Recently, I re-explored a lesser known national park that’s only 25 miles from my house. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is the 11th most visited park, located on 33,000 acres between Cleveland and Akron, OH. It travels along 22 miles of the windy Cuyahoga River. Named from a blend of several Native American’s names Ka-ih-ogh-ha translates as “crooked river”. If you take a look at the map you’ll understand why.
My favorite way to travel through the CVNP is by bicycle. The entire length of the park includes the 22 mile Towpath Trail. This trail runs right over the original path that mules walked to tow canal boats floating down the Ohio & Erie Canal. Since the terrain is flat and made of paved crushed limestone it is easy riding and walking. Along the path are the remnants of the original locks from the long gone canal, three visitors centers, a wetland boardwalk and a bald eagle’s nest.
If by chance you overextend your biking abilities (including the amount of time your rump can handle the bicycle seat) you an option. Take advantage of the Bike Aboard! program which runs May – October. From the boarding station along the towpath, just down a train by waving both your arms. For only $3 you and your bike enjoy an easy ride back to the car.
Speaking of trains, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad operates in conjunction with the CNVP. The education programs are my favorite. Whether learning about the animals of the park through the use of Native American story telling or the history of the Ohio & Erie Canal from the diary entries of a teenage canal worker, there is so much to learn. For those 21 and older, the Grape Escape & Ales on Rails are evening excursions that include an introduction to different wines or beer along with chef prepared hors d oeuvres. History buffs might enjoy a ride on the steam locomotive #765, one of the largest operating steam locomotives in the United States. The special events consists of dinners, breakfasts, murder mysteries and much more. Finally for the children, a Day Out with Thomas (the train) or a ride on The Polar Express are well loved adventures.
For those wanting a more vigorous walk, just veer off the towpath onto one of the 125 miles of trails. The numerous trails pass by many interesting locations. The most beautiful are the various waterfalls and colorful sandstone ledges. The historic bridges are the perfect places to walk in the creek beds and look for fossils. Although I haven’t fished there, the many ponds, lakes and river offer the perfect fishing spots with over 65 species.
Overnight stays are available in the park to visitors at the 5 primitive campsites, the Inn at Brandywine Falls or the Stanford House. There is also historic lodging, shops and restaurants just outside the park. I highly suggest if you want to get the most out of your trip to the CNVP plan on staying for a few days.
The CVNP has just as many winter outdoor activities as summer. There is downhill and cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snow tubing, sledding and even ice fishing. Year round it is an event filled national park to visit.
The National Park Service celebrated its centennial in 2016 with a major push encouraging more visitors. Did you get there? If so, make sure you return, if not, take the time to do your research and look for a park nearby. Don’t lose sight of what’s in your own backyard and visit a national park today.