If you’re visiting Northeast Ohio, you may not realize we have our own nature retreat right in Cleveland’s backyard. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an easy drive from both Cleveland and Akron and can provide a fantastic getaway from, well everything. I’m always surprised when I talk to Ohioans who have never been here or even worse, never heard of it. It’s one of mine and G’s favorite places to go in the area for hiking, biking and just spending time in nature. With over 125 miles of trails and the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath, there are many ways to explore this park. Here are some of our favorite places to stop when taking a daytrip to the park!
Stop 1:Brandywine Falls
The boardwalk to Brandywine Falls makes this easy to find and doesn’t require any actual hiking, although you will want to be aware that there are quite a few stairs that you need to descend to get to the viewing platform. When you come to the stairs, you have the option of going down them or continuing on; going down the stairs will take you to the viewing platform and continuing straight on will take you to the top of the waterfall.
There is also a gravel trail at this stop, but the last few times I have been there, the bridge that takes you across the creek has been out, so just be sure to read any posted signs before hiking this one.
Stop 2: Blue Hen Falls and Buttermilk Falls
Address:2001 Boston Mills Rd. Peninsula, OH
Travel time from Brandywine Falls: 9 mins driving
If you’re interested in finding more waterfalls, Blue Hen Falls is a lesser known waterfall in CVNP with a trail that leads to an even lesser known waterfall Buttermilk Falls. Both of these falls are best visited after a heavy rain but are beautiful nontheless. The trail to get to Blue Hen is pretty easy and is about .5 mile. The parking lot here literally has only 3 spots. Never fear, there is overflow parking across the road in case these 3 spots are taken when you get here.
To find Buttermilk Falls, you will have to continue on the trail that follows along the creek. There will be a sign that reads, “end of trail”, but thats just a funny joke, because the trail actually continues on for a while. This waterfall used to be much more hidden, as there was no trail beyond that sign and you had to basically follow along the creek itself, which could get pretty tricky. This trail is about a mile long once you pass Blue Hen and does require you to cross the creek a few times, so be sure to wear proper shoes. Its not marked, but if you follow the trail and the creek, you’ll find it.
Once you get there, you will actually arrive at the top of the falls; just continue to follow the trail and it will bring you all the way down. This is a moderate hike, so I’d recommned bringing water. Oh yea, and bug spray. For sure. This waterfall really does depend on the rainfall, but its secluded and peaceful and I’ve never seen anyone else there.
To get back to the parking lot, just follow the trail back in the same direction you came.
Stop 3: Virginia Kendall Ledges
Address: 701 Truxell Rd. Peninsula, OH
Travel time from Blue Hen: 11 minutes driving
So I’m kind of lying here…..the address I just gave you is actually for the Ledges overlook, however it is the address I use to find the ledges trails. I have never sucessfully found an accurate address for the Ledges trail, but if you use this address to get you to Truxell, you will easily find the Ledges trail. Everything around here is pretty clearly marked, so just pay attention to the signs and you should have no problem finding it.
Did you know Ohio had landscapes like this?! We actually have quite a few areas of ledges in Northeast Ohio, but these are probably the most impressive to me. The trail is a total of 2.2 miles, with a 1.75 mile loop trail actually encompassing the ledges. This is a great area to expore on hotter days because the rocks give a great colling effect.
There is also a nearby lake and an overlook if you want to catch a sunset here, all located on Truxell Rd.
If you’re in need of food or drinks, we recommend stopping at Trail Mix, which is part of the Conservancy for CVNP. There is one in Peninsula and one in Boston Heights(that also has a Peninsula address). You can get your National Parks Passport stamped here as well as purchase souvenirs. Also consider a stop at the Boston Store Visitor Center while you’re in the area. Here you can meet park employees, check out events that may be currently going on and pick up brochures for things to do in the area. There are restrooms here as well. Located at 1550 Boston Mills Rd. Peninsula, OH, this is one of the areas you can park your vehicle and pick up the Towpath trail!
There is plenty to do while at CVNP. Its a nice daytrip or could be turned into an entire vacation. There are plenty of hiking trails at Cuyahoga Valley National Park with varying levels of difficulty depending on your tastes. You can learn more about planning your trip to CVNP here!
The park is FREE, no fees are required for entry.
The towpath trail can be hiked or biked. Renting a bike or biking at Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great way to explore the park and there are a variety trails available.
Bug spray is a must here!
We recommend packing a picnic if planning to spend the day at the park. As suggested earlier, you can stop at Trail Mix(a great pitstop if you’re biking the trail) to grab water, Gatorade, snacks, wraps and even Mitchell’s ice cream! There are also several restaurants in the areas of Peninsula, Brecksville and Northfield if you need something more substantial.
You can camp at CVNP, however there are only 5 campsites along the towpath. Other places to stay include lodging inside the park as well as hotels in the areas of Brecksville and Richfield. We’ve stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Richfield, OH, which was inexpensive and about a 10 minute drive to our favorite areas of the park!
The park has its own railroad system, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which offers several different day excursions as well as the Bike Aboard! program and special events programs like the Polar Express, Wine and Ale trains and many other seasonal favorites. For something a little different to add to your visit or just a fun day excursion, check them out!