Visiting the Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park protects the beautiful rural and natural landscape between Cleveland and Akron Ohio. Established in 1974, the park is an interesting site as it shares national, state, local, and private land within it’s borders. This makes it very different than many of the national parks one can visit with actual towns, homes and shops at various points within the national park.
The park has several beautiful hiking paths and waterfalls as well as a scenic train that winds its way through the park. You can even stay in the park at several inns. Highlights include exploring the rural scenery, the canal towpath, and the culture and history of the area. More than 2 million people visit the park annually (although I don’t know how many that is to the towns vs. the other park sites). The Cuyahoga River winds through the park and lives up to its name meaning Crooked River.
The park is the crown jewel of the National Park units in Ohio.
Scenic Train through Cuyahoga Valley NP
One of the best way to see the park is via the Scenic Train that winds its way around the park. Trains came through the park almost a century ago to transport coal and other goods between the various cities of Ohio. The use of the train waned when other forms of transportation gained in popularity. In the 1970s interest for the trains recovered mostly for scenic trips and the train rides through the parks were born.
There are various stations you can get on and off the train including the Boston Mills, Canal Exploration Center, Botzum Station, Indigo Lake, Rockside Station and several more.
You can ride around the park in about 90 minutes and the train even has quite a few special events such as dinners and murder mystery tours!
Visit the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad Site for more information and tickets.
Popular hikes in Cuyahoga Valley
One of the best hikes to visit in Cuyahoga National Park, the Ledges Trail offer beautiful views and some incredible forested trails to tramp through. The trail is 2.6 miles long and moderately rated and and can generally be completed in 1 – 2 hours. The trail is rocky and can be quite slick, so recommend wearing some proper hiking footwear
Brandywine Gorge Trail
Located by Brandwine Waterfall, this popular trail 1.4 mile loop takes you through the area by the waterfall and creek. You can often see various seasonal pools and the trail can be very muddy at times so dress appropriately. It’s a moderately difficult trail that is very popular with hikers.
Lovely 3.8 mile loop that takes you by Kendell Lake and through forest and farmland in the area. The hike is open year round and even popular in the winter for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Can be very muddy at times, so dress appropriately. The trail tends to be very popular so you’ll likely see many folks along the trail as well.
Waterfalls of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The most famous and largest of the waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Brandywine falls is a must visit attraction in the park. This 67 foot waterfall is easily accessed via a boardwalk from the parking lot. If you have more time, the 1.5 mile long Brandywine Gorge loop gives you a nice hike and more views and eventually down to the creek. However, you’ll still see plenty from the viewpoint if you don’t want the extra walk. For those going, be sure to try to go early (or late) as the falls are a very popular site.
Bridal Veil Falls
Located closer to the north of the park, so it’s a bit further away from the other falls listed here. The visit is a pretty easy one if you are in the area as the falls viewing platform are only about 1/4 mile from the parking lot. Certainly worth a quick stop
Blue Hen Falls
A small waterfall at the end of a challenging 3 mile out and back hike. The hike is fairly popular and should take roughly about 1.5 – 2 hrs. to complete. As waterfalls go though it’s a bit lackluster but still a lovely hike overall. The hike is mostly dirt with a steep stairway along trail as well. You can continue on to Buttermilk falls below if you are up for it.
A 20ft waterfall is located along the trail to Blue Hen falls. It is about an extra .9 miles from the Blue Hen falls to continue on to this waterfall. The trail can be very muddy and the falls are quite secluded but definitely a bit less trafficked then the first part of the trail.
Where to Eat in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Szalay’s Farm & Market
Everyone and anyone who’s in the area knows Szalay’s Farm & Market, located in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley. They have great selection of locally made foods as well as fruit and vegetables. The corn is particularly popular in at the market as well. During the summer you can find various trucks serving up fast food and nice outdoor seating as well. Worth a stop and a look around the shop when in the area.[location]
Fisher’s Café & Pub
Local family restaurant and pub in Peninsula Ohio in the heart of the park. Standard pub fare with good burgers, wings, and apps.
Crooked Kettle Popcorn Company
Also located in Peninsula, Crooked Kettle offers a great set of flavors of delicious kettle corn. It makes a great snack and they have quite a few other snack options available too.
Country Maid Ice Cream
Family owned, home made ice cream located in Richmond Ohio. Country Maid is a local favorite with a delicious variety of ice cream and sorbet flavors. Closed January and February, the store is open daily from April – October and weekends otherwise.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Lodges
There are two lodges that are located within the park. The Stanford House and the Inn at Brandywine Falls
Stanford house home converted into lodging with 9 bedrooms and 2 shared restrooms. You can even rent the entire house for your party. Reservations for the house start as early as 2 years prior, so some busy dates may fill up very early. For those looking to book, check out the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley website.
Inn at Brandywine Falls
Overlooking Brandywine Falls, the Inn features 6 rooms. This beautiful bed and breakfast, built in 1848 has modern amenities but still retains much of it’s old charm. The 67 foot waterfalls nearby are easily accessed as well as other hiking trails and park sites. Be sure to check out the lovely candlelit breakfasts in the morning. To book check out the Inn at Brandywine Falls site.
Hotels Near Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Given the park’s location between Akron and Cleveland, there is plenty of Lodging available near Cuyahoga National Park.
There is a lack of high-end hotels close to the park. But if you are looking for higher end and willing to drive a little, you can certainly find high end hotels within reasonable driving distance to the park.
Ritz Carlton – Cleveland
Located in downtown Cleveland, the Ritz has lovely appointed rooms with the high quality service the brand is known for. The hotel is about 20-25 minutes from Cuyahoga Valley NP (depending on where in the park you are trying to go), so it’s further than some options but still reasonable for those looking for this level of service. The hotel is located near the center of downtown, so there’ll be plenty of places to eat and explore at night after days in the park. [Check Prices for the Ritz Carlton – Cleveland]
The top-end hotels near Cuyahoga Valley are all going to be within the city of Cleveland. Intercontinental, the top-end of the IHG Brand is located outside of downtown in the center of the Cleveland Clinic Campus. Located about 21 miles from the Park, it is a bit further than other options, but is a lovely respite from hiking and exploring during the day. The hotel is near a few lovely neighborhoods to explore like Little Italy. [Check Prices for Intercontinental – Cleveland]
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Akron
It’s nothing exciting but it’s clean and close to the national park. Fairfield Inns have generally good service and nice rooms and also breakfast (albeit nothing special) each morning. It’s a good option close to the park for a reasonable price. [Check prices for Fairfield Inn Akron]
Hilton Garden Inn
Another nice chain hotel that is close-ish to the park. The Hilton Garden is very clean and has pretty good service and amenities. It’s a nice clean place to spend the night after exploring the park that won’t break the bank. [Check prices for Hilton Garden Inn]
FRONTDESK Tremont Oaks Micro Apts Cleveland
Small but comfortable Studio Apartments in the heart of one of my favorite neighborhoods in Cleveland. Tremont is a great place to explore and has some great restaurants to check out after you spend the days in the park. It is located about 25 mins from the park, but it’ll give you a lot to do in the evenings as well.
[Check Prices for FrontDesk Tremont]
The Ohio Motel
Located only a few miles west of the park, the Ohio Motel is basic but a reasonable option for those on a budget. Most of the rooms run under $50 dollars a night which is really good for the area. If you are like me and only use hotels as a base to sleep, it might be a good option to save money and be close by to explore the park. [Check Prices for The Ohio Motel]
Camping in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
There are no drive-up campsites within the park. However for backcountry hikers, there is an opportunity to use primitive backcountry camping sites along trails in the park. These are however only available from Memorial Day through the end of October.
Boston Mill Visitor Center: 6947 Riverview Road Peninsula, OH 44264
Open 9am – 5pm daily. May have limited staff / hours during the winter.
Canal Exploration Center: 7104 Canal Road Valley View, OH 44125
Open 10am – 4pm – May – September
Hunt House: 2054 Bolanz Road Peninsula, OH 44264
Open: 10am – 4pm: Daily – Memorial Day – Labor Day
Friday / Saturday (April 1 – Memorial Day)
Free! You can come and go and explore the park for free, which is definitely one of my favorite aspects of Cuyahoga Valley NP.
National Park Passport Stamp Locations
Passport (cancelation) Stamps can be found at the various Visitors Centers at Boston Mills, Canal Exploration Center, and Hunt House
Website: Official NPS Website