Epic Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio including things to do, history, hiking, lodging, waterfalls, and so much more.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley is located in northeastern Ohio and is the state’s only national park.
Although conveniently located between the large urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, the park feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of these major cities.
Following the twisty Cuyahoga River ("Ka-ih-ogh-ha" is an American Indian word for crooked), the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) in Northeastern Ohio offers the opportunity to explore an epic park.
Year-round park activities such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, golfing, nature-watching, fishing, skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing are certainly enjoyable, but if you're a history buff, two special attractions in the park- the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and the Ohio & Erie Canalway- are the real highlights.
About Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an oasis for city slickers who want to get away from it all, and visitors can enjoy hundreds of miles of trails, numerous waterfalls, marshy wetlands, and verdant valleys dotted with caves, cliffs, and plenty of wildlife.
There’s even a scenic railway that runs through the park!
The railroad tracks, originally built in 1880, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and run over bridges, past farms, and through small towns.
A large part of the 110-mile long Canalway, including the scenic Towpath alongside it, runs through the CVNP.
Although now popular with runners, hikers, and bicyclists, the Towpath was once used by mules to pull the canal boats laden with trade goods.
If you're short on time, make the most of both attractions by hopping aboard the train at the Peninsula Depot and riding the rails north toward the Canal Visitor Center.
Once at the Canal Visitor Center (there's a 50-minute layover for round-trip train riders), you'll learn about the importance of the early canal and lock systems and can take a walk on part of the original Towpath.
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is truly an unexpected find in the middle of a major metropolitan area. It's a delightful link to nature and to Ohio's history!
Is Cuyahoga Valley National Park worth visiting?
Absolutely! Cuyahoga Valley has a little something for everyone, from its hundreds of miles of trails and scenic railroad to the beautiful waterfalls and massive moss covered ledges.
The best part is that Cuyahoga Valley NP is conveniently located near major cities, making it easy to fit into a weekend getaway or even a single afternoon if you are pressed for time.
History of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Although Cuyahoga Valley is a serene and beautiful nature area, there’s no denying that it lacks some of the grandeur of other national parks around the nation.
You may wonder how this area became a national park, and the history of the park is just as important as the land it protects.
When the Ohio & Erie Canal was completed in the 1930s, Cleveland quickly became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the country.
The Cuyahoga River helped power this new urban center, and by the late 1900s, it was infamously known as one of the most polluted waterways in the US.
In fact, the river was so polluted that it caught fire over a dozen times! This, in addition to other environmental pollution around the country, caught the attention of activists, who fought for cleaner water and better environmental regulations.
The pollution of the Cuyahoga is partially responsible for the establishment of Earth Day, the Clean Water Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The water quality of the river has since improved drastically, and in 1974 Cuyahoga Valley became a national recreation area.
In 2000, the area was officially upgraded to a national park, and it has become one of the most visited in the entire nation.
Things to know before your visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
$0.00 - There is no entrance fee to visit the park.
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Learn more about National Park Passes for parks that have an entrance fee.
Free National Park Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
Eastern Time Zone
Pets are allowed in the park including on over 100 miles of hiking trails and the Towpath Trail.
Pets must be on a leash less than 6 feet in length.
Cell service should be available through the park.
The park is open 24 hours a day except for Brandywine Falls, Virginia Kendall Ledges, Octagon, and Lake which close from dusk to morning opening.
Wi-Fi is not available in the park.
Insect repellent is always a great idea when outdoors, especially if you are around any body of water.
We use Permethrin Spray on our clothes before our park trips.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
There are three main parking areas at Cuyahoga Valley NP.
The Boston Mill Visitor Center Main Lot has over 100 spaces, including six oversized vehicle spaces and 6 ADA-accessible spaces.
The Brandywine Falls lot has 90 parking spaces, including 4 ADA-accessible spots.
The Ledges Trailhead Lot is the largest in the park, with 233 spaces, 8 of which are ADA accessible.
Trail Mix Stores
There are no gas stations available within the park. There are many gas stations in nearby communities.
Drones are not permitted within National Park Sites.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
Cuyahoga Valley NP is part of the 2000 Passport Stamp Set.
Electric Vehicle Charging
There are no electric vehicle charging stations within the park, but there are dozens available in the surrounding communities.
Details about Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Size - 32,571 acres
Cuyahoga Valley NP is currently ranked at 55 out of 63 National Parks by Size.
December 27, 1974 - Established as a National Recreation Area
October 11, 2000 - Redesignated as a National Park
In 2021, Cuyahoga Valley NP had 2,575,275 park visitors.
In 2020, Cuyahoga Valley NP had 2,755,628 park visitors.
In 2019, Cuyahoga Valley NP had 2,237,997 park visitors.
National Park Address
6947 Riverview Road
Peninsula, OH 44264
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Map
Where is Cuyahoga Valley National Park?
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in northeastern Ohio, just 20 miles south of Cleveland.
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Cleveland, OH - 22 miles
Akron, OH - 18 miles
Columbus, OH - 129 miles
Cincinnati, OH - 230 miles
Pittsburgh, PA - 113 miles
Chicago, IL - 351 miles
Indianapolis, IN - 310 miles
Charleston, WV - 232 miles
Estimated Distance from nearby National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park - 305 miles
New River Gorge National Park - 307 miles
Gateway Arch National Park - 545 miles
Shenandoah National Park - 320 miles
Acadia National Park - 920 miles
Where is the National Park Visitor Center?
Boston Mill Visitor Center
6947 Riverview Road
Peninsula, Ohio 44264
Canal Exploration Center
7104 Canal Road
Valley View, Ohio 44125
2054 Bolanz Road
Peninsula, Ohio 44264
Getting to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)
Akron-Canton Regional Airport (CAK)
Driving to the park is a breeze thanks to its location near urban centers like Cleveland and Akron.
In addition, there are numerous major highways and freeways situated just a short drive from the park, including I-77, I-71, I-80, and OH-303, among others
Best time to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The best time to visit Cuyahoga Valley NP is late spring and fall. Temperatures are warm during the day and cool during the evening, without going too far in either extreme.
Summer and fall are the busiest months at the park, while winter sees the fewest visitors and the lowest temps.
Weather and Seasons
Spring is a lovely time to visit Cuyahoga Valley. Temperatures are mild, and the park slowly begins coming alive with fresh buds and blooms.
However, spring is a bit wetter than the other seasons, so you may want to be prepared for muddy trails if you visit between March and May.
Summers at Cuyahoga Valley NP are usually hot and humid, with highs averaging in the mid-80s.
This is one of the busiest times of the year at the park, so try to visit during the week rather than on weekends or holidays if you can.
Fall is one of the best seasons for a visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The weather is pleasant, and if you time it right, the park explodes in hues of orange, yellow, and red as the leaves begin to change.
Mid to late October is usually the prime time for leaf peeping at the park. Unsurprisingly, this is also one of the busiest times at the park, so be prepared to share those scenic views!
If you don’t mind chilly temps, winter can be a great time of year to visit the park.
Temperatures usually drop below zero, meaning that the waterfalls will likely be frozen, and crowds will be basically non-existent. Snow often dusts the park in hefty layers during this season as well, which can make for an incredibly scenic (if not extremely cold) visit.
Best Things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Scenic Trail Ride
Cuyahoga Valley is one of the only national parks that has a scenic railroad running right through it.
This is one of the best ways to experience the park, and you can take the full 3.5-hour roundtrip trek, or hop off and hike or bike along the adjacent Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
There are even themed rides on certain dates that are quite popular with the kiddos and adults alike. The train runs from the Rockside Station in the north down to Akron Station in the south.
The Junior Ranger Program allows visitors to take a closer look at the park’s flora and fauna, history, and more in a fun, hands-on way.
This program is great for both the young and the young at heart, and once you’re done, you’ll receive a cool badge to commemorate your time at Cuyahoga Valley.
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
The historic Towpath trail was created in 1827 for mules to pull boats along the Ohio and Erie Canal.
The route was used for this reason for nearly a century, but it has long since retired from its original purpose.
Today, the Towpath Trail is a popular running and cycling spot for locals and visitors alike.
The path is mostly flat and smooth, making it as easy as it is scenic! You can walk a short stretch of the route, or take on a multi-day trek of the entire 87 miles.
You can also rent bikes from Century Cycles, located just steps from the trail in the village of Peninsula.
If you’ve been scrolling through photos of Cuyahoga Valley National Park in anticipation of your trip, you’ve likely seen plenty of photos of the iconic Brandywine Falls.
The falls are one of the main attractions at the park, and seeing them up close and personal will likely be the highlight of your trip.
The falls are accessible via a series of boardwalks and stairs, though you could also hike the 1.5-mile Brandywine Gorge Trail if you want a more panoramic view. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to more than just one beautiful waterfall.
If you want to make a full day out of chasing waterfalls, be sure to check out Bridal Veil, Blue Hen, and Buttermilk Falls as well.
Always carry the 10 essentials for outdoor survival when exploring.
You’ll find over 100 miles of trails at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, so all you need to do is decide which one to hike first. Check out our list of favorites below!
Oak Hill Trail
Distance - 1.4 miles
Trail Difficulty - Easy
Time Required - 30 minutes
Trailhead - Oak Hill Trailhead
Short and sweet, the Oak Hill Trail is a great option for those who are short on time.
This itty bitty trail packs a lot into a short route, including beautiful hemlock forests, a lovely lake, wildflowers, and probably lots of wildlife. If you love this area of the park and want to extend your hike, you can continue on the Plateau Trail, which connects to Oak Hill at various different points.
Buttermilk Falls via Blue Hen Falls
Distance - 3.9 miles
Trail Difficulty - Easy
Time Required - 2 hours
Trailhead - Buckeye Trail Trailhead
Many associate Cuyahoga Valley National Park with the iconic Brandywine Falls, but Blue Hen and Buttermilk Falls are also worth checking out while you’re here.
This up and down trail is an easy trek, though it does have its fair share of rocks, roots, and mud on occasion. You’ll be treated to two waterfalls along the trail, in addition to various water crossings and scenic forest views.
Furnace Run Trail
Distance - 1.7 miles
Trail Difficulty - Moderate
Time Required - 1 hour
Trailhead - Everett Covered Bridge Trailhead
This quiet woodland trail is at its finest in the spring when the wildflowers start to bloom. The highlight of this route is the Everett Covered Bridge, but the quiet forest setting is a close second!
This trail can get extremely muddy after it rains, so walk with caution and don’t be afraid to get your boots a little dirty.
Distance - 2.3 miles
Trail Difficulty - Moderate
Time Required - 1 hour
Trailhead - Ledges Trailhead
Ledges Trail is one of the most popular routes in the park. The trail winds through a forested landscape with massive limestone boulders, hidden caves, and moss covered cliffs.
The trail is not paved, so be sure to wear popular hiking shoes for this one.
Old Carriage Trail
Distance - 5.5 miles
Trail Difficulty - Moderate
Time Required - 2 hours
Trailhead - Red Lock Trailhead
If you want to traverse part of the Towpath Trail but don’t have time for the whole thing, hiking the Old Carriage Trail is a great option.
This loop shares just over a mile with the Towpath Trail before splitting off on its own into the forest. The trail is great for birding and wildlife watching, and it’s never overly crowded.
This may be because the trail is a bit hard to follow, so pay attention as you hike!
How to beat the crowds in Cuyahoga Valley National Park?
The busiest seasons at the state park are summer and autumn, so try to plan a trip outside of these busy times if possible.
If you are visiting the park during peak season, weekdays are usually less busy than weekends and holidays.
Where to stay when visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park
There are two lodging options available within the park.
The Stanford House is a remodeled residence within that park that offers nine bedrooms and two community bathrooms for overnight guests.
There is also a modern self-service kitchen, a living room, a dining room, an outdoor picnic area, and easy access to park trails.
Inn at Brandywine Falls
The Inn at Brandywine Falls is an upscale bed and breakfast overlooking the scenic Brandywine Falls.
The house was built in 1848 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been masterfully renovated over the years but retains its historic charm with antique Ohio decorations.
The Inn has six bedrooms, a library, a living room, porches, and a kitchen that serves a gourmet candle-lit breakfast each morning.
Lodging near Cuyahoga Valley NP
Lodging is available in Cleveland, Macedonia, Stow, and Akron, Ohio plus cities surrounding the park.
La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Cleveland Macedonia - 5 minutes from the park
Take advantage of a free breakfast buffet, a gym, and a business center at La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Cleveland Macedonia. For some rest and relaxation, visit the hot tub. Guests can connect to free in-room Wi-Fi.
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Macedonia - 6 minutes from the park
You can look forward to a free breakfast buffet, a library, and laundry facilities at Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Macedonia, OH. In addition to a gym and a 24-hour business center, guests can connect to free in-room Wi-Fi.
Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Akron Stow
At Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Akron Stow, you can look forward to a free breakfast buffet, a terrace, and dry cleaning/laundry services. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as a 24-hour gym and a business center.
Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls
Dry cleaning/laundry services, a bar, and a gym are just a few of the amenities provided at Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls. For some rest and relaxation, visit the sauna. The onsite restaurant, Beau s on the River, features brunch and happy hour. Free in-room Wi-Fi and a business center are available to all guests.
TownePlace Suites by Marriott Cleveland Solon
At TownePlace Suites by Marriott Cleveland Solon, you can look forward to free to-go breakfast, laundry facilities, and a bar. In addition to a gym and conference space, guests can connect to free in-room WiFi.
Click on the map below to see current rates for hotels and vacation rentals near the park.
Cuyahoga Valley Camping
The park no longer offers camping within the park.
For a fun adventure check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
Escape Campervans has offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, New York, and Orlando
Nearby campgrounds include:
Countryside Campground - Mogadore, Ohio
This campground offers Lodging, RV and Tent Sites, a pool, fishing, and more.
Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp Resort - Akron-Canton
This campground offers lodging, RV and Tent Sites, a waterpark, mini golf, and more
Clay's Park Resort - North Lawrence, Ohio
This campground offers lodging, RV and Tent Sites, waterfront, a pool, waterpark, and more.
Check out additional campgrounds on CampSpot.
Parks Near Cuyahoga Valley National Park
David Berger National Memorial (Affiliated Site)
Perry's Victory Memorial
River Raisin National Battlefield
Check out all of the National Parks in Ohio along with neighboring National Parks in Indiana, National Parks in Kentucky, National Parks in Michigan, Pennsylvania National Parks, and West Virginia National Parks