Your Guide to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brandywine Falls Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: General Summary


Date of Establishment

The Cuyahoga Valley has been around since the past 12,000 years. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) was established back when local citizens and influential leaders at the time came together to try and preserve the valley’s heritage.


Popular Season

The park is open every day, for 24 hours a day. Almost all attractions are accessible at all times except for the Brandywine Falls, Virginia Kendall Ledges, Octagon, and the Lake. These close at sunset and reopen in the morning. People love to travel here during the spring time because with the spring come more flowers and the trails to walk in through the park look lively and colorful.


Weather

It is better to dress warmly during the spring rain because the temperature can go as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and almost freezing at night. The weather at CVNP changes rapidly, because of the lake effect snow that comes from Lake Erie.


The Visitor’s Centers


The Boston Store Visitor Center

The Boston Store Visitor Center is a great place to begin your journey through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You’ll get to introduce yourself to the staff that work at the park, ask whatever questions you may have, and learn more about the history and importance of the park.

They also offer a video where you can learn more about what to look forward to when you explore the park. Over at the visitor’s center, you have access to pamphlets and maps that teach you more about how to navigate through the park.




Canal Exploration Center

This is one of the park’s latest additions to the tourist attractions. It used to be used as a tavern and a store. People even used to live in it at one point. Now, this building works as a hands-on location for people to learn more about the canal era.




Hunt House

The Hunt House is ideal for exhibits and sites that children can also participate in. There’s a place to rest along the Towpath Trail and an area for more information about the attractions.


Introduction

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an American park that remains on a rural land located between the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland in Northeast Ohio. Its areas are managed independently as city parks and private business as well. It was originally named as a National Recreation Area but slowly shifted into a national park that was also partly a recreational area.

It is one of the only national parks in the Ohio state area and one of the biggest in its area. The reason why it’s so different from other national parks is that it is so close to large urban areas and has a highly used road network nearby. It also has many small localities and individual, private tourist attractions managed by other people nearby.

People have lived in this valley since the prehistoric times, through natural disasters and all the changes in the landscape. The creation of the park came at a time when activism and movements in the name of preserving history were taking place. People wanted to have a place near their home that they could go to relax, enjoy the beauty around them and save the area from losing its ancient history. This park is home to many wildlife animals as well.

This park is a combination of history and culture. Nature is a vital asset to the natural beauty of the park. The way the park is laid out gives you the opportunity to learn more about its history, and the history of the locality around it.

People who once lived in this valley have played an important role in creating the history that this park now holds. There are still many houses from the past that remain standing at the park, so visitors can learn more about the families that once inhabited the area.


A Brief History

Although no Native American tribes are currently recognized in the state of Ohio, the former residents of the area that the park is now on, which is the valley, used to be inhabited by Native Americans. There were many small communities like that moved around the area and some also settled down. They are often known as the ones who initially made this valley into an area that could be inhabited. They had leaders who conducted the affairs of the area efficiently and managed the law and order as well. They worked together and discussed situations before going forward with any decisions. They always used to take the word of their people and their opinions before deciding on anything, because they believed that this land was for all of them together.

One group of people, called the Lenape Nation, lived here in the past. They indulged in hunting which is why animals were their main source of food. When more settlers came in and the Lenape people were forced to move out, they had to move west and became allies with the other local groups in order to sustain themselves and continue to thrive in the conditions that they were living in.

They worked together to preserve their culture, history, and their way of living. Their hunting methods had to change, with the invention of the fur trade. It started to matter more to the people at that time that they increase their fur trade, and they lost focus. It no longer mattered to the locals whether they practiced sustainable methods of hunting or if they hunted past the point that was sustainable.

These communities were highly advanced. They made art, pottery, and crafts that were very similar to what we see now as well.

Farming had also been common in the valley. The Cleveland State University’s Center for Public History and Digital Humanities is working with the park’s administration to gather the stories and oral recollections of life in the valley before modern civilization. The last time anyone tried making a record of the park’s history was in 1980, so there has been a long expanse of time where no one attempted to document and collect more information about the park.

Back in 2011, the CVNP received a grant to proceed further with collecting traces and evidence of the park’s history. Since then, they have collected up to 50 oral documentations of farmers from the past. They’ve collected stories of current local farmers, their ancestors, and the way they lived their lives.

From over 2,000 years back, we know that the main way of earning a living here was farming. Most of the residents grew up to become farmers and worked on the family farms in their childhood with their parents and siblings.

In the late 1990s, the administration of CVNP started to improve on and rehabilitate the farmlands of these residents. They gave out these farmsteads to farmers who they knew would take care of this historic land and would carry out their farming practices in a more environmentally friendly way, using modern technology and newer techniques.

Previously, the residents of the area used the Cuyahoga River as a trade route for thousands of years. The river is a water body that’s rapidly drying and could not be traveled on by settlers of the Western Reserve, but they used the water in it to fill up the Ohio & Erie Canals that were built in 1827.

This canal provided a means to industrialize the Northeast of Ohio but this fast paced industrialization came at a cost.

Now, this river of Cuyahoga needs to be taken care of with extra precautions. Its water quality and the inhabitants of the water—as well as the habitats that were built around and in the water—have to be closely monitored to make sure that they are thriving.

Some of the efforts to maintain the land include surveying the wetland and checking the nearby localities to get insight on what more can be done to improve the quality of the park and to restore the park to its previous natural beauty.

The spring season at CVNP is characterized by rain and warm temperatures. This weather paves way for trees and new leaves to bloom, with flowers and new plantation growing as the seasons changed.


Environment

The park is very close to large areas of modern civilization. The increased traffic in the form of people and animals, and the pollution that comes with being so close to a busy city has had an effect on the aesthetic appeal of the park. There have been several environmental concerns, like the quality of the water and the rivers and streams that flow there. They were previously in better condition, but with a higher number of visitors each year, it takes extra efforts to maintain the original condition of the park.

The land that the park is located on is used for several different purposes. It has been used for agriculture, mining for the topsoil, sand, and gravel, and also to collect materials for residential development.

Many of the park’s administration and staff members that work to take care of the park have started working towards monitoring the different environmental factors that have played a role in degrading the condition of the park. They’ve come up with specific solutions to the numerous problems and have teamed up with agencies that work towards these particular issues in order to manage the situation.


Planning Your Itinerary

Since Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio’s only national park, you need to make sure that you explore it as thoroughly as you can. There are a number of different activities that people enjoy here ranging from hiking and biking to exploring the endless miles of trails through the immense forest. The scenery will take you through a variety of sites, like wetlands and limestone ledges. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a waterfall or two. Many people don’t realize the importance of exploring national parks and tourist attractions nearby and aim to travel out of the country or far distances only. However, if you look closely, there are so many places near your own locality that hold a number of amazing places to visit. Not dividing your time wisely may result in missing out on some important sights, so break down what you are planning to do throughout the trip beforehand to make it easier for you on the day you are set to explore the park.

There are a number of ways that you can break down what you want to do every day while traveling through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can devote one day for each activity, or as many hours as you can, which makes it easier to get the maximum amount of exploring done without tiring yourself out completely.

Here are some ways that you can break down your trip to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park:

1. Hiking:

There are numerous hiking trails all along the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are almost 125 miles or more, according to the National Park Service. There are a variety of trails that you can choose to take, depending on what you want to explore, how much time you have, and how much you are willing to hike. Hiking can get tiring, especially with a family or with people who are not experienced in it. It is better if you take out an estimate of how much you will have to walk on each trail and how many sights you will be able to visit through each trail. Decide as a family where you want to go and make sure you have a detailed map that you can understand. You do not want to end up getting lost in the middle of a trail that expands over a wide distance. Getting cell phone service can also be an issue, so make sure you are prepared enough to not need to ask someone for help.


The first trail that you should explore is the trail that goes across the Virginia Kendall Ledges. It is an average length trail that goes through a huge forested land that is covered with limestone boulders bigger than our entire body. It has giant rocks, caves, and hills covered in moss.

2. Sightseeing:

We will talk later about the number of different places that you can go sight-seeing, but set the next item on your list as sightseeing. There are a huge number of places all over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that you need to spend at least a couple of hours at in order to get the full experience of its natural beauty. Make a list of all the sights you want to see and prioritize them according to which ones will take the longest to reach as well as which ones will take the longest time to explore.


Some of the best sights to see are the Brandywine and Blue Hen Falls.

The Brandywine Falls are over 65 feet long and looks beautiful where it is set. This waterfall is not that hard to get access to. You can park at a convenient parking area and walk over to the waterfall through the wooden bridge-like boardwalk that they have set up.

There are many different times of the year when people come to these waterfalls, but if you want an experience that you won’t forget, go during the autumn season.

3. Biking:

CVNP is a huge park, as you may already have realized. The park also runs through the Cuyahoga River—the history of which is intertwined with the history of the park. Back when trains and railways were used less often, the area of the park used to use a canal system for transporting materials. Now, that same trial that used to be used for transporting these goods is used as a trail for biking and hiking.

This trail is not only used to bike, but also as a road to explore more of the scenery hidden inside the expanse of the park. It has been named as the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and it is a must for anyone seeing the area for the first time. The biking experience makes it all the more better, but only if you’re not tired and exhausted. Set a day aside to bike these trails and see more scenery within the park.

Towpath Trail is one of the easiest places to bike, with a paved trail that is smooth and flat for any biker to be able to travel on. The best part is that there are a number of gorgeous scenes to explore while you’re biking your way down the path. There is also a restaurant and a few shops that you can go to during the trail.

4. Shopping:

One day should definitely be set aside for shopping. If you’re a local in Ohio, you have probably already heard about the Szalay’s Sweet Corn Farm and Market. In the summer season, the months of June and July are extremely hot and most people prefer not to travel too far which is why they look for places to explore near their own home.

However, if you go during the day, you have to have the lived experience of going to the market and getting to talk to and buy from all the people that work there. Buying from locals is great for the economy and will make you feel good about spending on local businesses.

5. Train Ride:

For your last day, you should plan to try the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. This railroad is a huge hit with tourists, and it’s the best way to end your adventures of the park. The autumn months are some of the best months to explore the park—and especially the rides—so make sure you try to visit during these months. What’s more, you’ll find all sorts of autumn leaves in hues of orange and red strewn across the park and on the trees as you explore on the train.

The railroad has different kinds of rides, like a scenic ride, a themed trip like the Polar Express trip, and also a Bike Aboard option where you travel through the park on the train in one direction and back on your bike, so you get to experience the same beauty of the park in a much more personal way as well.

Keep this as the last item on your itinerary for the best end to your adventures. It’ll ensure that you’re not too tired before heading back home, and it will leave you with a great final impression of the park to remember when you’re back home.


Budgeting Your Trip

Some important things that you need to keep in mind before finalizing what you’ll be doing on the trip are the who’s and what’s of it. You need to know where you’ll start and what you’ll be doing, so you know how much money you need to set aside for the trip. The season that you decide to visit in also plays a role in the costs at the time.

When are you going?

The park is open in all four seasons, so think about what you’re aiming to experience the most, and go in that season. For example, if you want to experience the autumn colors, go in the autumn season.

How much does the entry to the park cost?

The entry to the park is free, so you pay $0 to visit the park.

How are you getting around the park?

If it’s possible for you to bring your own bike to the park, then that is always a better option in terms of saving money on rental bikes. However, the Towpath Trail can also be explored through rental bikes that you can get from nearby. There is a rental service available in Peninsula. The number of days and the number of hours you plan on biking through the trails will help you determine how much money you need to set aside for the bikes.

If you are planning on using the train that goes around the park, you can avail that option. The Scenic Railroad works 2-4 times a day from the months of June to October. The Peninsula Depot is the most common place that people board the train from.

Where are you going to be staying?

This park expands over several cities, which gives you a large variety of options for where you want to stay. Different hotels or motels in different cities will vary with their costs. It also matters what time of the year it is. Popular seasons mean that the hotels will be more expensive and harder to book at the last minute.

The park also offers resorts to stay at within the park premises. You can opt for places like the Brandywine Falls Inn or the Silver Fern Bed and Breakfast. Call them up before you finalize your visit and make sure there are rooms available for you.


The Top Attractions at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

1. Brandywine Falls:

The Brandywine Falls are by far the most sought-after tourist attraction because of their natural beauty. During the autumn season, the leaves surrounding the waterfalls add a new element to the entire experience of visiting the park at that time of the year. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of America’s best national parks in terms of waterfalls, because of the Brandywine Falls.

These waterfalls are 65 feet long and are the main falls among a number of waterfalls in the area. They are so massive that they were once used by the local villagers to power their entire village and used to run their industries.

There is a boardwalk that you can walk on that is ideal for seeing the waterfalls. If you prefer hiking, it provides a better, more up-close view. The hike is not very long either. It is around 1.4 miles with the waterfall at the end of it. However, do not climb the rocks surrounding the waterfalls, as this can lead to a serious accident.

1. The Ledges:

The ledges, also known as the Ritchie Ledges, have been popular in the area since the nineteenth century. They are one of the most fascinating parts of the park and have provided a place to hike and bask in the nature that they are surrounded by.

These ledges are engrossed with trails for hiking, leading in many different directions that you can decide on for yourself. Whichever trail you decide to take, you can hike up to the rock formations and explore them up close.

If you plan on exploring these ledges for only a day, you won’t have time to see them all. If you would prefer to see all the attractions for shorter amounts of time, you will have to settle with visiting only one of the ledges.

The Ledges Trail is one of the most popular trails to go on. It is around 1.8 miles long and goes through huge, mossy hills. It is often said to be one of the most intriguing trails with the best atmosphere out of them all.

You have to be careful not to try and climb on any rocks or boulders that have been fenced off. There are many areas that are available for people to hike and walk through, so make sure you do not try to surpass those boundaries because this is only going to hurt you if something happens.

2. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad:

This railroad is necessary to travel on for a glimpse into the history and culture of the park. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is now one of the most popular and sought after attractions at the park.

One round to and from the railroad is around 3.5 hours long, and it will take you through Cleveland and Akron. It is run by volunteers and not the National Park Service itself, so be sure to show your appreciation of their efforts when you’re visiting the railroad and enjoying all it has to offer.

One of the best parts of traveling on the railroad is that you can take your bike on the train with you and stop at any of the stations to complete the rest of the tour on your bike. If you’re on foot, you can stop at any one of the three stations which are Rockside, Peninsula, and Akron.

3. Beaver Marsh:

You can’t leave Cuyahoga Valley National Park without visiting the famous Beaver Marsh. It’s an excellent location to sit back and watch the wildlife. In the late 1980s, beavers came to the Cuyahoga Valley and built dams. It created an entirely new habitat filled with water in that area and it became known as the Beaver Marsh.

It is surprising to many people to learn that this marsh was one a car repair shop in the past. There were many old car parts and wreckage there before the National Park Service came and fixed the area up. However, until the beavers came along and claimed ownership of the land, no one had known what to do with the area.

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of these beavers when you go to the marsh. Aim to reach there by early morning for a better chance to see other wildlife as well, like otters, herons, turtles and eagles.

4. Blue Hen Falls:

This waterfall isn’t as grand as the Brandywine Falls, but the Blue Hen Falls are much grander when it comes to their natural beauty. They are around 15 feet high and are engulfed in a vast broadleaf forest with rocks and boulders.

If you’re one to seek silence and serenity, this area is usually less populated as compared to the other tourist attractions. The trail is around 0.2 miles, with very few visitors. This gives you the chance to take a long, peaceful walk and sit among the boulders and trees by yourself.

5. Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail:

Similar to how the railroad goes through the park, this trail goes almost parallel to the railroad and goes alongside the Cuyahoga River. Back in the 19th century, the Ohio & Erie Canal used to form a link between the interior side of America and the eastern seaboard. This created a large market where people bought and sold items from the Midwest and near the Great Lakes. After all these years, the canal no longer exists but the Towpath Trail has been created that goes along its same path.

You can take a bike to explore the scenery throughout the trail. People prefer to travel here in the fall because of the colors of the leaves that change at this time of the year. It’s better to save your hiking for other trails and use this trail to bike on because it is one of the best places to cycle in any national park in America.

When you go through this trail, you will go through the vast forests, meadows, and wetlands with a number of different kinds of wildlife. You’ll have the option of jogging if you want, or running is also an option. Most people prefer to take a bike.

6. Boston Store:

Stop by the Boston Store in the village of Boston that is near the park for an exhibit that takes you back to 1836. It showcases designs and artifacts from that era, like boats that used to sail on the Ohio & Erie Canal. Near the town of Peninsula, there are many small stores and cafes that you can stop in and get a feel of the environment of that the park exists in.

In Peninsula, most people rent out bikes that they plan on using throughout their stay time at the park. They can be rented out on an hourly basis.

7. Bridal Veil Falls:

The name of this waterfall says enough about how this waterfall probably looks. When you’re there, you’ll see that it is at a height of 15 feet in total but has a number of layers to it that all have raggedy ledges that make it look like the dress of a bride flowing to the ground. If you decide to visit these waterfalls in the morning, you’ll find a great spot to have a nice, peaceful breakfast. They are surrounded by oak, maple, and birch trees that give a peaceful ambiance to the entire area.

8. Hale Farm & Village:

End your day with a walk through history. Get in touch with the locals and go to the Hale Farm & Village. This is on the Oak Hill Road in the southwest part of the park and it is like a museum that displays the history of the people that used to live there and the place that the park used to be. This museum offers a recreation of life from back in the middle of the nineteenth century of the Cuyahoga Valley community that used to exist there.

The interesting part about this museum is that it makes you feel like you are living in that part of history yourself. They have a farm that was built in 1826 and was run by the founder of the Hale family name. This farm is one of the main attractions of the village. People who come to visit the village love touring around and getting to know the people who live and work there. You will find people dressed in clothing that reminds you of an era bygone. They will teach you how to make your own candles, sew clothes, and also how to blow glass.

9. Everett Covered Bridge:

The Everett Covered Bridge is another remnant of the 19th century. It was made around the glory days of the locality, and this bridge was one of their biggest accomplishments. Once upon a time, there used to be over 2000 bridges in Ohio that were covered. Now, only a handful remain. This bridge is now the only one that still exists of its particular build in the Summit County.

The Everett Bridge can only be accessed through biking or by walking. It’s a great place to go to experience a one-of-a-kind building from a time that has long since passed. If you’ve never been there before, it is definitely a place that you should see at least once in your life, even if you decide never to visit this particular bridge again. Park your car in the parking and do the rest of the exploring by foot.

The bridge has many informational signs up throughout the walk, so if you do decide to talk a walk there, make sure you spend a few minutes reading each of the signs. They will give you a collection of information about how the park came into being, who used to reside there and the history behind it.


The Best Accommodations

There are a number of places in and near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that you can stay in. The Stanford House and the Brandywine Falls Inn has lodges for you to stay in within the park and the park is surrounded by many different hotels around its periphery.


Stanford House

The Stanford House is popular because it provides a glimpse into the history of how the lifestyle of people at the park used to be. It has overnight and daytime accommodation available at an affordable rate. Another reason why it is popular is because it is near all the major facilities for guests.

The Stanford House has a community living with a dining room made with a touch of old fashion. The grounds around the house have trails that are accessible from the hotel. They also have enough parking for you to leave your cars behind to go exploring by foot or on your bikes. At night, they offer a fire circle and there are scenic areas for picnics scattered all around the hotel grounds. It is open all year, so you can drop by whenever you want to visit the park.


Inn at Brandywine Falls

The best thing about the Inn at Brandywine Falls is that it overlooks the magnificent Brandywine Falls themselves. It is an old inn, built in 1848 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is one place you need to spend at least a day in to truly experience the olden days historic glory of the Greek Revival. They have gourmet food and the best amenities.

If you decide to stay at this inn, you can go explore the Brandywine Falls whenever you feel like it. They have trails for hiking and biking, as well as a access to the waterfalls easily available for anyone that stays at the inn.

For breakfast, they have a candlelight setup at 9 a.m. You’ll also have access to free WiFi, a living room, a kitchen and a balcony outside if you want to enjoy the evening air. Other nearby hotels include the Holiday Inn Express Cleveland-Richfield, the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Cleveland Macedonia.


Safety Travelling Tips

Like anywhere that you’ll go to travel, especially is it’s with your family, you will come across dangers that you need to be wary of. Not all threats are life threatening, but it is better to be aware of them beforehand so that you do not find yourself involved in any unnecessary trouble.

1. Don’t Climb the Brandywine Falls:

Brandywine Falls are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the park. This is why there is usually a lot of traffic there in the form of guests visiting there all the time. During popular seasons like fall, there are even more people than you would normally expect. This is why the situation near the waterfalls can get hectic and people may not take the necessary precautions that they need while visiting these huge waterfalls.

Remember that it is not safe to climb the Brandywine Falls at any cost. The rocks and fences surrounding the waterfalls are not for people to climb. They are there for people to be warned to not go any further.

2. The Ice Box Cave for Bats is under Threat:

The Ice Box, that you’ll find near the Ledges, are currently closed. This is because the bat population has been suffering from a fungal disease that has killed millions of them. They have been spread from one bat to another and also through humans transporting the illness through their shoes and clothes from one infected site to another.

It is better that you stay out of the bat cave because of the risk of spreading germs to the bats at the park. To not disturb any bats you come across and if you see any unusual behavior, such as bats flying out of their caves in the daylight, then report it to the park authorities.


Parting Words

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great place to spend a long weekend with your family or even on your own. There are a variety of activities that you can take part in that will help you get a much-needed break from the hectic world around you and spend more time with nature and yourself. It is a quiet park with many secluded areas that you can enjoy peace and tranquility in. For people who love adventure, it offers a wide array of trails for hiking and biking that not only provide a scenic tour throughout the park, but the places where they end are also beautiful, like waterfalls or vast expanses of forest.

If you plan a trip thoroughly and do all the homework that is required before finalizing any trip, you will have a much better trip than if you plan on winging it. Make a proper itinerary that has all the information you need about where you plan on going, how much it will cost and where you will stay the night. It’s always better to decide on a certain season that you want to visit in, based on what kind of experience you want to have. Most people prefer autumn, but you can also visit in the summer.

If you plan on staying there for more than one day, you’ll have more time to explore a larger area of the park by dividing all the places into days and allotting a certain amount of time to each tourist attraction. Make sure you check all the current information about the park by visiting the National Park Service website to see if there are any closures that you may not have been aware of.

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Your Guide to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Book AuthorGoglides
PublisherGoglides Publication
LanguageEnglish
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Your Guide to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: General Summary


Date of Establishment

The Cuyahoga Valley has been around since the past 12,000 years. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) was established back when local citizens and influential leaders at the time came together to try and preserve the valley’s heritage.


Popular Season

The park is open every day, for 24 hours a day. Almost all attractions are accessible at all times except for the Brandywine Falls, Virginia Kendall Ledges, Octagon, and the Lake. These close at sunset and reopen in the morning. People love to travel here during the spring time because with the spring come more flowers and the trails to walk in through the park look lively and colorful.


Weather

It is better to dress warmly during the spring rain because the temperature can go as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and almost freezing at night. The weather at CVNP changes rapidly, because of the lake effect snow that comes from Lake Erie.


The Visitor’s Centers


The Boston Store Visitor Center

The Boston Store Visitor Center is a great place to begin your journey through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You’ll get to introduce yourself to the staff that work at the park, ask whatever questions you may have, and learn more about the history and importance of the park.

They also offer a video where you can learn more about what to look forward to when you explore the park. Over at the visitor’s center, you have access to pamphlets and maps that teach you more about how to navigate through the park.




Canal Exploration Center

This is one of the park’s latest additions to the tourist attractions. It used to be used as a tavern and a store. People even used to live in it at one point. Now, this building works as a hands-on location for people to learn more about the canal era.




Hunt House

The Hunt House is ideal for exhibits and sites that children can also participate in. There’s a place to rest along the Towpath Trail and an area for more information about the attractions.


Introduction

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an American park that remains on a rural land located between the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland in Northeast Ohio. Its areas are managed independently as city parks and private business as well. It was originally named as a National Recreation Area but slowly shifted into a national park that was also partly a recreational area.

It is one of the only national parks in the Ohio state area and one of the biggest in its area. The reason why it’s so different from other national parks is that it is so close to large urban areas and has a highly used road network nearby. It also has many small localities and individual, private tourist attractions managed by other people nearby.

People have lived in this valley since the prehistoric times, through natural disasters and all the changes in the landscape. The creation of the park came at a time when activism and movements in the name of preserving history were taking place. People wanted to have a place near their home that they could go to relax, enjoy the beauty around them and save the area from losing its ancient history. This park is home to many wildlife animals as well.

This park is a combination of history and culture. Nature is a vital asset to the natural beauty of the park. The way the park is laid out gives you the opportunity to learn more about its history, and the history of the locality around it.

People who once lived in this valley have played an important role in creating the history that this park now holds. There are still many houses from the past that remain standing at the park, so visitors can learn more about the families that once inhabited the area.


A Brief History

Although no Native American tribes are currently recognized in the state of Ohio, the former residents of the area that the park is now on, which is the valley, used to be inhabited by Native Americans. There were many small communities like that moved around the area and some also settled down. They are often known as the ones who initially made this valley into an area that could be inhabited. They had leaders who conducted the affairs of the area efficiently and managed the law and order as well. They worked together and discussed situations before going forward with any decisions. They always used to take the word of their people and their opinions before deciding on anything, because they believed that this land was for all of them together.

One group of people, called the Lenape Nation, lived here in the past. They indulged in hunting which is why animals were their main source of food. When more settlers came in and the Lenape people were forced to move out, they had to move west and became allies with the other local groups in order to sustain themselves and continue to thrive in the conditions that they were living in.

They worked together to preserve their culture, history, and their way of living. Their hunting methods had to change, with the invention of the fur trade. It started to matter more to the people at that time that they increase their fur trade, and they lost focus. It no longer mattered to the locals whether they practiced sustainable methods of hunting or if they hunted past the point that was sustainable.

These communities were highly advanced. They made art, pottery, and crafts that were very similar to what we see now as well.

Farming had also been common in the valley. The Cleveland State University’s Center for Public History and Digital Humanities is working with the park’s administration to gather the stories and oral recollections of life in the valley before modern civilization. The last time anyone tried making a record of the park’s history was in 1980, so there has been a long expanse of time where no one attempted to document and collect more information about the park.

Back in 2011, the CVNP received a grant to proceed further with collecting traces and evidence of the park’s history. Since then, they have collected up to 50 oral documentations of farmers from the past. They’ve collected stories of current local farmers, their ancestors, and the way they lived their lives.

From over 2,000 years back, we know that the main way of earning a living here was farming. Most of the residents grew up to become farmers and worked on the family farms in their childhood with their parents and siblings.

In the late 1990s, the administration of CVNP started to improve on and rehabilitate the farmlands of these residents. They gave out these farmsteads to farmers who they knew would take care of this historic land and would carry out their farming practices in a more environmentally friendly way, using modern technology and newer techniques.

Previously, the residents of the area used the Cuyahoga River as a trade route for thousands of years. The river is a water body that’s rapidly drying and could not be traveled on by settlers of the Western Reserve, but they used the water in it to fill up the Ohio & Erie Canals that were built in 1827.

This canal provided a means to industrialize the Northeast of Ohio but this fast paced industrialization came at a cost.

Now, this river of Cuyahoga needs to be taken care of with extra precautions. Its water quality and the inhabitants of the water—as well as the habitats that were built around and in the water—have to be closely monitored to make sure that they are thriving.

Some of the efforts to maintain the land include surveying the wetland and checking the nearby localities to get insight on what more can be done to improve the quality of the park and to restore the park to its previous natural beauty.

The spring season at CVNP is characterized by rain and warm temperatures. This weather paves way for trees and new leaves to bloom, with flowers and new plantation growing as the seasons changed.


Environment

The park is very close to large areas of modern civilization. The increased traffic in the form of people and animals, and the pollution that comes with being so close to a busy city has had an effect on the aesthetic appeal of the park. There have been several environmental concerns, like the quality of the water and the rivers and streams that flow there. They were previously in better condition, but with a higher number of visitors each year, it takes extra efforts to maintain the original condition of the park.

The land that the park is located on is used for several different purposes. It has been used for agriculture, mining for the topsoil, sand, and gravel, and also to collect materials for residential development.

Many of the park’s administration and staff members that work to take care of the park have started working towards monitoring the different environmental factors that have played a role in degrading the condition of the park. They’ve come up with specific solutions to the numerous problems and have teamed up with agencies that work towards these particular issues in order to manage the situation.


Planning Your Itinerary

Since Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio’s only national park, you need to make sure that you explore it as thoroughly as you can. There are a number of different activities that people enjoy here ranging from hiking and biking to exploring the endless miles of trails through the immense forest. The scenery will take you through a variety of sites, like wetlands and limestone ledges. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a waterfall or two. Many people don’t realize the importance of exploring national parks and tourist attractions nearby and aim to travel out of the country or far distances only. However, if you look closely, there are so many places near your own locality that hold a number of amazing places to visit. Not dividing your time wisely may result in missing out on some important sights, so break down what you are planning to do throughout the trip beforehand to make it easier for you on the day you are set to explore the park.

There are a number of ways that you can break down what you want to do every day while traveling through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can devote one day for each activity, or as many hours as you can, which makes it easier to get the maximum amount of exploring done without tiring yourself out completely.

Here are some ways that you can break down your trip to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park:

1. Hiking:

There are numerous hiking trails all along the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are almost 125 miles or more, according to the National Park Service. There are a variety of trails that you can choose to take, depending on what you want to explore, how much time you have, and how much you are willing to hike. Hiking can get tiring, especially with a family or with people who are not experienced in it. It is better if you take out an estimate of how much you will have to walk on each trail and how many sights you will be able to visit through each trail. Decide as a family where you want to go and make sure you have a detailed map that you can understand. You do not want to end up getting lost in the middle of a trail that expands over a wide distance. Getting cell phone service can also be an issue, so make sure you are prepared enough to not need to ask someone for help.


The first trail that you should explore is the trail that goes across the Virginia Kendall Ledges. It is an average length trail that goes through a huge forested land that is covered with limestone boulders bigger than our entire body. It has giant rocks, caves, and hills covered in moss.

2. Sightseeing:

We will talk later about the number of different places that you can go sight-seeing, but set the next item on your list as sightseeing. There are a huge number of places all over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that you need to spend at least a couple of hours at in order to get the full experience of its natural beauty. Make a list of all the sights you want to see and prioritize them according to which ones will take the longest to reach as well as which ones will take the longest time to explore.


Some of the best sights to see are the Brandywine and Blue Hen Falls.

The Brandywine Falls are over 65 feet long and looks beautiful where it is set. This waterfall is not that hard to get access to. You can park at a convenient parking area and walk over to the waterfall through the wooden bridge-like boardwalk that they have set up.

There are many different times of the year when people come to these waterfalls, but if you want an experience that you won’t forget, go during the autumn season.

3. Biking:

CVNP is a huge park, as you may already have realized. The park also runs through the Cuyahoga River—the history of which is intertwined with the history of the park. Back when trains and railways were used less often, the area of the park used to use a canal system for transporting materials. Now, that same trial that used to be used for transporting these goods is used as a trail for biking and hiking.

This trail is not only used to bike, but also as a road to explore more of the scenery hidden inside the expanse of the park. It has been named as the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and it is a must for anyone seeing the area for the first time. The biking experience makes it all the more better, but only if you’re not tired and exhausted. Set a day aside to bike these trails and see more scenery within the park.

Towpath Trail is one of the easiest places to bike, with a paved trail that is smooth and flat for any biker to be able to travel on. The best part is that there are a number of gorgeous scenes to explore while you’re biking your way down the path. There is also a restaurant and a few shops that you can go to during the trail.

4. Shopping:

One day should definitely be set aside for shopping. If you’re a local in Ohio, you have probably already heard about the Szalay’s Sweet Corn Farm and Market. In the summer season, the months of June and July are extremely hot and most people prefer not to travel too far which is why they look for places to explore near their own home.

However, if you go during the day, you have to have the lived experience of going to the market and getting to talk to and buy from all the people that work there. Buying from locals is great for the economy and will make you feel good about spending on local businesses.

5. Train Ride:

For your last day, you should plan to try the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. This railroad is a huge hit with tourists, and it’s the best way to end your adventures of the park. The autumn months are some of the best months to explore the park—and especially the rides—so make sure you try to visit during these months. What’s more, you’ll find all sorts of autumn leaves in hues of orange and red strewn across the park and on the trees as you explore on the train.

The railroad has different kinds of rides, like a scenic ride, a themed trip like the Polar Express trip, and also a Bike Aboard option where you travel through the park on the train in one direction and back on your bike, so you get to experience the same beauty of the park in a much more personal way as well.

Keep this as the last item on your itinerary for the best end to your adventures. It’ll ensure that you’re not too tired before heading back home, and it will leave you with a great final impression of the park to remember when you’re back home.


Budgeting Your Trip

Some important things that you need to keep in mind before finalizing what you’ll be doing on the trip are the who’s and what’s of it. You need to know where you’ll start and what you’ll be doing, so you know how much money you need to set aside for the trip. The season that you decide to visit in also plays a role in the costs at the time.

When are you going?

The park is open in all four seasons, so think about what you’re aiming to experience the most, and go in that season. For example, if you want to experience the autumn colors, go in the autumn season.

How much does the entry to the park cost?

The entry to the park is free, so you pay $0 to visit the park.

How are you getting around the park?

If it’s possible for you to bring your own bike to the park, then that is always a better option in terms of saving money on rental bikes. However, the Towpath Trail can also be explored through rental bikes that you can get from nearby. There is a rental service available in Peninsula. The number of days and the number of hours you plan on biking through the trails will help you determine how much money you need to set aside for the bikes.

If you are planning on using the train that goes around the park, you can avail that option. The Scenic Railroad works 2-4 times a day from the months of June to October. The Peninsula Depot is the most common place that people board the train from.

Where are you going to be staying?

This park expands over several cities, which gives you a large variety of options for where you want to stay. Different hotels or motels in different cities will vary with their costs. It also matters what time of the year it is. Popular seasons mean that the hotels will be more expensive and harder to book at the last minute.

The park also offers resorts to stay at within the park premises. You can opt for places like the Brandywine Falls Inn or the Silver Fern Bed and Breakfast. Call them up before you finalize your visit and make sure there are rooms available for you.


The Top Attractions at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

1. Brandywine Falls:

The Brandywine Falls are by far the most sought-after tourist attraction because of their natural beauty. During the autumn season, the leaves surrounding the waterfalls add a new element to the entire experience of visiting the park at that time of the year. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of America’s best national parks in terms of waterfalls, because of the Brandywine Falls.

These waterfalls are 65 feet long and are the main falls among a number of waterfalls in the area. They are so massive that they were once used by the local villagers to power their entire village and used to run their industries.

There is a boardwalk that you can walk on that is ideal for seeing the waterfalls. If you prefer hiking, it provides a better, more up-close view. The hike is not very long either. It is around 1.4 miles with the waterfall at the end of it. However, do not climb the rocks surrounding the waterfalls, as this can lead to a serious accident.

1. The Ledges:

The ledges, also known as the Ritchie Ledges, have been popular in the area since the nineteenth century. They are one of the most fascinating parts of the park and have provided a place to hike and bask in the nature that they are surrounded by.

These ledges are engrossed with trails for hiking, leading in many different directions that you can decide on for yourself. Whichever trail you decide to take, you can hike up to the rock formations and explore them up close.

If you plan on exploring these ledges for only a day, you won’t have time to see them all. If you would prefer to see all the attractions for shorter amounts of time, you will have to settle with visiting only one of the ledges.

The Ledges Trail is one of the most popular trails to go on. It is around 1.8 miles long and goes through huge, mossy hills. It is often said to be one of the most intriguing trails with the best atmosphere out of them all.

You have to be careful not to try and climb on any rocks or boulders that have been fenced off. There are many areas that are available for people to hike and walk through, so make sure you do not try to surpass those boundaries because this is only going to hurt you if something happens.

2. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad:

This railroad is necessary to travel on for a glimpse into the history and culture of the park. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is now one of the most popular and sought after attractions at the park.

One round to and from the railroad is around 3.5 hours long, and it will take you through Cleveland and Akron. It is run by volunteers and not the National Park Service itself, so be sure to show your appreciation of their efforts when you’re visiting the railroad and enjoying all it has to offer.

One of the best parts of traveling on the railroad is that you can take your bike on the train with you and stop at any of the stations to complete the rest of the tour on your bike. If you’re on foot, you can stop at any one of the three stations which are Rockside, Peninsula, and Akron.

3. Beaver Marsh:

You can’t leave Cuyahoga Valley National Park without visiting the famous Beaver Marsh. It’s an excellent location to sit back and watch the wildlife. In the late 1980s, beavers came to the Cuyahoga Valley and built dams. It created an entirely new habitat filled with water in that area and it became known as the Beaver Marsh.

It is surprising to many people to learn that this marsh was one a car repair shop in the past. There were many old car parts and wreckage there before the National Park Service came and fixed the area up. However, until the beavers came along and claimed ownership of the land, no one had known what to do with the area.

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of these beavers when you go to the marsh. Aim to reach there by early morning for a better chance to see other wildlife as well, like otters, herons, turtles and eagles.

4. Blue Hen Falls:

This waterfall isn’t as grand as the Brandywine Falls, but the Blue Hen Falls are much grander when it comes to their natural beauty. They are around 15 feet high and are engulfed in a vast broadleaf forest with rocks and boulders.

If you’re one to seek silence and serenity, this area is usually less populated as compared to the other tourist attractions. The trail is around 0.2 miles, with very few visitors. This gives you the chance to take a long, peaceful walk and sit among the boulders and trees by yourself.

5. Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail:

Similar to how the railroad goes through the park, this trail goes almost parallel to the railroad and goes alongside the Cuyahoga River. Back in the 19th century, the Ohio & Erie Canal used to form a link between the interior side of America and the eastern seaboard. This created a large market where people bought and sold items from the Midwest and near the Great Lakes. After all these years, the canal no longer exists but the Towpath Trail has been created that goes along its same path.

You can take a bike to explore the scenery throughout the trail. People prefer to travel here in the fall because of the colors of the leaves that change at this time of the year. It’s better to save your hiking for other trails and use this trail to bike on because it is one of the best places to cycle in any national park in America.

When you go through this trail, you will go through the vast forests, meadows, and wetlands with a number of different kinds of wildlife. You’ll have the option of jogging if you want, or running is also an option. Most people prefer to take a bike.

6. Boston Store:

Stop by the Boston Store in the village of Boston that is near the park for an exhibit that takes you back to 1836. It showcases designs and artifacts from that era, like boats that used to sail on the Ohio & Erie Canal. Near the town of Peninsula, there are many small stores and cafes that you can stop in and get a feel of the environment of that the park exists in.

In Peninsula, most people rent out bikes that they plan on using throughout their stay time at the park. They can be rented out on an hourly basis.

7. Bridal Veil Falls:

The name of this waterfall says enough about how this waterfall probably looks. When you’re there, you’ll see that it is at a height of 15 feet in total but has a number of layers to it that all have raggedy ledges that make it look like the dress of a bride flowing to the ground. If you decide to visit these waterfalls in the morning, you’ll find a great spot to have a nice, peaceful breakfast. They are surrounded by oak, maple, and birch trees that give a peaceful ambiance to the entire area.

8. Hale Farm & Village:

End your day with a walk through history. Get in touch with the locals and go to the Hale Farm & Village. This is on the Oak Hill Road in the southwest part of the park and it is like a museum that displays the history of the people that used to live there and the place that the park used to be. This museum offers a recreation of life from back in the middle of the nineteenth century of the Cuyahoga Valley community that used to exist there.

The interesting part about this museum is that it makes you feel like you are living in that part of history yourself. They have a farm that was built in 1826 and was run by the founder of the Hale family name. This farm is one of the main attractions of the village. People who come to visit the village love touring around and getting to know the people who live and work there. You will find people dressed in clothing that reminds you of an era bygone. They will teach you how to make your own candles, sew clothes, and also how to blow glass.

9. Everett Covered Bridge:

The Everett Covered Bridge is another remnant of the 19th century. It was made around the glory days of the locality, and this bridge was one of their biggest accomplishments. Once upon a time, there used to be over 2000 bridges in Ohio that were covered. Now, only a handful remain. This bridge is now the only one that still exists of its particular build in the Summit County.

The Everett Bridge can only be accessed through biking or by walking. It’s a great place to go to experience a one-of-a-kind building from a time that has long since passed. If you’ve never been there before, it is definitely a place that you should see at least once in your life, even if you decide never to visit this particular bridge again. Park your car in the parking and do the rest of the exploring by foot.

The bridge has many informational signs up throughout the walk, so if you do decide to talk a walk there, make sure you spend a few minutes reading each of the signs. They will give you a collection of information about how the park came into being, who used to reside there and the history behind it.


The Best Accommodations

There are a number of places in and near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that you can stay in. The Stanford House and the Brandywine Falls Inn has lodges for you to stay in within the park and the park is surrounded by many different hotels around its periphery.


Stanford House

The Stanford House is popular because it provides a glimpse into the history of how the lifestyle of people at the park used to be. It has overnight and daytime accommodation available at an affordable rate. Another reason why it is popular is because it is near all the major facilities for guests.

The Stanford House has a community living with a dining room made with a touch of old fashion. The grounds around the house have trails that are accessible from the hotel. They also have enough parking for you to leave your cars behind to go exploring by foot or on your bikes. At night, they offer a fire circle and there are scenic areas for picnics scattered all around the hotel grounds. It is open all year, so you can drop by whenever you want to visit the park.


Inn at Brandywine Falls

The best thing about the Inn at Brandywine Falls is that it overlooks the magnificent Brandywine Falls themselves. It is an old inn, built in 1848 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is one place you need to spend at least a day in to truly experience the olden days historic glory of the Greek Revival. They have gourmet food and the best amenities.

If you decide to stay at this inn, you can go explore the Brandywine Falls whenever you feel like it. They have trails for hiking and biking, as well as a access to the waterfalls easily available for anyone that stays at the inn.

For breakfast, they have a candlelight setup at 9 a.m. You’ll also have access to free WiFi, a living room, a kitchen and a balcony outside if you want to enjoy the evening air. Other nearby hotels include the Holiday Inn Express Cleveland-Richfield, the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Cleveland Macedonia.


Safety Travelling Tips

Like anywhere that you’ll go to travel, especially is it’s with your family, you will come across dangers that you need to be wary of. Not all threats are life threatening, but it is better to be aware of them beforehand so that you do not find yourself involved in any unnecessary trouble.

1. Don’t Climb the Brandywine Falls:

Brandywine Falls are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the park. This is why there is usually a lot of traffic there in the form of guests visiting there all the time. During popular seasons like fall, there are even more people than you would normally expect. This is why the situation near the waterfalls can get hectic and people may not take the necessary precautions that they need while visiting these huge waterfalls.

Remember that it is not safe to climb the Brandywine Falls at any cost. The rocks and fences surrounding the waterfalls are not for people to climb. They are there for people to be warned to not go any further.

2. The Ice Box Cave for Bats is under Threat:

The Ice Box, that you’ll find near the Ledges, are currently closed. This is because the bat population has been suffering from a fungal disease that has killed millions of them. They have been spread from one bat to another and also through humans transporting the illness through their shoes and clothes from one infected site to another.

It is better that you stay out of the bat cave because of the risk of spreading germs to the bats at the park. To not disturb any bats you come across and if you see any unusual behavior, such as bats flying out of their caves in the daylight, then report it to the park authorities.


Parting Words

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great place to spend a long weekend with your family or even on your own. There are a variety of activities that you can take part in that will help you get a much-needed break from the hectic world around you and spend more time with nature and yourself. It is a quiet park with many secluded areas that you can enjoy peace and tranquility in. For people who love adventure, it offers a wide array of trails for hiking and biking that not only provide a scenic tour throughout the park, but the places where they end are also beautiful, like waterfalls or vast expanses of forest.

If you plan a trip thoroughly and do all the homework that is required before finalizing any trip, you will have a much better trip than if you plan on winging it. Make a proper itinerary that has all the information you need about where you plan on going, how much it will cost and where you will stay the night. It’s always better to decide on a certain season that you want to visit in, based on what kind of experience you want to have. Most people prefer autumn, but you can also visit in the summer.

If you plan on staying there for more than one day, you’ll have more time to explore a larger area of the park by dividing all the places into days and allotting a certain amount of time to each tourist attraction. Make sure you check all the current information about the park by visiting the National Park Service website to see if there are any closures that you may not have been aware of.