Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a lush, beautiful park nestled in the trees just south of Cleveland. This park is integrated into the local area, intermixed with towns and roads, but it is still a great place to get out and hike and see nature.
We spent one day exploring this national park and we saw a lot of amazing spots. In this post we are going to share how we planned our day as a family. We were there in early June, so the park wasn’t very busy, which helped with parking problems. Our trip mostly worked from the bottom of the park to the top. Hopefully our family guide will help you organize your trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Stop 1: Beaver Marsh
The Beaver Marsh was our favorite place in Cuyahoga Valley. It is a hike of indeterminate length depending on how far you want to go. We hiked about 1/2 mile roundtrip just to the marsh and back. There is a high chance of seeing birds and other wildlife, but watch out for the snapping turtles! We chose to do this early in the morning for better chances fo seeing wildlife. For more details about this hike, visit our post on the Beaver Marsh hike.
Stop 2: Everett Bridge
This is a small covered bridge in the south section of the park. It is only about 50 yards off the road, and there isn’t much to do but take pictures. If you are in the Beaver Marsh area, it is worth the stop to see this beautiful bridge.
Stop 3: Visitor Center
The main Visitor Center for Cuyahoga Valley is called Boston Mills. There is a large parking lot and a small building. Rangers can help direct you and give you any information or Junior Ranger booklets that you may need. This Visitor Center is centrally located in the park. We visited this spot a little bit out of order so we could pick up our Junior Ranger booklets and get them completed before the Visitor Center closed.
Stop 4: Brandywine Falls
This is the main hike in the park, and it gets busy, so we headed here while it was still early. When we did this hike, it required a 3 mile hike along the Stanford Trail. However, when the parking lot is functioning, it is only a few hundred yards down to this roaring waterfall. Even if you are just passing through, Brandywine Falls deserves a stop. For our write up, including the Stanford Trail, use this link.
Stop 5: The Ledges Trail
This hike takes you along the base of a beautiful moss covered ledge. It is only about 2 miles, and you can make it shorter by adjusting your route. We liked this hike as much as any in the park. Use the link for a full review and how to see the best ledges. If you’re ready for lunch, you can eat here after this trail. We ate at the next stop (Kendall Lake). Either is a great spot for lunch.
Stop 6: Kendall Lake
There is a nice little lake that is used for fishing, picnicking, and bird watching called Kendall Lake. It is nice to stroll along the shore, looking at the frogs, geese, and, if you look closely enough, the bluegill, swimming in the water. There is a full trail here, but we just casually walked along the edge to look for animals. This is also where we enjoyed our picnic lunch.
Stop 7: Lock 29
The Erie Canal was a massive canal system that included many locks around this part of the country. Cuyahoga Valley National Park has many locks throughout the park. Lock 29 is an example of lock that used to raise and lower boats to different levels on the canal. This is a roadside stop where you can walk inside and on top of the lock. It’s a great stop for some pictures and history.
Stop 8: Visitor Center Again
The first time we visited the Visitor Center we just grabbed the Junior Ranger booklets and hurried out. On this visit, we look through the small displays and we also walked down to the little overlook of the river. We also make sure to get our kids Junior Ranger books turned in and those badges collected.
Stop 9: Blue Hen Falls
While you are parked at the Boston Mills Visitor Center is the time to do the Blue Hen Falls trail. This is an up-and-down hike to a waterfall that can easily be done as a drop off or a shuttle. The waterfall is really pretty and just a few hundred yards from the road. The problem is, you can’t park on the road, so you need to take the Buckeye Trail from the Visitor Center. Use the link for the full story.
Stop 10: Station Road Bridge
Another roadside stop, Station Road Bridge, allows you to get a good look at an old iron bridge that used to be used for vehicle traffic. As you walk on the bridge now, you can see the more modern, but still beautiful bridge that is used for higher volumes of traffic now.
Stop 11: Bridal Veil Falls
This waterfall forms a chute and looks as if it would make an amazing slide. Of course, you can’t do that, but you can enjoy the waterfall from a distance. It’s only about 200 yards to the waterfall, so it won’t take too long. There are some stairs down to this falls, so be prepared for a little up and down.
That was the end of our day at Cuyahoga National Park. We headed out of the park to grab some dinner. If we had another day, here are a few suggestions of spots we weren’t able to visit.
- Scenic Train Rides: There are scenic train rides through the park. The train wasn’t running the days we were there, and we were sad to miss trying a train ride. So make sure to check out information about this activity.
- Canal Exploration Center: This information center teaches about the Erie Canal. It was closed the day we went, but looks like a great stop. Hours here.
- Hunt House: The Hunt House is usually only open on the weekends, but is said to have some fun child-friendly activities and information.
- Bike the Towpath Trail: Another popular activity is to bike through Cuyahoga Valley. You can also bike or hike one way, and catch the train on the way back.