicken wings while watching the Super Bowl this year. It’s hard to imagine any game day without a plate of piquant poultry served with a side of crisp celery and blue cheese dressing, but the wing craze might have never taken off if it hadn’t been for the matriarch of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. As the legend goes, Teressa Bellissimo whipped up an improvised snack for a few of her son’s hungry friends who had stumbled into the bar late one Friday night in 1964. She used chicken wings she had reserved for the soup pot, fried them with butter and doused them with some hot sauce — and the rest is history.

Next time you’re in Buffalo, New York, make a pilgrimage to the Anchor Bar, then check out 11 other pubs along the city’s Buffalo Wing Trail to compare their take on the original recipe. Purists will insist on the traditional Buffalo-style wing like those served at Gabriel’s Gate, but some places have taken flight with their unique preparations.

“Restaurants want to create their own signature wing that sets them apart,” says the Wing King Drew Cerza, founder of the National Buffalo Wing Festival ( “Some are just different ways to prepare and/or season a traditional wing, and others are more out-of-the-box-type flavors.”

The beef on weck wings at Doc Sullivan’s fuses two of the city’s signature dishes by coating the wings with horseradish aioli, salt and caraway seeds. Glen Park Tavern, a former stagecoach stop with loads of history, makes a Sicilian wing covered in Parmesan cheese, garlic basil and oregano. And the South Buffalo wings at Blackthorn are built on the original recipe but have a few extra spices thrown in before being finished on the grill and served with housemade blue cheese dressing.
For a complete list of the Buffalo Wing Trail’s participating restaurants, go to

Where to Stay: The luxurious Mansion on Delaware is within walking distance of three spots on the Buffalo Wing Trail locations — Gabriel’s Gate, the Lenox Hotel and the Anchor Bar — making it a good home base for your flavor-filled quest. Plus, you can employ the mansion’s famed 24-hour butler service to help you cross the trail’s finish line.

While You’re There: Visit Canalside, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House Complex, Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. 

More Food

South Bass Island — There’s more to Put-in-Bay than just the lobster bisque soup at The Boardwalk that’s advertised on billboards for miles before boarding a ferry to South Bass Island. The Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail pinpoints other must-try menu items at many of the island’s dining establishments, such as conch fritters at The Keys, barbecue at Chicken Patio and crepes at The Forge. Get a map and checklist at participating restaurants and eat your way to a swag bag of goodies from the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.

Norfolk County, Ontario —  It’s no wonder Norfolk County is called Ontario’s Garden. This rural county bordering Lake Erie produces a staggering amount of Canada’s produce from asparagus to zucchini. Whether by motorcycle or car, when you Cruise the Coast you’ll be rewarded with wide open spaces, farm-fresh flavors and inventive culinary artisans, craft brewers, distillers and vintners.