I've been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park twice now, and while it is definitely an overlooked, and much smaller, less eye catching park, something about it makes me love it! Cuyahoga Valley definitely has more of a State Park vibe than a National Park vibe, mainly because it is pretty much located right in the middle of a town, however, there Is so much to do and see here, and you can pretty much see the entire park in one short visit! Both of my visits here, we spent 2 days here, and between those two visits, we were able to see essentially everything the park has to offer. I'm going to break down how I feel the ideal two days would be based on my experience!
Day One: Visitor's Center, Waterfall Hike, Covered Bridge, & Beaver Marsh
Start day one off by visiting the Boston Mills Visitor Center located at 6947 Riverview Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264. The guides here were super helpful in giving recommendations, the train schedule, and giving directions. You can also stamp your national park passport here!
After finishing up at the visitor's center, head right across the street to the first waterfall hike of the weekend, the Buttermilk / Blue Hen Falls Trail! This is one of my favorite hikes in the entire park. This hike is about 3-miles round trip from the visitor's center, and is very easy to follow. There is a pretty steep elevation incline, however, the overall hike I would rate as moderate. You'll see two waterfalls along this hike: the 15-foot Blue Hen Falls and the 30-foot Buttermilk Falls.
Next, head over to Everett Covered Bridge (2370 Everett Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264). This is a pretty quick stop, but definitely a cool stop to make. Everett Bridge is the only covered bridge in Summit County, and was built in the 1800's. Back then, the bridge was an important part of the transportation system of the Ohio & Erie Canal. You can stop and take pictures of the covered bridge, or there are also a few trailheads located at the bridge, including the 4-mile Riding Run Trail, the 2.75-mile Perkins Trail (open to horses and pedestrians), and the 2.1-mile Furnace Run Trail (popular for wildflower viewing).
Once you're finished at the covered bridge, make your way to Beaver Marsh. This was another favorite spot of mine. Beaver Marsh is a 2-mile easy out and back walk along a boardwalk style trail that eventually pours into the towpath trail. The Marsh is flooded with diverse wildlife, including turtles, beavers, birds, minks, otters, and many more! When we went, there was a park ranger about midway down the boardwalk who was super helpful at pointing out wildlife, and talking about the history of the marsh!
Finish up the day visiting the Conservancy for CVNP located at 1403 W Hines Hill Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264. Here you can shop around for some souvenirs, local homemade goodies, or the delicious Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream (which I definitely recommend!!)
Day Two: Ledges Trail, Biking, Indigo Lake, Scenic Train Ride, & Waterfall
Start day two off with another cool hike! This was probably my favorite hike in the park. The Ledges Trail is about a 2-mile hike that goes through the ledges, a grassy playfield, picnic sites, and a small overlook. The ledges were created out of Sharon Conglomerate millions of years ago, and after being purchased in the 19th century by industrialist Hayward Kendall is an area to hike, play, and enjoy sunset. Take the time to really explore the ledges and walk inside of them any chance you can off the beaten path!
After finishing your ledges hike, head over to Century Cycles located at 1621 Main St, Peninsula, OH 44264 and rent some bikes to explore the Towpath a different way! (Unless you have your own bike on your visit of course). The prices of their bike rentals are listed on their website, and it was a very easy process. You can bike anywhere along the towpath, however, the route we followed is one I recommend if you want to make the most of your short trip!
If you are visiting in the Summer, make sure to bike to Szaley's Farm & Market (4563 Riverview Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264) and grab some delicious farmer's market goodies! Unfortunately, Szaley's is only open in the summer, so if you are visiting any other time, just pack some snacks for the picnic coming up ahead!
Continue to bike to Indigo Lake, a small park/lake created by the CVNP Park Service that serves as a popular destination for fishing. Here you can stop, have a picnic, walk or bike around, set up your hammocks, or just hang out at the park! When you are done visiting the park, instead of biking back, take advantage of the scenic railroad that runs through the park! The railroad has several stops throughout the park, including one at Indigo Lake and Peninsula Depot (This is the stop to get off at for Century Cycles to return your bikes). You can take your bike right on board the train and it costs $5 per person one way. At Indigo Lake, you will see the yellow train station, so when you are ready to leave, check the train schedule (download the CVSR Train Tracker App!), and wave down the train as it approaches (You have to actually wave it down or it won't stop!) After boarding the train, enjoy the scenic views as you travel through the park!
Once you have returned your bikes, you'll conveniently be right across the street from another souvenir shop, which also happens to carry Mitchell's Ice Cream if you feel so inclined to stop for some more (which you should!)
After finishing up the biking for the day, head over to Brandywine Falls. This is probably what CVNP is most known for, and does get pretty crowded! The busiest times are between 10am and 4pm, so in order to avoid crowds, you could either do this early, before the ledges, or towards the end of the day. If you're looking for an actual hike, you can hike to this waterfall from the Boston Mill Visitor Center, which is approximately 5-miles round trip and in my opinion, was not worth the time as it is a decently long hike, however, you can also park right at the falls and walk along the boardwalk style trail. Here, you'll find a 60-foot waterfall. The first time we visited, we parked right at the falls and spent some time there talking to the ranger who was super knowledgeable about the falls! The second time we visited, the parking lot was closed for construction, so we had no other option but to do the 5-mile hike, and it was a long, decently hard, hot, and boring hike.
There is definitely more to see in the park, but this breakdown allows you to see quite a lot of it in a short period of time! I hope you enjoy your visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and are able to appreciate the little park for what it is! Thanks for reading, and don't forget, there's always more to be explored!