Cuyahoga Valley National Park wasn't on our "must see" list of National Parks, but we were in the area and we do want to visit as many of the National Parks as we can. So, we made this one-day trip and enjoyed three of the park's highlights.
It was a chilly, beautiful morning as we started out around 9:00 a.m. from Punderson State Park on the 45-minute drive to the Boston Store Visitors Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).
It would be our first visit to CVNP, a relatively new national park that certainly doesn't get the fanfare of most of the others. It was originally established as a National Recreation Area in 1974, and then became a National Park in 2000. Here is a link to the story of "Ohio's National Park" which touches on the politics of becoming a national park.
A couple of deer crossed the road just as we got to the Visitors Center.
After parking, we walked in, .....
and asked if there was a movie about the park (as we always do). We went upstairs where the movie was started just for us.
The park's highlight is the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, a multi-use walking/hiking/biking trail that runs the 20-mile length of the park. The Towpath Trail totals 85 miles along the old Ohio & Erie Canal which opened up Ohio to commerce. From the Ohio & Erie Canalway website:
At the beginning of the 19th century, Ohio was geographically isolated from the mainstream of economic vitality. Our state was rich in natural resources, but inaccessible to the established eastern markets. The Ohio & Erie Canal changed that fact. Built in the 1820s and 1830s, the canal was carved from the wilderness to provide an invaluable link — from Lake Erie to the Ohio River — in the nation’s transportation system, completing an inland water route between the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.
Mules were used to pull boats along the canal using a "towpath", thus the name of the trail.
We didn't bring our bikes and weren't intending to get on the towpath at all, but it turned out we walked on it a little after our morning hike.
At the Visitors Center, we picked up a pamphlet called "Popular Park Attractions". I had planned for two of the five listed, and we simply added a third.
We started with what may be the most popular trail in the park, the 2.2-mile Ledges Trail.
The first thing we noticed was the almost overwhelming hum of the cicadas.
Here's a short video to convey the sound.
After passing the picnic shelter, .....
it was a straight hike into the woods, ......
until we came to sign showing taking us to the right, .....
where we came to "the ledges".
The trail then drops down for a 1.75-mile loop below the rock walls.
It's like an island in the forest. If you walk to the edge of the island in any direction, you come to rock ledges. The trail then takes a path down in a few places and you loop the "island" walking along the rock walls that make up its base.
We started out on the east side of the "island" and proceeded clockwise around. Along the south end, below the parking lot and near some restrooms, we found this black rat snake in the trail.
It was a good four feet long.
Just beyond that was a somewhat unimpressive overlook.
Continuing on around the western side, the rock walls were bigger.
It was quite an interesting hike, and though there were a good number of people, it wasn't overly crowded at around 11:00 a.m. We continued on, and I continued to photograph the various walls and rocks.
It was quite beautiful and we could see why it was a popular trail.
Eventually we came to Ice Box Cave which is closed off to protect nesting bats.
And from there it was a short walk to where we started the loop. When you begin the loop, you have to pay attention to landmarks. There are a few signs along the loop that point you back up to the top of the ledges toward the shelter, so it's easy to take one of those before completing the loop.
I carried a small backpack with water and our lunch, so we stopped at the shelter to eat before moving on.
After the Ledges Trail, we went farther south and made our way to the Ira Trailhead where there is parking and access for the Towpath. We followed our directions to walk north on the Towpath past one of the old canal locks.
We watched some ducks swim in the shelter of the lilies, a little more walking brought us to the boardwalk (also part of the Towpath) over the Beaver Marsh, a popular place to watch for wildlife.
We saw the beaver lodge in the distance, but no beavers. We saw the usual marsh critters such as turtles, frogs, and a wide variety of birds. It's a nice little nature viewing area.
We walked back along the crushed limestone Towpath (paved in some sections) which was bustling with bike rider, walkers, and runners.
It certainly seemed like a fantastic place to ride.
From the Beaver Marsh, we headed back north along Riverview Road eventually crossing the river and heading east to Brandywine Falls, a 65-foot waterfall and one of the most visited spots in the park due to its ease of access.
Linda was feeling some hot-spots on her feet from yesterday's walking and today's hiking, so she sat this one out. I took the boardwalk toward the falls.
And then I took the steps down to the section leading to the lower overlook.
Because the waterfall is located very close to the interstate and a road passes just above the falls, it's not a wilderness experience, but I have to say Brandywine Falls are quite pretty.
I took a little video as waterfalls are always better when you can hear them.
And that concluded our day trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It's not a spectacular national park like so many of the others, and it's not one I would go out of my way to visit, but it is a very nice park and I'm sure the folks from Cleveland to Akron are very happy that someone thought to preserve such a large section of recreational wilderness in their back yards.
I think our itinerary made for a good day trip, although I would probably start earlier and go to the Beaver Marsh (for better wildlife possibilities) and then The Ledges Trail and finally Brandywine Falls. If we return, we'll certainly bring our bikes and ride part of the Towpath .... and we'll again come on a day early in the week to avoid some of the crowds.
Hope you enjoyed it and thanks for tagging along.