20 Jul
Posted in: travel
By    Comments Off on Cuyahoga Valley: An Urban Park

Cuyahoga Valley: An Urban Park

I had predisposed ideas about Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. I knew it was large with an extensive trail system, waterfalls and a covered bridge. What we found was the most urban national park we’ve visited.

Teen looking at a replica of a canal boat

The park, our first major stop on our epic road trip, is not far from both Akron and Cleveland. It’s a refuge for animals and people alike in the bustling urban sprawl. We visited on a weekend, and the park was busy. The crowd was both tourist and locals escaping into the outdoors for a few hours. We chose to hike part of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail which currently runs 81 miles from Cleveland to Bolivar but will eventually be 110 miles long. Over 19 miles of the trail are on national park land. Mules used to pull boats carrying goods in the canal in the 1800s. There are still remnants of the canal’s history, like locks, throughout the trail.

visitors to Cuyahoga Valley completeing a quest

Part of the junior ranger program our kids did while at Cuyahoga Valley was a guest that used rhyming clues to guide us around the Towpath near the Boston Store Visitor Center. It was similar to geocaching and was a fun means to learn about the history of the area. The park boasts 40 questing opportunities for visitors. There are no GPS coordinates like geocaching, just rhyming directions to follow. Visitors collect stamps from boxes at the end of each quest and sign a logbook. If we were local to the area, questing would be a favorite activity for us. It would be wonderful for other national and state parks to do similar programs helping to educate visitors about the history of an area in an engaging and fun manner.

a canal lock in Cuyahoga Valley

The canal lock covered in moss we found as part of our junior ranger quest made for an interesting discussion about transportation in the area in the past. Our kids were enamored by the many turtles sunning themselves and the croaking frogs. Our 7th grader would have spent our entire three-week vacation near that little pond watching and tracking the animals.

frog half hidden in the water

turtle sunnying itself

Cuyahoga Valley is home to several waterfalls. We ventured to Blue Hen Falls, a short 1/2 mile hike. The hike is fairly easy through a forest to see Spring Creek fall 15-feet over a sandstone top layer to shale below. The trail was busy but not crowded and had a ranger manning the overflow parking lot helping to direct traffic.

Blue Hen Falls in Cuyahoga Valley

hikers on the ledges Trail in Cuyahoga Valley

Ledges Trail is over two-miles total and has some neat geological features which were different from other areas we visited in the park. Rock ledges jutting out of the forest floor seem to come from nowhere while hiking part of the trail. The area begs visitors to scamper down the edges and explore what’s below. The Ledges Overlook offers a view from a rock ledge over the tree-covered valley. While the view is lovely, it wasn’t spectacular for us. It’s difficult to please people who have seen views from Rocky Mountain peaks.

everett covered bridge in ohio

inside everett covered bridge

Our drive through the park took us into several small townships which were full of character. The highlight for our visit, for me, was Everett Covered Bridge. Ohio was once home to over 2,000 covered bridges, but Summit County only has Everett remaining. The bridge, which crosses Furnace Run, is believed to have been built in the late 1800s. It was repaired in 1913 and then rebuilt in the 1970s. The white interior and red exterior of the bridge contrast with the lush green of the surrounding forest. Covered bridges are a symbol of bygone times and something not seen in Wyoming.

Next stop on our road trip: major bucket list destination, Niagara Falls

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