I’ve never been to Ohio except for a brief layover in the Cincinnati airport. I wouldn’t want Atlanta judged by its airport, so I reserved judgement on the state of Ohio as a whole. What we found in Ohio was such a wonderful surprise and made for one of our favorite national park adventures so far!
Cuyahoga Falls National Park is between Cleveland and Akron, which seemed an odd place for a national park. I mean, what I mainly know about Cleveland is dominating pro basketball (We’ll see how things go without LeBron.) and tragic pro football (Every season offers new hope! Don’t give up, Browns). (Sorry, Indians, I’m not a baseball fan.) This was supposed to be one of those check-the-boxes kind of trips to say we had visited the park, but we were wrong.
It’s amazing that there is even a national park here at all. The Cuyahoga River was most notoriously known for being so polluted that it caught fire in 1969. That doesn’t make a visitor overwhelmingly optimistic about their park experience. I’m happy to report, however, that the river is in much, much better shape now and millions of people visit this small, but beautiful and welcoming national park a year. The park protects 22 miles of the Cuyahoga River and weaves in and out of small towns, rolling hills, wetlands, and waterfalls. Offering a variety of hiking/biking experiences for every age in a variety of ability levels, this park and its hospitable and knowledgeable staff of park employees and volunteers require at least a two- to three-day visit. They even have a scenic railroad!
One of the unique features is the Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail, which connects many of the park’s natural and historic sites. Built along the route of the Ohio and Erie Canal, visitors can walk where mules once towed barges up and down the canals. The trail is open 24 hours a day and is accessible for people using bicycles, wheelchairs, and strollers. In the winter, it remains unplowed to make it usable for cross country skiers. Make sure to stop in at the Canal Exploration Center and Boston Store Visitor Center.
The Boston Store Visitor Center is a convenient place from which to take a short walk along the road to access the Buckeye Trail, which offers a hike to Blue Hen Falls. (Note: When the park is not too busy, there is a small parking area at the Blue Hen Falls trailhead. If it’s full, you park at the Boston Store Visitor Center and hike a couple of easy to moderate miles to reach the trailhead.) The Blue Hen Falls hike winds through beautiful forest and seems to end at a small, but scenic, waterfall. Take the time to leave the trail and make your way to the base of the falls. It’s a beautiful area and a great place to hang out.
The hike seems to end there, but locals directed us to continue along the creek to Butternut Falls. This trail isn’t marked, but it is easy to follow along the creek. Butternut Falls is picturesque in a totally different manner than Blue Hen but don’t miss out on the adventure. We hiked a total of about six to eight miles that day and enjoyed it all.
Another trail you must try at Cuyahoga Valley is the Ledges. You have to drive a few miles from the park to the Buxtell Preserve to get to the Ledges, but this is a must-see hike that has two different levels.
There are well-maintained trails at the top that meander through woods, rocks, and streams.
Then there are lower trails that go through the rocks themselves and by a cave that is currently not open to visitors. (The cave is closed due to the spread of disease amongst bat populations that is horribly impacting the species.) The pictures show the lower trails from above, in the rocks, and leaving the lower trails
This was an easy, beautiful hike that has become one of my favorites in any park. I loved the variety of experiences along the trails and the beauty of the surroundings. I would go back to the park again just to play in the rocks at the Ledges.
One more must-see is Brandywine Falls. A view of the largest falls in the park is an easy walk on paved trails to a lookout point. There are a few stairs to climb, but the walk is worth it.
Inn at Brandywine Falls
Within hearing and walking distance of Brandywine Falls, is a beautiful, comfortable, and hospitable bed and breakfast, the Inn at Brandywine Falls. This farmhouse has been painstakingly restored both in structure and interior design by inn owners Katie and George Hoy, who have been operating the inn for 30 years. (See our Fresh Paths Story about Katie and George.) The main house has several bedrooms/suites and there are also two detached suites in the former carriage barn, the Granary and the Loft.
We stayed in the Anna Hale Garret that came with two double beds, a single bed, and a daybed, as well as a full bath.
The room was so cozy, and everything, right down to the quilts on the beds, made us feel as if we were living in the same time as the home’s original inhabitants except for all the modern amenities we’ve come to enjoy. Ask George to tell you the story of the garrett; he does an excellent job!
Every morning Katie and George put out a full, sumptuous breakfast complete with fine china and homemade bread that is worth a visit all on its own. We had the chance to sit around a table and visit with people from all over the world and had a lovely time. At night, fresh-baked cookies and tea are available for a bedtime snack. There is a library and veranda complete with chairs and swing. The veranda looks out over the inn’s flower gardens and the paved path to Brandywine Falls.
I cannot recommend the inn highly enough! George at 91 and Katie at 88 are our heroes! I want to be like them when I grow up!
Don’t just take my word for the wonders of the Inn at Brandywine Falls; check out their website at https://www.innatbrandywinefalls.com/ Please tell them the Powells sent you with their warmest regards.
We loved our visit to Cuyhoga Valley! How about you? Have you been to this area of Ohio? Do you have other suggestions of what to do while you’re up in this area? Let us hear from you!