Cuyahoga Valley National Park isn't one of those parks that people think of when they're asked to name their favorite. Usually, it's Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but not Cuyahoga. If we're being honest, we didn't even know it existed until this past year when we started planning our trips to several of our National Parks.
This is what's fun about visiting parks like this though - you get to learn and experience something new and it's always an adventure!
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Discover Cuyahoga Valley National Park
For those who don't know, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located south of Cleveland, OH where the Cuyahoga River winds its way towards Lake Erie. It was a primary shipping channel especially after the completion of the Erie Canal where goods could be easily moved around by boat to markets on the east coast. Shipping was a major economic driver in this area and there is a long-time maritime tradition to discover during your visit. This area also had ties to the Underground Railroad which history buffs will find interesting.
Today, this park is uniquely situated between several major roads and interstates and provides locals and visitors a place to ride bikes or hike and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. It's a small park in relative size to some others like Rocky Mountain NP, but it's big on character and fun things to do for families.
Things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Hike or bike the trails
The Towpath Trail is the primary trail in the park and runs right along the Cuyhoga River. At about 21 miles from start to finish, its a good trail to bike, and a few nearby shops are happy to rent you one for the day. You can also walk just a portion of the trail and even flag down the train!
Need a Bike Rental?
Visit the beautiful waterfalls
During your visit, make sure to visit some of the park's waterfalls. Brandywine Falls is the largest at 65 feet and is a beautiful place to hike and just listen to the water. The kids enjoyed the hike through the forest on their way to the falls, and it doesn't take long to get there. Take the Brandywine Gorge Trail which is an easy 1.5 mile loop through the forest.
Other falls in the park are Blue Hen Falls via the half-mile Blue Hen Falls Trail and Bridal Veil Falls, so if you've got the day to enjoy the park, be sure to check those out.
Go for a train ride
Another unique feature of this park is the train that runs through it. Visitors can ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad which will take you right through the park. Purchase an all day pass or flag down the train during your hike or bike ride and hitch a ride back to your car. A round trip on the train will run about 3 and a half hours, but you can get on and off at any of the stations to do some exploring. In wintertime, they even run a special Polar Express with hot cocoa. Yum!
Buying train tickets for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
All Day Passes:
Adult Coach: $18, Child Coach (ages 3-12): $13
Adult First Class: $23, Child First Class (ages 3-12): $18
Adult Dome Tickets: $28, Child Dome Tickets (ages 3-12): $23
Book your tickets rights here:
As with any National Park, be sure to check their calendar of events before your trip to see what's going on. Many times there are special programs or Ranger-led activities that will enhance your trip.
Play in the snow
If you plan on visiting during the winter months and there is snow on the ground, you can check out the winter sports center which offers Ranger-led snowshoe treks, cross-country skiing, tubing, sledding, and ice fishing. They even have an alpine ski hill if you're interested.
We've found that visiting the parks in winter is actually a great idea. The crowds are generally smaller, and they offer a beauty all their own that you don't get to see in the summer, so we say go for it! Get all the details right here.
Sign up for a free 4th grade National Park pass!
Have a 4th grader? Sign up for Every Kid in a Park and get a free park pass good for one year. It's easy! Check out our post for all the details.
The park is open every day 24 hours a day.
Boston Store Visitor Center: 8am-6pm in summer. 9:30-5:00 the rest of the year.
Canal Exploration Center: Generally 10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Hunt House: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Getting to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Getting here is pretty simple - we had no issues just plugging it in to Google Maps and following the directions. I-77 north or south will get you here as well as I-80 from the east or west.
Don't overlook this little gem
If you weren't from the area, you may miss this park altogether, but it's a great place to visit and explore with kids. Although we didn't have time to take the train, visiting Brandywine Falls and hiking some of the trails was fun for all of us. We would love to visit during the fall and winter months when the scenery is supposed to be truly breathtaking with the beautiful fall colors and snow.
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Have you been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park? Let us know what your favorite part was and leave us a comment!