|Headlands Beach State Park
A visit to Lake Erie’s Headlands Beach
is like taking a trip to the Atlantic seashore except Headlands is much closer to home! Located in Lake County, just 29 miles east of Downtown Cleveland, it is considered to be one of the best natural beaches in the state, and a favorite among nature enthusiasts because of the adjacent Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve.
Headlands Beach stretches a mile-long and is wider than a football field in some areas, making it perfect for swimmers and sunbathers. And, with more than 4,000 parking spots available, there’s no need to worry about where to leave the car.
A stroll along the beach echoes pre-historic times when northeastern Ohio was actually part of what is now the Atlantic Coast. Many of the same plant communities that today inhabit the seashore between New Jersey and South Carolina are also found at Headlands. The sea rocket, beach pea, seaside spurge, sand-dropseed, beach grass and purple sand grass that grow near the beach and in the adjoining 25-acre Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve are not found anywhere else in Ohio. If you can’t make it here in the summer, consider visiting in September when monarch butterflies come to rest in the trees on their journey south.
Native Americans and westward-bound pioneers found the beach to be an obstacle-free pathway into the Northwest Territory during the late 1700s and early 1800s. The Lake Trail, used by both Iroquois and frontiersmen alike, ran along the south shore of Lake Erie, through what is now Headlands Beach.
A state park since 1953, the beach features a scenic picnic area with tables, grills and a shelter house where families big and small can gather for a meal or a lakeside snack. The park also features convenient changing booths, food concessions and restrooms. A playground is adjacent to the picnic area.
Anglers routinely reel in smallmouth, largemouth and rock bass, yellow perch, bluegill, walleye, steelhead trout and crappie from the 900-foot federal breakwall, located at the east end of the park. Hikers can explore the many trails of Headlands Dunes to the east and Mentor Marsh to the south. Some of those trails, including the two-mile Zimmerman Trail, offer a glimpse of the U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse at the mouth of the nearby Grand River.
Headlands Beach is certainly worth the drive to enjoy, and the other nearby outdoor attractions makes the area an excellent place for an extended visit. Lake County Metroparks has one of the finest systems of local parks in the state, featuring places such as Penitentiary Glen. This 400-acre park has a variety of habitats to explore, including fields, forests and wetlands, as well as an impressive gorge.
Less than one-mile from Headlands Beach sits the 644-acre Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve. The marsh, with its varied wildlife, shore birds and waterfowl, is a National Natural Landmark. Warblers and other rare species nest in the marsh and are visible from the preserve’s boardwalk.
Headlands Beach is easy to find. Just find State Route 2 and take State Route 44 north to the end of the road.