Though it’s only a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away. The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife, and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. Walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal. You can fish, golf and even enjoy skiing and snowboarding!
My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! I’ve been to 48 of our 61 National Parks — and Cuyahoga Valley is a great place to visit – regardless of the time of year! Cuyahoga Valley is unusual in that it is adjacent to two large urban areas and includes a dense road network, small towns, and private attractions. I have explored much of the park — so I’m ready to help!
If this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park!
Ride the Scenic Train
The National Park Scenic Railway is a unique way to experience all the natural wonder Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Sit back and relax as the train weaves through the Cuyahoga Valley and races along with the rushing Cuyahoga River. Look for eagles, deer, beavers and otters in their natural habitat.
From January-May, the National Park Scenic excursion is a two-and-a-half hour round trip through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Board at Rockside Station, Peninsula Depot, or at Akron Northside Station. From June through October, the train runs Wednesdays-Sundays on an extended schedule. You can choose from a variety of seating options including coach, table top, first class, lounge, upper dome, executive class, or suites.
You can hike more than 125 miles of trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park that range from nearly level to challenging. ,Pass through various habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and old fields. Some trails require you to cross streams with stepping stones or log bridges, while others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and are accessible to all visitors. A portion of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail also passes through the park.
Biking the Towpath Trail
This multi-purpose trail was developed by the National Park Service and is the major trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The East Rim Trail System has stunning views, varied terrain, exciting obstacles, and an element of adventure for anyone who explores it.
Bike and Hike Aboard
Bike or hike the Towpath Trail in one direction and hop on the train on your way back! The train can be flagged down at boarding stations by waving both arms over your head. You should arrive 10 minutes prior to the train’s scheduled arrival…and you can pay your fare when you board.
Visit the Beaver Marsh
The Beaver Marsh is among the most diverse natural communities in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The exceptional scenery and wildlife make it one of the park’s most popular destinations. Here you can enjoy photography, bird watching, and sharing nature with family and friends.
Enjoy Brandywine Falls
Brandywine Falls is one of the most popular locations in the park. This 65-foot waterfall is accessed via a partially accessible boardwalk. For a more challenging trip, take the steep stairs to the lower viewpoint or the 1.4-mile Brandywine Gorge Trail.
Hike or Picnic at The Ledges
The Ritchie Ledges are witnesses to change – from creation out of Sharon Conglomerate millions of years ago, to landscapes wrecked by humans and to preservation today. The Civilian Conservation Corps created the park you see today, building trails and shelters throughout the area.
Explore Blue Hen Falls
This 15-foot waterfall is a beautiful hike every time of year. There is a small parking lot located across the street from the main trailhead. From there, the falls are a steep half-mile hike.
The Cuyahoga River and numerous ponds are open to fishing. Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s philosophy is to maintain the predator-prey relationship rather than to stock fish for recreational fishing. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged to maintain the fish populations needed for continued sport fishing. The park has over 65 species of fish that live in its waters. Steelhead trout and bullhead can be caught in the Cuyahoga River. Bluegill, bass, and crappie can be caught in lakes and ponds in the park.
Kayaking and Canoeing
People who want to canoe or kayak the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Valley National Park need to bring their own equipment and have experience to manage the safety risks posed by the river. The National Park Service does not maintain the river for recreational use. Canoeing and kayaking the river can be dangerous. Water quality, low head dams, and debris in the river all pose hazards.
Viewing the Cuyahoga Valley landscape from horseback is like no other experience. Horseback riding is permitted only on trails signed and designated as horse trails. Horses need to be brought in as there are no horse rentals adjacent to the bridle trails.
Try Your Hand at Canalway Questing
Find more than 40 adventures—called quests—along the Ohio & Erie Canal! Put on your sleuthing hat and follow rhyming clues and a curious map to each hidden quest box. Along the way, discover the area’s treasures—the natural and cultural gems of the Canalway. Unlike geocaching, no GPS unit is needed and no trinkets are exchanged. When you find a quest box, collect its unique stamp, sign its logbook, and put it back in place for others to discover.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers the unique opportunity for golfing within the park, although none of the golf courses are federally owned or operated. You can golf at any of the following courses:
Astorhurst Country Club
Brandywine Golf Course
Shawnee Hills Golf Course
Sleepy Hollow Golf Course
I’ve created a poster to celebrate Cuyahoga Valley National Park that features the famous Brandywine Falls. The poster can also be purchased at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park shops in the park!
Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist with a single passion for our National Parks! Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph each of our national parks and to create WPA-style posters to celebrate the amazing landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history that embody America’s Best Idea!