Buttermilk Falls: Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Most Scenic Waterfall
You won't find it on any official park map and ask nine out of ten Cuyahoga Valley National Park visitors about it and you'll likely get a blank stare or shoulder shrug. However, tucked away deep in the park's forest lies its most scenic yet least visited waterfall, Buttermilk Falls. Located a half mile downstream from the very popular Blue Hen Falls, Buttermilk Falls offers something that no other waterfall in the park can...solitude. Reaching the thirty-five foot falls is very easy - if you know where to go.
Trailhead elevation 650'
Water all along Spring Creek, but must be treated
Don't miss going behind Blue Hen Falls and the view from the top of Buttermilk Falls
Hiking to Buttermilk Falls
To reach Buttermilk Falls, park at the Boston Mill Visitor Center and locate the Buckeye Trail at the corner of Riverview Rd and Boston Mills Rd. Those using the AllTrails app, make sure to select the Blue Hen Falls Trail map. From the trailhead, the path immediately begins a gentle climb up the hillside, guided by a series of stone stairs, before leveling off some.
Following a meandering path through hardwood forest for a half mile, the trail descends a wooden staircase consisting of 155 steps, crosses a small bridge over a usually dry unnamed creek, then ascends out of the ravine to reach Boston Mills Rd.
The well-marked trail runs parallel to Boston Mills Rd for a brief stretch before crossing the road and re-immersing into the forest. Shortly thereafter, a few hundred yards ahead, the trail veers right, passes by a trail kiosk, and begins a gentle descent once more. As the trail nears the bottom of the descent, it crosses a bridge that spans Spring Creek, the water source that supplies Blue Hen Falls a few hundred feet downstream.
Beyond the bridge, the Buckeye Trail leads left, but stay right and follow the sign for Blue Hen Falls, one of the most popular hiking destinations in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Cascading down a gentle fifteen-foot drop over a declined sandstone ledge, the falls converge into a small plunge pool beneath. While they may not rival the splendor of Buttermilk Falls or the park's renowned Brandywine Falls, it does provide a great spot to cool off in the summer months. When the water levels aren't terribly high, similar to what they are in the photo below, getting up behind the falls is fairly simple and best accomplished from the left side.
To reach Buttermilk Falls, locate the sign marked "end of trail" at the falls overlook area.
Follow the unmarked yet clearly defined path that extends beyond the sign. In a little more than a tenth of a mile, the trail crosses Spring Creek not once, but twice, within a span of about two hundred feet. Even after heavy rainfall, the creek remains shallow enough to cross without getting your feet wet. The photo below shows the second creek crossing, which is typically the deeper of the two crossings.
After the second crossing, the trail hugs the creek and a third of a mile later, arrives at remnants of an old bridge foundation that once spanned Spring Creek. Just a few hundred feet downstream from this point lies Buttermilk Falls. However, to reach it, you'll need to cross the creek once more. Unlike the previous creek crossings, this particular area tends to accumulate much more water, especially after rainfall, making it somewhat challenging to keep your feet dry. After a few days of rain you can expect the crossing to be above ankle deep.
Once you've successfully crossed the creek, the trail picks up on the other side. However, before continuing, consider visiting the top of the falls, which can be reached by leaving the trail and walking left. If the water level is relatively low, a great view can be had along the sandstone ledge at the top of the falls. The photo below was taken following a three day absence of rainfall.
To reach the bottom of the falls, continue along the trail, now enveloped by a lush canopy of hemlock trees. After a hundred yards or so the trail reaches the bottom of a ravine and Spring Creek. Follow the creek upstream and in two hundred feet you'll arrive at the base of the falls. The photo below was taken after two consecutive days of moderate rainfall.
As you can see, the falls are much more impressive after rainfall, so take that into consideration when planning a visit. Just keep the last creek crossing in mind if visiting after rainfall. When you're done, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
In more than a dozen trips out to Buttermilk Falls I've only encountered two other hikers there, so expect solitude. The only downside to the trail is that I-271 highway traffic can be heard from the trailhead all the way to Blue Hen Falls. If you can get past that, it's a great hike.