Cuyahoga Valley: A Guide to Ohio’s Only National Park

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I've admitted to this before, but growing up in northeast Ohio, I was a pretty terrible Ohioan. I basically ignored most of the cool things in my own state (and even in my own country), instead always focusing on getting out.

I went to Cleveland *maybe* once a year. I didn't visit Put-In-Bay for the first time until well after I graduated college. I've only been to the Hocking Hills once. I've never even been to Amish Country.

And, up until I moved to Twinsburg, I had barely set foot in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Shame, shame on me on many counts.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Not only is my home state pretty freaking awesome, but it's one and only national park is also worth way more attention than I gave it in my teens and twenties.

But I'm amending that oversight now, attempting to visit as much as I can in every season.

Cuyahoga Valley: Ohio's only national park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the only national park in the state of Ohio. It stretches from Cleveland to Akron, following the Cuyahoga River through some beautiful sections of deciduous forest. 

It was first established in 1974 as the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area and then was designated as a national park in the year 2000.

These days, people head to the park for outdoor activities like hiking and biking, taking advantage of the miles and miles of trails that take you through scenery that varies from marshy wetlands to mossy limestone ledges. There are even a few waterfalls!

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Brandywine Falls

Living so close to Cuyahoga Valley National Park these days, I've become quite proud and protective of it. My husband and I are members of the CVNP Conservancy, and we take our bikes (or our hiking shoes) to the park as often as we can.

And now I'm on a mission to make other people fall in love with the park, too.

Virginia Kendall Ledges

Things to do at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Visiting CVNP so often, I've developed some favorites when it comes to places to see and things to do. Whether it's by car, foot, bike, or train, here are all of my must-dos for a visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park:

1. Hike Virginia Kendall Ledges

There are miles upon miles of hiking trails within Cuyahoga Valley National Park (over 125 miles of them, according to the National Park Service), but my favorite trail by far is the trail that takes you around the Virginia Kendall Ledges.

This 2.2-mile trail is a moderate one, taking you through a forested landscape dotted with gigantic limestone boulders, caves, and mossy cliffs.

Virginia Kendall Ledges at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

This is one of my favorite places in the park to take photos!

Virginia Kendall Ledges at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

RELATED: The Best Hiking Trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

2. Visit Brandywine Falls

There are a handful of notable waterfalls within Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but the most famous is definitely Brandywine Falls. This 65-foot-tall waterfall is easy to reach from a nice parking area via a wooden boardwalk, and is great to see in every season. (Autumn so far is probably my favorite!)

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Brandywine Falls

If you're interested in some of the other waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park that you have to hike to, I also recommend Blue Hen and Buttermilk falls.

Buttermilk Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Standing atop Buttermilk Falls

3. Bike the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

Since CVNP runs along the Cuyahoga River, this means that the river's history is also now part of the park's history. Back before the days of airplanes and reliable railroads, goods were transported throughout northeast Ohio using a canal system. 

Today, the path that mules used to use to tow boats up the historic Ohio & Erie Canal in the 1800s has been turned into a multi-purpose hiking and biking trail.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Towpath Trail in summer

The Towpath Trail is one of my favorite places for a bike ride, since it's mostly paved, mostly flat, and so very scenic. Elliot and I like to start in Peninsula for many of our rides since there are some shops and a restaurant near the trailhead.

Towpath Trail in CVNP
Towpath Trail in autumn

4. Shop at Szalay's

If you live in northeast Ohio, chances are you've heard of Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm and Market. During the summer months, this farmer's market is a great spot to either visit on its own, or to ride to on the Towpath.

I love the colorful fresh produce and the grilled corn you can pick up for a snack. In the fall, they also put on a great corn maze!

Szalay's Market in Ohio
Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm and Market

5. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is unique in that is also has a railroad running through it. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is extremely popular with park visitors, especially during the autumn when the park bursts into fall colors.

The railroad operates scenic rides, themed trips (such as their popular Polar Express trip), and even has a Bike Aboard program where you can ride the train one way and bike the other for just $3.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

FAQ about visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Here are some things to know before you visit CVNP:

Where is Cuyahoga Valley National Park?

The park is in northeast Ohio, roughly following the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron.

Where should I start?

The official visitor center for CVNP is at the Boston Store Visitor Center on Boston Mills Road.

When can I visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park?

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is open year-round. Visit in all four seasons to see how different it looks!

How much does it cost?

It's $0! There is no entry fee to enjoy Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Can I rent a bike?

If you want to hit the Towpath trail but don't have your own bike, check out Century Cycles near the Peninsula trailhead/train depot for rentals.

How do you take the train?

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad departs for scenic rides through the park anywhere from 2 to 4 times per day from June to October. The Peninsula Depot is the most popular place to board the train.

Where to stay in Cuyahoga Valley National Park?

The park is large and covers a handful of cities; you can base yourself in Akron, Hudson, or Peninsula. There are some places to stay within the park, too, like the Inn at Brandywine Falls and the Silver Fern Bed & Breakfast.

If you're interested in an Airbnb rental, check out this cozy cottage in Akron, or this larger apartment in Peninsula.

Can you camp at Cuyahoga Valley National Park?

There is no camping within Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are some private and state park campsites within driving distance, though. Refer to this list for suggestions from the National Park Service.

Have you ever been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park? If not, does this post make you want to visit?

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"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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71 Comments on “Cuyahoga Valley: A Guide to Ohio’s Only National Park

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  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I honestly had no thought or desire to visit Ohio…until last week when my sister and I were exploring our genealogy and found some ancestors that were born there. Now the history, land and historical sights seem like treasure boxes.

      Ohio often gets overlooked by tourists, but there really is so much to see here!

    Wow, the nature here looks epic!! I’d spend the whole day in awe if I was there 🙂

      It is indeed a very scenic place! I often take my camera when I go. 🙂

    This is encouraging me to look at my home are as a visitor would. We also have a very large Amish community near me.

    I’ve been through Ohio, actually spent a day in Cleveland. Thoroughly enjoyed the R&R Hall of Fame. Didn’t get a chance to go to the Christmas Story house?.
    Would like to go back and see more.

      Cleveland is quite a cool city once you spend some time there – I definitely need to write more about it on my blog!

    Haha, people usually tend to ignore their own backyard. 😀 We also realize from time to time that ‘Oh my God, how could we have never visited this place though it’s sooo close to us?’. The answer is usually exactly that. It’s close so we can go any time, that’s why we never plan to go… 😀
    Never heard about this park… actually, we don’t really know what’s worth seeing in Ohio either. Glad to read this post!

      Yup, that’s so true! But I’m trying to be better about seeing more of my home state (it’s a great way to still “travel” in between trips!).

      And there’s a lot to do in Ohio! 😉

    I’m so glad you posted this! I spend a lot of time in the park and the Summit County metro parks that are nearby as well. My husband and I like running on the towpath and at Hampton Hills. And Szalay’s in the fall is a must! You’ve reminded me that I need to get there soon for some grilled corn 🙂

      Mmm grilled corn! Szalay’s is the best!

    Amanda, I was so excited when I saw this post. I grew up right in middle of Cleveland and Akron, and while my parents always took us biking though the area, I never quite understood how lucky we were to have this beautiful park just a few minutes away. I recently went back to Ohio to see family and realized how beautiful that area is. After your post, I think I have my itinerary planned for the next time I go to visit.

      Definitely so lucky! And the fact that it’s free to visit is just icing on the cake!

    This sounds amazing!

    It’s quite funny as I’m coming at the Midwest from the opposite way – I’m a born and raised east-coaster who left the country for five years and then WILLINGLY moved to Indianapolis. (Cue gasps from all the 20-something Hoosiers trying to escape!)

    I think the Midwest has so much to offer and this is an absolutely amazing example!

      That’s awesome! The Midwest really IS great, and I’m enjoying exploring more of it every year!

    Ha I was the same in terms of exploring my own country. I’m making much more of an effort to explore the Netherlands nowadays. Cuyahoga Valley looks like a gorgeous park, especially the train is something I wouldn’t want to miss!

      The train is very cool – it’s a unique way to see the park! And good for you for making an effort to see more of your own country!

    Ah, such good memories. I used to visit Cuyahoga Valley once a year or so while growing up in Ohio. I’m glad you enjoyed it there, too!

      I love it here! It’s one thing I would definitely miss if I moved away from Ohio.

    The park looks beautiful and refreshing! I think most of us bad travelers when it comes to our own backyards. We set out to travel the far-flung places but ignore what we have at home. Like in my case, I visited Taj Mahal just last year and that too when Uttar Pradesh Tourism Board held a travel writers conclave and invited me!

      Yes, it’s so easy to ignore your own backyard, or to keep pushing it off until “later.” But I’ve discovered what a mistake that is! I feel like I’m always traveling now, even when I’m at home, because I’m making it a point to explore more of Ohio whenever I can!

    Hi Amanda! I tried contacting you via email but it is saying your email address is no longer valid. Please email me at Thanks!

      Oh how weird! It’s definitely still valid! I’ll shoot you an email. 🙂

    Ha, I can relate so much. I am the worst Californian! I have been to Italy, how many times? But I have never been to the Grand Canyon or Yosemite (well, I went when I was little, but I don’t remember, so I don’t count it). I have been getting out more in my area, but those are two big ones I still need to hit.

      It’s so funny how everyone can relate to this! (And yes, get your butt to those great parks – especially Yosemite!)

    Dude I’ve been wanting to visit CVNP forever! It fascinated me that in one of the most random and forgotten states in the country there was a national park. Same with Hot Springs and Congaree. Unfortunately living in Las Vegas means Ohio is waaay out of my way…

      I love to brag about CVNP because it’s quite special! Glad to hear it was already on your list! Maybe you’ll just have to plan a special visit to the Midwest. 🙂

    This looks beautiful! I will admit until recently I didn’t know that Ohio had a national park! We just returned from a trip to the Mighty 5 last week and bought the glossy book to read through on the way home – I can’t wait to visit CVNP!

      Eventually I would love to visit all the national parks in the US – I’m sure there are quite a few I’ve never heard of, either!

    We went to a DMB concert at the nearby amphitheater a couple summers ago and also had to check out the National Park – it’s really beautiful, and lots of nice little hikes to check out!

      Ah, Blossom. Such a fun concert venue! Glad you liked the park, too!

    My husband and I visited Cuyahoga National Park last year on our way back to NJ from Oregon. I was very impressed with the amount of greenery which cooled down the park. We always stop at one Ranger Station in every park we stop in. I do the park passport program which allows you to stamp your book at every park and if you wish you can purchase the stickers for the parks. We are not hikers or bikers but we do drive thru any park we run across. I call Cuyahoga the GEM park. It is truly beautiful to drive through. It is a true GEM to visit.

      I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it so much, Kathleen!

    Hey! This is wonderful! Just went to Brandywine Falls and Blue Hen Falls in the last few weeks. It was an amazing experience. Planning to go check out the Virginia Kendall Ledges next! Thanks for the amazing post and all the info! 😀

      The Virginia Kendall Ledges are my favorite! And fall is a really great time to go.

    Great article, Amanda! Cuyahoga has been on my list for few years now. And after reading your article and seeing your pictures, I know, I need to find time to visit it this year. Especially, that I’m so close (Detroit suburbs).

      Absolutely! It’s one of my favorite national parks because of how accessible it is, and because there’s so much you can do!

    I too was a terrible Ohioan when I lived there. I didn’t visit Cuyahoga National Park until after I had moved out of Ohio, started loving national parks, and realized I should visit the one in my home state. You did a great job of giving others insight on such an awesome place! Unfortunately, I only visited once in the freezing winter, but I’ll definitely use this post when I make it back there!

      I think we all tend to overlook the things that are in our own backyards! I highly recommend visiting again sometime in the summer or fall!

    Success! – Cuyahoga is now on our list, thanks to your blog (which I accidentally stumbled upon!) – I have been to Acadia, Joshua Tree, Arches, Canyonlands, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Rocky we’re looking forward to Cuyahoga! We’ll hopefully remember to keep you posted when it materializes as it’s your credit 🙂

      Cuyahoga Valley is underrated as a national park, so I’m glad it’s now on your list!

    As a fellow travel blogger, I really enjoyed this article. I’m thinking of visiting
    Cuyahoga Valley this November.

    Thanks for promoting CVNP. I too have lived in NE Ohio for most of my life and didn’t come to appreciate the gem in our backyard until more recently. I first “discovered” the Towpath and found it is a great place to run. If you’re training for a race, they have water fountains at “just the right” places. Recently my running pals and I expanded our adventures to the trails. I had NO IDEA there were so many amazingly trails. The park is really a great place for all to enjoy. The Towpath is very accessible. For people who have to make a bit of a drive to get there, Peninsula is a wonderful place to meander about; stop in the shops, go for breakfast at Fisher’s on the weekends. Or the Winking Lizard for lunch or dinner. And don’t forget the dozen or so farms nearby.

      The Towpath is so great! As are all the other trails and sections of the park; I still haven’t seen it all!

    Coming to Ohio from the UK in July ’19 and staying in Peninsula (in the Silver Fern B&B) for 4 nights. Cannot wait, it all looks so beautiful. Hopefully we will get the time to tick off this top 5!

      You can definitely tick off all these things in 4 days! Hope you have a great time!

    Absolutely loved this article and excited that I found your blog. My husband and I travel often to Europe. We enjoy exploring around on our own and have hundreds of pictures. However, I am an avid biker as well. we live in the Pittsburgh and always looking for new areas to explore.

    Keep it coming.

      Well if you’ve never been over this way to CVNP, I highly recommend a visit!

    Thank you for the wonderful introduction to CVNP…. we’re from NJ and we going to be visiting Akron in the next week for a softball tournament. We love to hike and bike! We will definitely visit the park at least once, hopefully twice. I am particularly appreciative of the tip on where to rent bikes as we would like to ride the tow path.

    I’m glad I found this post! I’m in Cincinnati with a weekend to spare…and your post totally convinced me to visit CVNP!

      Awesome! I don’t think you’ll regret it – it’s a lovely park!

    I’ve been going to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park all my life and growing up and being part of the Boy Scouts this place offers endless beauty. I remember as a kid going on many adventures at camp Manatoc and Camp Butler that it holds close to my heart. There is a place in our hearts that is seldom traveled that is hidden and unknown that leads us to a secret place. (Chief Luther Standing Bear 1839 to 1938) I think for us Ohioans I think that’s the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As an adult I revisited this park and I’m on a personal journey myself as an artist walking the trails and capturing the beauty of this park in my work which is my personal journey. My name is Dave and if you ever see a young man on the trail standing off to the side painting a picture that is me. Happy hiking and God bless the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

    My mom always said there was so much to see in Ohio that we didn’t need to travel far away. We would take one day trips on the weekends and see so much! Part of those trips landed us at the CV parks. Now we have taken our kids there. We have done all that you have listed here. I am grateful for the fond memories of riding our bikes up the towpath to see the falls and then resting on the train back to Szalays. I grew up on a produce farm that is no longer operating, so seeing Szalays still prospering warms my heart! We run into so many friends that come there to just relax on a glider and listen to the musicians. Thanks for highlighting our area!

    where to stay while making a visit to the park?

      There are two suggestions at the very end of this post that are within the park. Nearby, you could look at towns like Hudson and Twinsburg, or even go as far as Akron or the Cleveland area if you have a car and don’t mind driving a bit.

    I’m going to hike the Valley late October this year. I am bring my Border Collie with me. Which trails do you recommend for hiking with a dog? Which should we avoid?
    Appreciate your input. I cannot wait to go.

      I know you can take dogs on most of the trails in CVNP, including the Towpath Trail, as long as they’re on a leash. So it just depends on which trails you’re interested in! The Ledges Trail at Virginia Kendall Ledges is my favorite shorter trail, and is fine for dogs. The Towpath Trail is a good option if you want something flat and mostly paved.

    I love this park too! FYI the ledges are sandstone not limestone and the towpath trail is crushed stone not paved.

      Parts of the Towpath trail are paved! But you’re right about the ledges – they are indeed sandstone!

    Thanks for pulling together highlights online. There aren’t that many guidebooks out there covering CVNP (will check again before we travel). Looking forward to visiting one of the few driving distance NPs from Chicago.

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