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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Two Days in Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley, formed over many millions of years ago with the help of oceans, glaciers and rivers, is now a refuge for native plants and wildlife. Its rolling hills, dense forest, wetlands and open farmlands are home to the mighty Cuyahoga River. The park preserves natural features including its many waterfalls and sandstone formations, and provides a haven to historic attractions such as the Everett Covered Bridge, Canal Exploration Center and Stanford House. Frequently mentioned as a top spot in the Midwest for fall foliage, mid-October is an exceptional time to visit. With Cuyahoga Valley National Park the closest national park to us, we've spent quite a bit of time there.

Day 1:

Brandywine Falls (0.25 miles/100')
Canal Exploration Center
Bike the Towpath
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Ledges (2.3 miles/250')

We began our relaxing weekend with a quick visit to the park's most well-known feature, Brandywine Falls. There are a number of ways to reach the waterfall, but having done all of those hikes in the past, we opted to just drive to it.

Brandywine Falls

Following Brandywine Falls, we drove to the Canal Exploration Center to learn more about the Ohio & Erie Canalway, an important canal built in the 1820s and 30s and used to carry vital freight to a growing nation. After lunch at Fisher's Cafe in downtown Peninsula, we hopped on our bikes and rode the Towpath Trail from Peninsula to Szalay' Farm & Market for dinner ingredients.

Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath

Later in the evening we jumped on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and took a scenic ride through the valley aboard the National Park Flyer. The ride is narrated by park volunteers who discuss the history of the park and railroad, and was well-worth the time.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

We then headed to the Inn at Brandywine Falls, a luxury inn overlooking Brandywine Falls in the heart of the park. After we cooked dinner with the food we bought at Szalay's, we headed out to hike the Ledges Trail, aiming to get back to the overlook for sunset, which we did.

Ledges Overlook Cuyahoga Valley

Afterward, it was back to the Inn at Brandywine Falls for a relaxing evening and a good night's sleep.

Day 2:

Paddle The River
Blue Hen Falls & Buttermilk Falls (3.9 miles/600')
Boston Mill Visitor Center

No trip to the area would be complete without breakfast at Blue Door Cafe & Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls, so we started our second day there with a great breakfast. Afterward, we headed to Burning River Adventures for a relaxing paddle down the Cuyahoga River. They've always done a great job and the prices are very reasonable. Following the paddle, we headed out to hike down to Blue Hen Falls, another very popular waterfall within the park's confines. Blue Hen Falls got its name during the Prohibition era when a nearby illegal whiskey still, known as Blue Hen, was in operation.

Blue Hen Falls

Continuing beyond the end of trail sign at the top of Blue Hen Falls, we hiked another three quarters of a mile to reach Buttermilk Falls, a far less traveled waterfall in the park. Unfortunately, it was running dry at the time, but in the spring and after a heavy rain you can expect it to look similar to the photo below.

Buttermilk Falls Cuyahoga Valley

After our return, we visited Boston Mill Visitor Center, the park's only visitor center, where we talked to park rangers for a bit before heading home.


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