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Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trail Guide

All the best hikes in the hidden gem of the National Park System

bare feet in front of a pond

When I tell people that there’s a National Park in central Ohio, most of them don’t believe me. Even my incredibly outdoorsy family went “I’m sorry what?” when I told them I was going on a hiking vacation just south of Cleveland.


Well my friends, let me introduce you to the best kept secret of the greater Midwest and the hidden gem of the National Park System: Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Located in Central Ohio right between Cleveland and Akron, the park boasts over one hundred miles of trails with beautiful forests, rivers, and rock formations. As an added bonus, it’s one of the few national parks that doesn’t require an entrance fee!


I’ve been on multiple vacations to this stunning park, and while there are still many trails that I haven’t experienced yet, here are the ones that I’ve traveled and can recommend! Behold! The Top Five Trails ranked for your convenience!


No.5 - The Oak Hill and Plateau Trails


These two trail systems leave from the same point, so you can choose your own adventure! You can keep to the inner Oak Hill Trail loop for a shorter hike, or take as many of the Plateau Trail offshoots out into the slightly wilder trails as you please for an extended adventure. But whatever route you take, I recommend stopping at Sylvan Pond for a picnic, or at least some trail snacks.


covered bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

No.4 - The Everett Covered Bridge and Furnace Run


The Everett Covered Bridge is a beautiful historical landmark in the center of the park. The covered bridge itself is, of course, the highlight of this area. It’s just steps from the trailhead parking lot if you just want to stop in and take a look. But if you want to add a full hike to your covered bridge visit, the Furnace Run trail is a two-mile, slightly hilly loop through the forest that takes off right from the bridge area and makes for a lovely afternoon.


a wooded trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

No.3 - Kendall Lake and the Salt Run Trail


The area around Kendall Lake is a must-visit in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There’s a short trail that circles the lake, and the water itself makes for beautiful scenery. There are several trail loops that branch off from the Lake Trail, and my recommendation here is the Salt Run Trail. This trail takes you deep into the wooded areas along the lake, and is lightly challenging without being too strenuous. It’s a beautiful way to see more of the forest.


No.2 - The Ledges Trail


This is where Cuyahoga Valley gets especially scenic! The Ledges trail is a two-mile loop that shows off the park’s most dramatic rock formations. Plan extra time for this hike, as you’ll definitely be stopping to scale some of the formations and admire the views from the overlooks. The trails here will also be dotted with signage explaining the history and geology of the area. It’s one of the best trails in the park, hands down.



If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop in Cuyahoga, this is the place. There are connecter trails that link the Ledges area to the Kendall Lake area. Or you can head north from Ledges and find Boston Run, another lovely forested loop. Ledges is a popular area, so it has a large parking lot, perfect for leaving your car in one place while exploring multiple trails.


Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

No.1 - The Brandywine Gorge Loop


This is probably the most famous hike in the park! This one and the Ledges are certainly the trails that draw the most crowds. This area of the park surrounds Brandywine Creek and the accompanying Brandywine Falls. (Don’t worry Lord of the Rings fans! Ringwraiths not included.)


From the trailhead, there’s a short boardwalk that leads to spectacular views of the falls. After admiring them, it’s time to take off on the full hiking loop.


The Brandywine Gorge Loop is fairly short, only about a mile and a half long, but you’ll want to leave extra time to explore it. The trail winds through the trees and up and down the rocks, with new views of the water at every turn and dozens of areas where you can access the creek itself. It’s the perfect place to sunbathe on the rocky banks, or take off your shoes and wade in the refreshing water.



And These are Just a Fraction of the Trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park!


Don’t sleep on this hidden gem of the national park system. What are you waiting for?? Start planning your Ohio hiking adventure today!


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Love and Shenanigans,


Andi


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