Nothing is better than seeing the change of the season in a national park. We spent a day enjoying some of the wonderful areas of Cuyahoga Valley National Park with the feel of fall filling up our souls. Cuyahoga Valley sits at the top of the state, only a few miles south of Lake Eerie. It became a national park in 2000 and is the only national park to have started out as a national recreation area.
We started our day at the Boston Mill Visitor Center that sits next to the river. There is a scenic train ride offered that takes visitors through the valley while riding in one of the comfortable passenger cars. This national park kind of grew up around the small town of Pennisula that sits in the middle of the area. Just down the street from the visitor center is a small ski resort.
The Buckeye Trail
We crossed the road from the visitor center to take a hike along the Buckeye Trail. Ohio is full of buckeye trees and so they are known as the Buckeye State.
We followed the trail through the trees, enjoying the boardwalk and the inlaid steps along the way. This trail is about a mile and a half of pretty moderately easy hiking.
Cuyahoga is a Native American word meaning ‘crooked river’. The Lenape Nation first called this valley home and named the valley after the U-shaped river that runs through it and ends in Lake Eerie.
After the Buckeye Trail we made our way to the Ledges. From the parking lot you come into a wide open space of grass where families are picnicking and dogs are playing everywhere you look. Along the outside of the grassy area is a dirt path that leads you to the top corner of the park where you are rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding valley.
Besides the views from this part, visitors love the interesting rocks formations that follow along the ridgeline. Some of the ledges are just wide enough to walk through.
The layers of rocks act as a barrier to the steep incline that falls off on the other side. The rocks are covered in moss and look really pretty with the green of the trees surrounding it.
Everett Covered Bridge
Our next stop was a leisurely walk to see the Everett Covered Bridge. Ohio use to lead the nation in covered bridge construction but now Everett Bridge is one of the few remaining of that legacy.
Everett Bridge goes across part of the river known as Furnace Run. Covered bridges like this were very popular in the mid to late 1800s. By the 1900s however the design had been abandoned in favor of a steel based bridge that was less vulnerable to the elements.
This bridge has been reconstructed twice, both incidents due to severe flood damage. The last flood that damaged the bridge in 1975 lifted the bridge off of the sand and deposited it into the water below. After that private citizens and government agencies came together to donate the funds to have it rebuilt to its historically accurate form you see today.
Our last stop was to the most popular area of the park- Brandywine Falls. Visitors follow the boardwalk down from the parking lot and curving around the rock formations down to the falls.
Water cascades down 60 feet into the Brandywine Gorge below. In the 1800s the power of these falls was used in grist mills and wool mills that supported the local community. The mills are long gone but the falls remain drawing people from all over to see the beauty of it.
The boardwalk loops back up the hillside and takes you to see the falls from the top before turning you back towards the parking lot. We were there just as the leaves were beginning to change. In another week or so this entire valley will be full of the beautiful colors of fall.
We had such an amazing day exploring some of this park. There is never enough time to hike every trail and see every part of the park that we would want to. But what we saw just made us fall in love with Cuyahoga Valley and we will be coming back to see more of this beautiful place.
If you love exploring the national parks like I do, then here are some other parks you might be interested in:
Thanks for coming along on this visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. May you feel renewed with the cool air and colorful leaves of fall in the park.