Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Location: Ohio

Park Tally: 25/59

Orientation: Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located between Akron and Cleveland in Northeast Ohio. Cuyahoga Valley is a lush and hilly slice of nature nestled between suburbia, bustling roads and freeways. The park is known for its tree-covered hills, secluded trails and the Cuyahoga River. Summer draws crowds to ride the scenic railroad, cycle and jog the park’s numerous paths, and to picnic by the water. In contrast, winter provides a snowy wonderland for sledding, skiing and snowshoeing.

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Most iconic view: By far the best-known feature of Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the Ohio & Erie Canal and associated Towpath Trail and Scenic Railroad. The historic Ohio & Erie Canal route runs through the Cuyahoga River valley and continues both north and south of the park. The canal system was built in the early 1800s and helped positively shape Ohio’s economy and population. A flood damaged the canal in 1913 and it was deemed too expensive to repair.

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Today visitors can enjoy the Ohio & Erie Canal via the adjacent running Towpath Trail, which snakes through the park for 19.5-miles. The trail is fully accessible and a popular spot for jogging, walking and cycling. Another option for exploring the Ohio & Erie Canal is via an excursion on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The train runs Wednesday-Sunday during summer/fall and visitors can opt for a special Polar Express train ride during the winter months. The park also offers visitors the option to bike the Towpath Trail in one direction and then ride the train back to their car.

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Accessible activity: Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers numerous scenic and accessible activities for everyone to enjoy. A popular short trail is the Brandywine Gorge Trail loop, which provides views of the second tallest waterfall in Ohio, Brandywine Falls (60 feet). The trail is wheelchair accessible to the first boardwalk overlook and then a spur off the main boardwalk has numerous steps down towards a closer view of the falls.

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Everett Covered Bridge is another picturesque spot in the park. The historic bridge can be viewed via a quarter-mile walk from the parking lot along a wheelchair accessible path. Additionally, the Ledges is a scenic location to spend time whilst exploring the park. The Ledges is the name for the sandstone cliffs that rise up from hemlock-birch forest in the southern section of the park. They can be accessed via a 2.2-mile roundtrip trail, which involves some steps, rocky sections and 80 feet in elevation gain.

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For the adventurous: The 19.5-mile Towpath Trail (mentioned above) is a fantastic way to bike, walk or jog the entire length of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Another adventurous activity in the park is to get out on the Cuyahoga River for a canoeing or kayaking trip. Though keep in mind that canoeing and kayaking on the river can be dangerous and the park does not maintain the river for paddling (though it is not prohibited).

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Best photo opportunities: Brandywine Falls provides a magical setting for photography when the light peeks just over the surrounding foliage, not long after sunrise. Another photogenic location is the Ledges as it faces sunset and provides gorgeous views over the nearby hills.

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Quick facts

  • Cuyahoga Valley began to be developed as a park in the 1910s, becoming a National Recreation Area in 1971, and was later designated a national park in 2000.
  • Cuyahoga Valley covers a total area of 33,000 acres.
  • The lowest elevation in Cuyahoga Valley is the Cuyahoga River (590 feet) and the highest elevation is Brush Road (1,164 feet).
  • Cuyahoga Valley has 105 bird species that breed within the park and 250 bird species that have been seen within the park boundaries.
  • The Ohio & Erie Canal is a 308-mile long waterway that runs for a small section through the park. The canal was built in the early 1800s.
  • In 2016 Cuyahoga Valley National Park had just under 2,500,00 visitors.

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