Seeking spectacular desert landscapes or ocean breezes? You won’t find them at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Looking for amazing mountain vistas? Look elsewhere. Hoping to get away from it all? Not here. But you can find a nice selection of walks in the woods with food and lodging nearby.
Meandering along the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio’s only national park offers a mélange of forest and water in a uniquely suburban setting. The park is one of three in the Great Lakes Basin.
There is no shortage of trails . But we had allotted just half a day. So, we stopped by the Boston Mill Visitor Center, located in the shadow of I-271, for a bit of guidance. We chose two hikes: the Brandywine Falls Loop and the Cuyahoga Valley Ledges Trail.
The falls loop was a bust. A dry spell made for a light flow at Brandywine Falls. The loop down one side of Brandywine Creek and up the other was disappointing. Numerous visits to the Yosemite Valley and the coastal ranges of the Pacific Northwest have raised our expectations for waterfalls.
The tromp around the ledges trail, however, was interesting and unique. A few moderate rises and falls even got our blood pumping as we hiked the perimeter of the massive sandstone outcropping and explored narrow passageways between the 20-foot cliffs.
Did we give Cuyahoga Valley short shrift? Probably. But we were on a schedule. And if we ever decide to return, it’s just 40 minutes from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
True confessions. Cuyahoga Valley National Park was an afterthought.
The primary draw to Ohio’s north shore was an invitation to stay with Dan’s newspapering buddy Bill at his Cawtawba island cottage on the banks of Lake Erie. Bill befriended and mentored Dan 40 years ago at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and its short-lived sister publication, the St. Louis Evening news.
We enjoyed the local perch and frites, visits to the Port Clinton and Marblehead light stations ahead of the Memorial Day weekend crowd, grilled salmon a la Bill, beachside s’mores, and chatting with his fine friends and family.
It was a grand visit, swapping stories, sharing some laughs and even shedding a few tears – an old friendship that has aged well.
We spent three weeks enjoying friends, family and the wonders of the Great Lakes region of the United States in May and June 2023.