Cuyahoga Valley National Park isn't for everyone. Embedded within the city of Cleveland Ohio, there are lots of outdoor activities for local residents to enjoy. Are the canal towpath trail and Brandywine Falls enough to lure visitors to the park? Read on to decide if this national park is a destination for you
If you are a history buff, that may be enough reason to visit the park. Native Americans, fur traders, and early American settlers have called this beautiful Ohio valley home for hundreds of years. In the early 1800s, the use of the river and valley was expanded when the canal was constructed. Now, farmers and merchants were able to more easily ship goods to East Coast ports.
Some of the buildings in Cuyahoga Valley date back to the early 1800s. Peninsula and Boston Mill villages are great places to see examples of living history. By the mid-1800s, Boston Mill had boatyards, lumber mill, brickyard, and a warehouse. Many of these functioning buildings have been preserved and now provide examples of life at that time.
It was pretty cool to find these examples of historic buildings literally in the middle of Cleveland.
When railroads came along, the canal became obsolete. Cuyahoga River was allowed to become polluted. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland focused national attention on water pollution, and water recovery was initiated. These acts resulted in the beautiful landscape enjoyed here today.
Today, we recognize the value of cleaning up pollution and conserving these areas. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is part of the Ohio and Erie Canalway, which has been designated as a National Heritage Center.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park was created in 1974 as part of the Parks to the People initiative. The intent of this initiative was to create national parks in metropolitan areas. After all, not everyone is able to travel for a visit to a national park. Why not preserve and enjoy the treasure in your own back yard!
The over 125 miles of hiking and biking trails that meander through Cuyahoga Valley show us exactly why this area is worth preserving and celebrating as a national park. Not only is the Ohio and Erie Canal celebrated along the canal towpath trail, but villages and homesteads also dot the scenic roadside.
Where else can you enjoy a national park in the middle of a city? In Cleveland Ohio, that is exactly what you can do.
Whether you enjoy jogging, strolling, or an enjoyable hike, the canal towpath trail is a great option. This path follows the historic Ohio and Erie Canal. The canal towpath is an easy stroll. There are numerous stops along the trail for Insta-worthy photos, picnics, or just plain enjoying the outdoors.
We hiked several segments of the canal towpath trail during our visit. My most enjoyable segment was along the Beaver Marsh area. For those of you that know me, any opportunity for wildlife sighting is a winner.
This turtle was actually a great example of the Parks to the People Initiative. We met this turtle while speaking to a mother and daughter. Apparently, the daughter's school had let out early for the day. They were enjoying an afternoon at Cuyahoga Valley along the canal towpath, as they often did. The daughter enjoyed naming each turtle and was deciding on a name for this guy until we interrupted them.
Informative signs were posted all along the canal towpath. These signs educate visitors about the area and what to expect as they strolled along. The signs in and around Beaver Marsh were especially helpful for identifying the local wildlife.
I'm not a kayaking expert, so this wasn't an activity for me. But, if you are an experienced paddler, kayaking and canoeing are popular activities in the park. We saw several kayakers pulled out of the river along the canal towpath, ready for a snack, or stroll through a local village.
This spot below in Peninsula was just one of those spots. Almost directly across the river from this sign was an exit point from the river. 2 pretty red kayaks were sitting there waiting for their owners to return. Peninsula was a cool spot, I'm sure those kayakers found something great to do.
Brandywine Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park, and I understand why. With trails that lead to the bottom and top of Brandywine Falls, visitors are able to enjoy this beautiful landmark from multiple perspectives. Tell you what. Brandywine Falls is the cover photo for this story. You decide if it is a pretty spot or not.
Beaver Marsh, Kendall Lake, and Indigo Lake are other great spots to enjoy water activities in the park.
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad allows visitors to hop on and off the train at popular destinations in the park. Strap on your bicycle or kayak, and hop on for alternate views of the park! Now, our visit to Cuyahoga Valley was during COVID, and the railway was not running. However, it is scheduled to begin seasonal operations on October 1, 2020. The railway might be a great way to view fall colors in Cleveland's Cuyahoga Valley
Winter visitors to Cuyahoga Valley can also enjoy skiing and sledding. Looking at the park's landscape, I understand why those are popular activities. I'm sure Cleveland's residents enjoy the opportunity to enjoy those activities so close to home.
How many national parks offer 4 transportation methods to enjoy the park? Visitors can view Cuyahoga Valley driving the Riverview Road Scenic Byway or on the canal towpath trail. They can also take advantage of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, or by traveling on the Cuyahoga River. How is that for unique?
You can decide that for yourself. Papa Joe and I are on a journey to visit all of the US national parks. We were near the area during our Fall Colors 2020 trip, so visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Cleveland, Ohio made sense for that trip.
For us, CVNP would not have been a destination on its own. It would be a great state park, but it just didn't fit the national park grandeur of Zion, Great Smokey Mountains, or the Everglades. Brandywine Falls was pretty incredible, but without other supporting park features, it isn't a destination on its own. BUT... Are you one of those national park geeks that seek out parks located in metropolitan areas? If so, CVNP might be a great destination for you!
The Bridge and River tour is a scenic 3-hour bicycle tour will take you from the Upper West Side of New York City up and over the George Washington Bridge for a ride along the river on Route 9W. Get the full touring experience and leave New York City for a few hours. During the ride, we make stops at Grants Tomb Memorial on the Upper West Side.