Cuyahoga Valley National Park
This post is a continuation of our last post, Getaway Weekend: Cleveland, Ohio. As a short re-cap, my husband and I went to the Cleveland area for a weekend getaway to celebrate our 16th anniversary. Saturday was spent exploring the city, and Sunday was reserved for the great outdoors.
After a late check-out from out hotel and sleeping too late for the free hotel breakfast, our first stop Sunday was lunch. If you find yourself on the Ohio Turnpike, at least know there are great service areas. These are basically elaborate rest stops with not only restrooms and vending machines, but also a gas station, several fast food counters, tourist information, and (often) a gift shop. They are big, clean, and crowded, and they typically offer at least a few dining options. We stopped at one that offered Panera, but they are all different.
Our destination for the day was Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I vaguely knew there was a national park somewhere in Ohio, but I did not realize it was so close to home (a little over three hours from Metro Detroit) or so close to Cleveland itself (about 20-30 minutes, depending on the entrance). When researching for our trip, this made Cleveland a big selling point for me. I love waterfalls, national parks, nature, hiking, and, well you get the picture. One day in the city and one day out in nature sounded like a perfect combination.
We had a long drive home, so I knew we wouldn’t be spending an excessive amount of time at the park. We went straight to the point and headed to the number one attraction at Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Brandywine Falls. We set our GPS for the Boston Mills visitor center, where a very helpful ranger mapped a course for us. Her directions were really easy to follow, and soon we were pulling into the parking lot closest to the falls. We got on the scenic wooden path and walked to the falls. The path itself is smooth and stroller/wheelchair accessible, but to get to the closest and best viewing spot requires going down lots of steps. The falls are gorgeous, of course. I have a mild waterfall obsession so I am totally enamored of them. It was a hot day and I would have liked to actually get in the water. We did see some people down in the creek (not right under the waterfall though), but we couldn’t figure out how to safely get down there. There was once a small town surrounding the waterfall, and we even saw some ruins from a business that was there.
Since we weren’t quite ready to head home yet, we consulted our park map, searching for more waterfalls. Bridal Veil falls, at the northern end of Cuyahoga Valley National park, caught our eye. When we drove over we realized this waterfall is actually part of Cleveland Metroparks, which seems to intermingle with the national park in places. We walked the path to the viewing area and discovered a lovely waterfall, not as large as Brandywine Falls, but it did have one major advantage. We could get our feet wet in this one. So we both took off our shoes and socks and sat with our feet in the water for awhile, cooling off and relishing the tranquil surroundings. We would have climbed right down the waterfall had we been wearing better suited shoes, and taken a walk down the creek. But we were so hot and sweaty at this point that we were excited just to enjoy the cool water for a bit.
Although we only had a short time in the park, we loved its natural beauty and would like to return for some further exploration. It seemed to be especially popular with bicyclists, probably due to the many paved bike paths throughout.
The park ranger gave us a list of popular attractions at Cuyahoga Valley National Park:
- Brandywine Falls
- Canal Exploration Center
- Everett Covered Bridge
- Ledges Trail
- Beaver Marsh
Keep in mind this is just a partial list highlighting a few popular attractions, and is not by any means inclusive.
After Bridal Veil Falls it was time to make the drive home. My husband and I loved this area of Ohio. Both the downtown Cleveland area and the national park area offer a great deal to travelers of any inclination.
What You Should Know
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is huge! If you don’t know where to begin, head to a visitor information center and ask a ranger for recommendations and directions. This is their job and they are happy to do it!
If you think you might want to get in the water, I suggest wearing some water sandals with a good grip as the rocks are quite slippery.
Horse trails mean horse poop – look down and watch for piles!
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs between Cleveland and Canton and is open year round. I have heard it is particularly lovely in the fall. There are various fares available, including hike or bike trips, which allow for a one way trip so visitors can hike or bike the other way, and also dining options.