Since visiting Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, Natalie has decided to make it her goal to visit all 63 U.S. National Parks. With only a few under her belt, we decided she’d better start on parks close to home. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio’s only national park, was next on our list.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Located near Brecksville, Ohio in the Cleveland area, the park encompasses 33,000 acres. It was designated the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974 and in 2000 was changed to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. With 2.2 million visitors each year, it is one of the most visited national parks. Unlike many national parks, there is no charge to visit Cuyahoga Valley.
In addition to 125 miles of hiking trails, there are a number of other activities. In the summer you can bike the trails, fish or paddle the river, enjoy a picnic lunch or practice your skills on the golf course. There are also a number of horse trails throughout the park. Winter brings opportunity for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. And if you’re a downhill skier, Boston Mills Brandywine Ski resort is located nearby.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Rather unique to the park is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. You can climb aboard to take a scenic trip around the park, with opportunities to view wildlife along the way. The railroad also offers an Explorer option. You can hike, bike or kayak the park and ride the train back to your starting site. Check their website for information before you go.
To learn more about the park, you can visit the Boston Mill Visitor Center. The staff there is friendly and helpful and can provide you a wealth of information about Cuyahoga and about the national parks in general. While there, take a short walk to the Canal Exploration Center. This museum is free to the public and is a great way to learn about the canal system and the impact on Ohio’s past.
With so much to do, we knew we couldn’t take it in all in one day. We settled on hiking the Ledges area and later taking the short walk to Brandywine Falls.
The Ledges Trail
The Ledges Trail promised a 2.2 mile hike that many told us was the best hike in Ohio. A longtime fan of the Hocking Hills, I was skeptical.
As we encountered the amazing rock formations along the trail, I had to admit that this hike was definitely on par with many of the trails in the Hocking Hills. We wound through the forest with beautiful views of the woods and large sandstone cliffs. Most of the wildlife we encountered were chipmunks scurrying along the trail and birds singing from the trees.
We took a side trail to an overlook. The overlook placed us high on a rock outcrop above the tops of the trees. It was well worth those extra steps to take in the view.
If you decide to take the Ledges Trail, be sure to bring a bottle or two of water and maybe a snack for the trail. The national park website approximates the hike at 1.5 hours but it took us a little longer with exploring crevasses in the cliffside and spending some time at the overlook.
Back at the car, we took a break in the air conditioning. We decided that we weren’t able to declare a winner between the Ledges trail and some of our favorite Hocking Hills trails.
Our review ended in a tie with the Hocking Hills getting points for some great memories going back 50 plus years and the Ledges garnering points for being new and exciting. Either way, if you’re looking for a great place to hike you’ll end up a winner with either of these hikes.
We were pretty beat and decided to take the short walk to Brandywine Falls. There’s a longer loop trail, but we elected to walk the short path along the boardwalk. The falls are beautiful and some of my favorite in the state. The boardwalk takes you to an observation point above the falls and you are able to see the remnants of the Champion Electric Company.
What are your favorite Ohio hikes? Check out our visit to Hocking Hills State Park or the Moonville Tunnel. Which national parks are your favorite? Recently Natalie fell in love with the national parks during our visit to Kenai Fjords on our trip to Alaska.
We’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to explore several of our National Parks this past year and we’ve brought some of them to the blog. In addition to Cuyahoga, Natalie and I have visited and documented trips to Kenai Fjords in Alaska, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and New River Gorge in West Virginia. Amanda and I visited the US Virgin Islands National Park on St. Johns. Our National Parks are an amazing resource, so look for more visits in the future.
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