Explore stunning waterfalls, wander through rolling hills, visit sweeping overlooks, and explore the history-laden culture surrounding one of Ohio’s best-kept secrets.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a hidden gem for trail runners, tucked between the urban sprawl of both Akron and Cleveland, Ohio. With over 110 miles of trail spread across 33,000 acres, it offers a “refuge for flora and fauna, gives a sense of times past, and provides recreation and solitude for Ohio’s residents and visitors,” according to the NPS.
As with many National Parks, Cuyahoga Valley offers plenty of overnight camping options, pavilions to rent, and many of the trailheads boast ample parking for larger vehicles, including RVs and trailers. In contrast to most other national parks, leashed pets are permitted on the 110+ miles of trail and 20 miles of the towpath. Ticks and poison ivy are prevalent, however, so keep that in mind if you intend to bring your four-legged friend along for a run.
If you’re unsure of where to start or are looking for a family-friendly hike, check out the Ledges/Pine Grove Loop. In 2019, Outside Online ranked it as the best hike in Ohio! This loop wanders along massive sandstone cliffs towering above the Cuyahoga River, then explores a lush pine forest to the west. Though only 3.6 miles long, this loop can be lengthened or shortened to your preference, though nothing is ever too challenging. Alternatively, Brandywine Falls, is another must-visit short hike or trail run to a vibrant 65-foot waterfall in the heart of the park.
Passing through the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Buckeye Trail is a local favorite, and the included section is entirely on trail. If you have two vehicles, you could even shuttle this section for ~14 miles of rolling singletrack along Ohio’s premier 1,444-mile-long trail. From the Boston Trailhead, the Buckeye also helps form two excellent trail runs with the Towpath and Bridle Trails. Afterward, head over to either of the Trail Mix locations to refuel with a snack, drink, or to stock up on your National Park souvenirs.
The three other classic trail runs to make the list are the Langes/Wetmore Loop, Plateau Trail, and this loop near Everett. Quieter and less visited than other corners of the park, these scenic trail runs offer flora and fauna that are spectacular during the leaf season in the fall. Near Everett in particular, this source refers to "an old township road through a forest of white oaks, sycamores, ferns, and an occasional conifer." They continue by stating how you may "encounter deer flies, pileated woodpeckers, and rabbits. Coyotes patrol the park as well, but you’re more likely to hear them than see them.”