Explore stunning waterfalls, wander through rolling hills, visit sweeping overlooks, and explore the history-laden culture surrounding one of the newest National Parks in the US.
Tucked between the urban sprawl of both Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers an abundance of hiking opportunities. With over 110 miles of trail spread across 33,000 acres, the park 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. Use this guidebook to discover one of the top 4 easy family- and dog-friendly hikes within the National Park.
Topping the list, Brandywine Falls is the must-do hike and a centerpiece of the National Park. Accessed by a mix of boardwalk and stairs, this 65- foot waterfall can be seen via a short out-and-back walk, or on this mapped 1.3-mile hike along the Brandywine George Trail. The latter is far more popular. Eastern hemlock and red maple thrive in the moist sandstone ecosystem, making this hike even more spectacular in the fall.
Just down the road, Blue Hen Falls is another stunning hike and a “favorite of visitors who wish to visit one of the prettiest waterfalls” in Cuyahoga Valley, according to the NPS. Accessible year-round, the trailhead offers drinking water, restrooms, and plenty of parking – even for larger vehicles or trailers. If you’re up for the challenge, Buttermilk Falls is located further down the stream along a lesser-known, unblazed trail. This source describes Buttermilk as "much more scenic than Blue Hen," and countless sites describe this 20-foot waterfall as a must-visit spot with the park. Afterward, consider visiting either of the Trail Mix locations for a snack or to pick up some souvenirs if you're visiting from out of town.
Departing the two popular waterfall hikes, the Ledges Trail was ranked by Outside Online as the best hike in Ohio in 2019. This loop explores towering sandstone cliffs, wanders through vibrant forests, and even offers some commanding views along the way. Even better, the trailhead also boasts a large field and two shelters that can be reserved for day use. More information on both the Ledges and nearby Octagon Shelters can be found here.
Rounding out the list, the Tree Farm Trail is a Cuyahoga classic with something for everyone. This easy hike explores "gently rolling woodlands," according to the NPS, and includes stands of hardwoods and evergreens, and offers a beautiful setting for a hike. Wildlife, including "sightings of deer, fox, coyotes, and numerous songbirds" are quite common. Another birding site writes how "this is an especially good area in which to look for red-breasted nuthatches and golden-crowned kinglets from late October through early March.” Horseshoe Pond is also accessible from the trailhead if you want to try your hand at catching some bass or bluegill. Bear in mind, a fishing license is required to fish in any body of water within CVNP, and this page contains all the need-to-know information if you want to give it a shot.
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 hike.