Clevelanders are pretty lucky. We already have a brag-worthy metroparks system that weaves throughout the region, but nestled between Cleveland and Akron sits a massive stretch of additional public greenspace that many cities would kill for.
This long, green swath of wonderful is called the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and it's just a quick drive from civilization. The park covers 33,000 acres of woods, water and wildlife, and is free to the public.
Running along the length of the national park is the Towpath Trail. Joggers and cyclists can travel through 80+ miles (soon to be 100 miles once completion of the full trail to Lake Erie) of beautiful wilderness without crossing traffic, often with the Cuyahoga River on one side and remnants of the Ohio & Erie Canal on the other.
What You'll See:
- Are you into ancient rock history? We don’t mean Elvis or Buddy Holly & the Crickets (see the Rock Hall for that), more like fossils and epochs-old rock formations. Hikers can find fossils of the ancient shell creatures — brachiopods — that roamed the waters that covered the area hundreds of millions of years ago. Also, the 300-million-year-old sandstone formation known as Ritchie Ledges sits near the eastern edge of the park. The honeycomb-like, yellow-and-orange “rock conglomerate” is the youngest bedrock in the park.
- Don’t forget the waterfall. The 65-foot Brandywine Falls is probably the park’s most photographed (and photogenic) feature. You will take a selfie here, count on it.
- Bring your binoculars and set out on a brisk morning walk through Beaver Marsh, a designated “Important Bird Area” where nature lovers can spot sparrows, orioles and even otters.
- Spend a sunset at the rocky pinnacle of the 2.2-mile Ledges hiking trail, which offers a sweeping view of the Cuyahoga Valley.
- More adventurous types can paddle their way down the 100-mile Cuyahoga River via canoe or kayak, surrounded by acres of peaceful woodland.
- Bald eagles. They like to hide throughout the park. If you’re one of the lucky ones to catch a glimpse of our national bird, it’s a high-five moment, for sure.
What Else to Do?
- Cyclists can hop aboard the train for only $3 from April to October. Bike one direction down the Towpath Trail and take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train the other way to double the views.
- Visit Peninsula, the "Mayberry" of the Cuyahoga Valley, known for its quaint shops and restaurants. While you’re in town, you can also rent bikes that can be taken into the park.