15 Best Things to Do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH
Krickproductions / shutterstock.com

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only a short drive from Cleveland and Akron, OH, yet it feels like a world apart.

A haven for natural flora and animals, Cuyahoga Valley National Park also offers tourists a chance to get out and explore the best things to do in this place.

Located in the Great Lakes Basin, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is just one of three national parks in Ohio.

Several Native American tribes resided in or traveled through the upper Ohio River Valley area; however, the Lenapé Nation (also known as the Lenape'wàk or Delaware Nation) is regarded as "the Grandfathers" of many.

However, the National Park Service administers the 32,572-acre park area, including privately or publicly owned parks and enterprises.

There are now no other national parks that were initially established as a national recreation area, and Cuyahoga Valley is the only one of its kind today.

Let's explore this area with this guide to the best things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH.

Traverse the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

A train on Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

A railroad runs through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, making it one of the most distinctive national parks.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad tickets sell out quickly, especially in the fall when the park is ablaze with the hues of autumn.

A Bike Aboard program allows you to pack up your bike, ride the train for a few stops, and ride your bike back to your starting point.

The railroad offers beautiful excursions, themed trips, and even a Bike Aboard program.

A steam train along Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

Even the historic Nickel Plate Road Steam Locomotive No. 765 is brought in by the CVSR for a few weekends each summer!

Taking a "National Park Scenic" tour is a great way to view the park from the comfort of your own vehicle, either with a stop at Hale Farm or a lunch break in the Peninsula.

It's not possible to get off the train during these half-day excursions because of the assigned seats.

The Bike Aboard or Hike Aboard options allow you to get on and off the train in one direction and bike or hike another.

Consider it for those who are only curious about the train but don't want to spend all day on it.

A steam train along Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

Go Trekking at Virginia Kendall Ledges

Moss covered rocks at Virginia Kendall Ledges
Michael Shake / Shutterstock.com

Cuyahoga Valley National Park has nearly 125 miles of hiking routes, one of which is Virginia Kendall Ledges.

It's a 2.2-mile trek through a densely wooded area filled with enormous limestone boulders, mossy cliffs, and caverns.

Snow covered trail of Virginia Kendall Ledges
Bridget Moyer / Shutterstock.com

One of the best paths for photographing is this one since it changes appearance depending on the season.

The route here descends into a bit of valley and then back up again, culminating with an overlook that is a favorite site for sunset viewing.

The trail is unpaved and uneven, making it a somewhat challenging trek.

Fall leaves on Virginia Kendall Ledges
Bridget Moyer / Shutterstock.com

Go Biking at Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

Empty Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Doug Lemke / Shutterstock.com

Located along the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has become a part of the river's history.

Northeast Ohio commodities were carried via canal system before the days of aircraft and reliable railroads.

Mile marker on Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

In the 1800s, mules were employed to haul boats up the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, which is now a multi-use pathway for hiking and bicycling.

Taking a bike ride along the Towpath Trail is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

You may begin your ride at Peninsula, where a few stores and restaurants stand close to the trailhead.

Path leading to Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Coyote_run / Shutterstock.com

Ride a Kayak at Cuyahoga River

Aerial view of Cuyahoga River
Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cuyahoga River meanders through the park, eventually going to Cleveland and Lake Erie.

There have been considerable advances made to clean up the Cuyahoga River and restore recreation and wildlife despite the river's reputation for pollution and wildfires.

It is divided into five distinct areas as it flows across northeast Ohio in an unusual u-shape.

Trees surrounding Cuyahoga River
OurBigEscape / Shutterstock.com

Detailed maps of the Cuyahoga River Water Trail many zones are available.

Most of the CVNP sector is located in zone 4. Despite the lack of rental facilities in the park, the Cuyahoga River is an excellent area to paddle.

The Cuyahoga River Water Trail website has information on current water levels and potential dangers along the section of the river you want to ride a canoe or a kayak, so check it out before you leave home.

Still waters of Cuyahoga River
OurBigEscape / Shutterstock.com

Go Horseback Riding at Wetmore Trail

This is an excellent place for those who enjoy horseback riding, hiking, and trail running and will undoubtedly see others doing the same.

There is a modest 4-mile circle north of Wetmore Road, the Wetmore Trail, for cyclists in the Wetmore area.

It takes around 2.5 hours and a 250-foot elevation change to complete the route.

Many options are available if you want to take a longer ride.

A mile-long extension of the Wetmore Trail can be accessed by running below the trail, which offers views of many plant species.

Visit this path between March and October.

You may traverse this path but do keep your pets under control.

Enjoy Various Lakeside Activities at Kendall Lake

Trees and plants surrounding Kendall Lake
Michael G Marshall / Shutterstock.com

Since the 1930s, Kendall Lake has been a popular destination for tourists.

On cool fall days, runners exercise around Kendall Lake and Kendall Hills on the network of paths.

Photographers squint to get the most incredible fall foliage shots.

Dog walkers traverse the trails with their furry companions.

Meanwhile, sledding and snowboarding are popular activities on the snowy slopes of winter.

The adjacent routes are used by skilled cross-country skiers.

When spring comes around, birdwatchers start scanning the canopy of the trees for brightly colored migrants.

Fishing is popular on the pier at Kendall Lake Shelter during the summer months.

Photographers scout the meadow for butterflies that fly in and out of the blooms.

Even today, the Civilian Conservation Corps leaves a lasting impression on history enthusiasts.

See the Wildlife at Beaver Marsh

Lily pads on Beaver Marsh
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

Once a vast junkyard, this area has blossomed into one of the park's most biodiverse treasure troves.

Numerous animals rely on this marsh as a vital part of their life cycles.

You should start your search for wildlife in Beaver Marsh if you want to see it.

The marsh is beautifully spanned by a boardwalk that allows visitors to wander across the water, searching for wildlife.

Take advantage of the most active times of day for wildlife viewing!

A beaver swimming on Beaver Marsh
VIKVAD / Shutterstock.com

This 0.5mile-long route is entirely wheelchair and stroller-accessible.

The Beaver Marsh is located at the southernmost extremity of the park.

Drive south on Riverview Road for about 4.3 miles from Peninsula, then turn right onto Riverview Road.

Parking is located at the Ira Trailhead, so look for this sign and turn left to get there.

Walk along the Towpath Trail, turn left, and you're there.

Travel 0.25 miles down Towpath Trail to reach the Beaver Marsh Boardwalk.

An eagle on a tree at Beaver Marsh
James W. Thompson / Shutterstock.com

Stop by Boston Mill Visitor Center

This visitor center is an excellent starting point to make the most of your time at the park, especially if you only have one day to spend here.

Get a stamp in your National Parks Passport and learn about the park's history while you're there.

Boston Mill is a jumping-off point for several treks, the Cuyahoga River, quests, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, among other things.

If you have any questions or concerns, staff and volunteers are here to assist you.

Inquire about trail conditions and upcoming events at the park with a ranger here.

Cruise the Riverview Road

An old barn along Riverview Road
RJSPhotography / Shutterstock.com

Instead of taking a hike or a bike ride via the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, cruise the Riverview Road rather!

Approximately 15 miles of this route are located within the boundaries of both the National and Metro Parks.

In addition, the Riverview Road gives easy access to a slew of attractions and trailheads.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park may be seen from this highway, which also goes by County Road 9.

To help you plan future day trips, you'll see many exciting places while driving.

Access to picnic sites, tourist centers, and even waterfalls may be found just off this route through paths.

Do not hesitate to stop if you notice something you want to explore.

This road is charming in every way.

Visit the Haunted Everett Road Covered Bridge

Side view of Everett Road Covered Bridge
Harold Stiver / Shutterstock.com

Visit this lovely covered bridge to spark your creative side.

As covered bridges are becoming rarer and rarer in the United States, the curiosity surrounding this artifact is stoked by local legends.

According to various estimates, the construction of the Everett Covered Bridge took place about 1870.

Side body of Everett Road Covered Bridge
Jack R Perry Photography / Shutterstock.com

Locals say the bridge was constructed due to a farmer who perished trying to cross the river against the stream.

It's also allegedly haunted by the same farmer, his wife, and their horses.

But one thing is clear: this bridge is very stunning!

Just take a short walk to stand under its tresses, as cars are no longer allowed in the area.

Front entrance of Everett Road Covered Bridge
Jeffrey M. Frank / Shutterstock.com

Tour Hale Farm & Village

Chickens at Hale Farm & Village
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Visiting the Hale Farm will give you a better understanding of living in the Cuyahoga Valley in the past.

As a working farm producing and producing milk, it was turned into a living history museum in the 1930s.

No matter how majestic the structure may appear outside, Hale Farm's beginnings were humble.

As a young man, Jonathan Hale set off for the Western Reserve in Bath, Ohio, in 1810.

Flowers blooming at Hale Farm & Village
Showcase Imaging / Shutterstock.com

A ticket is required to enter the venue.

It's advisable to go at your own pace on these tours, which are often self-guided.

Around the grounds are demonstrations of glass making and ceramics.

A garden at Hale Farm & Village
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Take a walk around the gorgeous grounds and enjoy the scenery!

You can learn and shop in this hamlet, consisting of several structures.

Both homemade and locally produced products are available at its market.

Items for sale include glass, ceramics, textiles, and candles made by local artisans.

Exterior of Hale Farm & Village's main house
Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com

Sip Wine at Sarah's Vineyard

The winery was built using a pre-civil war hand-hewn timber structure and completed with cherry,  poplar, maple, and walnut.

In Medina County, Ohio, the original location of the barn's support beams was near Cloverleaf High School.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park received the barn when dismantled and relocated to the park.

This gorgeous Cuyahoga Falls vineyard and winery, which produces around 10,000 gallons of wine a year and sells it directly to consumers, lets you sample a wide range of exquisite wines.

Sarah's Vineyard, owned and maintained by Mike and Margaret Lutz, is more than simply a winery, including outdoor dining, live music, and an art gallery.

While sipping your wine, take a stroll around the tasting area and see the artwork.

In June, an annual summer solstice wine festival is held at the Vineyard that involves several local wineries and musicians.

About 4,000 people visit the event throughout the weekend, which also features blues performers, artists, and food sellers.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take Photos with the Breathtaking Brandywine Falls

Scenic view of Brandywine Falls
Gestalt Imagery / Shutterstock.com

There are several remarkable waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but Brandywine Falls is the most well-known.

From the spacious parking lot, a wooden boardwalk leads to a 65-foot-tall waterfall.

Hard rock on the top of the waterfall shields the softer rock underneath it.

Berea Sandstone is the uppermost stratum here.

Bedford and Cleveland shales, smooth rocks created from the muck that washed up on the seafloor 350-400 million years ago, make up the lower strata.

Autumn leaves near Brandywine Falls
Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

Aside from its aesthetic value, early inhabitants in the valley recognized the falls as a source of water power that might be harnessed.

George Wallace constructed a sawmill above the crest of the falls in 1814.

Then came the mills for grinding grain and spinning wool.

One of the first settlements in the Cuyahoga Valley was Brandywine, which sprang up around the mills.

Observe the waterfall from various perspectives, and don't forget to snap photos with it!

Admire the Charm of the Park at Chippewa Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook

Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Chippewa Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook is a lookout point on the creek near Brecksville, Ohio.

The rocks of the Chippewa Creek Gorge contain the history of the Earth's evolution.

In this spectacular gorge, Chippewa Creek travels, previously formed by the glaciers that once blanketed this area.

Berea Sandstone, which makes up the top layer of the Chippewa Creek Gorge, breaks off and tumbles into the creek, forming enormous boulders.

Today, Chippewa Creek's water continues to erode rocks and gorges, altering the landscape.

Grab Fresh Produce at Szalay's

Szalay's sweet corn farm and the market are well-known throughout northeast Ohio.

You may taste a country farm market in Peninsula by stopping by Szalay's.

Four generations of the same family have run the farm since its inception, and it's only open during the summer months of June through October.

Locally grown produce and homemade things can be found here.

On the weekends, you can get fresh roasted corn on the cob and sandwiches.

Visitors to the Corn Maze may pick up their fall pumpkins from mid-September until October.

Final Thoughts

Even though Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the smallest of the 63 National Parks, it offers a lot.

You may experience a relaxing day of history and sightseeing and a fun-filled weekend enjoying outdoor pursuits.

To help you plan your next getaway, save our list of the best things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.