Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a hidden gem nestled just outside Cleveland, Ohio. With miles of hiking trails and activities for all ages, I think Cuyahoga Valley is one of the midwest’s best kept secrets. With over 125 miles of interconnected trails, this diverse park has something for everyone, from easy waterfall strolls to moderate treks.
Before visiting, I’ll admit to being a little skeptical about hiking in Ohio. But once I found out this National Park was less than 2 hours from my in-laws house and super dog friendly – I knew we had to check it out! After several visits exploring Cuyahoga Valley, these are my picks for the best hikes in Cuyahoga Valley to check out on your next visit.
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A Quick Look at the Best Hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park has dozens of easily accessible hiking trails, making hiking one of the most popular activities in this National Park. Most hikes here are easy to moderately difficult, and unlike most other National Parks, all of Cuyahoga’s trails are dog friendly!
Here’s a quick look at my pick for the 7 best hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park:
|The Ledges Trail||1.8 Miles / 80′ Gain||Easy|
|Brandywine Gorge Loop Trail to Brandywine Falls||1.4 Miles / 190′ Gain (Stairs)||Easy|
|Blue Hen Falls via Buckeye Trail||3 Miles / 580′ Gain||Moderate|
|Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail||1 Mile to 87 Miles||Easy|
|Kendall Lake Loop||1.5 Miles / 98′ Gain||Easy|
|Deer Lick Cave and Bridal Loop Trail||4.2 Miles / 498′ Gain||Moderate|
|Tree Farm Trail||2.8 Miles / 145′ Gain||Easy|
Keep reading for more details on each of these hikes, as well as helpful tips and information for planning your next trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Map of the Best Hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Use this map of Cuyahoga Valley National Park to find the 7 best hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as Park Visitor Centers.
How to Use This Map: Click the Icons on the map to see more information about each location. Click the star at the top of the map to add the map to your Google Maps account.
A Quick Intro to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is nestled in the rolling hills and forests between the major cities of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Because of its history and proximity to major cities, Cuyahoga Valley feels a lot more like a giant state park than pure wilderness.
To get around Cuyahoga Valley you’ll drive through towns, villages, over bridges, and along major highways. It’s a different kind of National Park experience!
There are no entrance fees to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Parking is available at most trailheads, as well as at the Boston Mills Visitor Center. Make sure to get here early, especially in summer and on weekends. Parking lots at popular trails (the Ledges and Brandywine falls) can fill up pretty quickly during busy days.
There is so much more to Cuyahoga National Park than its beautiful hiking trails! Check out the best things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park – including a Scenic Train ride, delicious treats, and interactive activities for the whole family.
What is so Special About Cuyahoga Valley National Park?
Cuyahoga Valley doesn’t have the “wow” factor of other National Parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone. In fact, first time visitors might find themselves wondering “why, exactly did Cuyahoga get National Park status?’
But after several visits, I’ve really come to appreciate this National Park for its family and (dog-friendly!) hiking trails, accessible waterfalls, and important history.
What is special about Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is that it preserves an important chapter in US history. Cuyahoga Valley is a living monument to how far we’ve come in the fight to protect the environment – and how far we still need to go.
A Quick History of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Over the years, the Cuyahoga Valley was home to several Native American tribes, including the Lenapé. Over the years, many tribes used the area as an important trading corridor.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, war, coercive treaties, and new laws forcibly removed Native Americans from the Cuyahoga Valley and opened the area to European settlement.
Starting in the late 1800’s visitors from nearby metropolitan Cleveland and Akron started visiting the valley to escape industrial city life. In the 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corps built much of the Park’s existing infrastructure.
Over the years, the valley was an important corridor for shipping industrial and commercial goods along the railroads and canal way. The Cuyahoga River also became a dumping ground for the region’s urban and industrial waste. By the 1960’s, the Cuyahoga River was so significantly polluted that the river literally caught fire over 13 times.
The Cuyahoga River fires outraged the nation and helped launch the modern environmental movement and the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, and later the Environmental Protection Agency.
Citizens, local and state leaders successfully lobbied to establish the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974. The area was re-designated a National Park in October, 2000.
After decades of cleanup and restoration, the Cuyahoga River and valley are now thriving ecosystems. The area is filled with dense forests, beaver marshes, and interesting geologic formations.
Best Hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
For many trails in Cuyahoga Valley, you will have to drive on narrow roads through residential areas to access the trailhead.
Please be courteous of the neighbors who live next to the trail. Only park in designated parking spots, keep noise to a minimum and practice Leave No Trace principles.
Cuyahoga has over 125 miles of hiking trails, almost all of which are interconnected. Pay extra close attention to your map or GPS when hiking here, especially at trail junctions.
Do not rely on cell service for directions within the National Park.
The Ledges Trail
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Difficulty: 80’ Gain / Easy
If you only have time for one hike in Cuyahoga Valley, the Ledges trail is my favorite hike in this National Park.
This short kid and dog friendly trail is one of the most popular in the Park. Along the trail, you’ll circle the “Ledges” – a plateau of towering sandstone bedrock that has been eroded into a maze of cliffs and caves over millions of years.
Peer over the cliffs and wander through the maze of moss covered stone. The trail Overlook has one of the best views in the entire park, looking out over Valley and nearby towns and is a must see if you’re visiting the park during Fall.
Plan to spend 1 to 2 hours exploring this easy, but super rewarding hike.
Icebox Cave is a small cave inside the Ledges that was once a popular visit for hikers. The cave was closed 7 years ago to protect the local bat population, which has been severely affected by white-nose syndrome.
The Ledges Trail is NOT wheelchair accessible and not recommended for visitors with mobility issues.
Brandywine Gorge Loop Trail to Brandywine Falls
Distance: 1.4 Miles (Full Loop)
Difficulty: 190′ Gain (Stairs) / Easy
Partially Wheelchair Accessible. The Brandywine trail is wheelchair accessible on the boardwalk up to the first lookout.
Brandywine Falls is the largest waterfall in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the Park’s most famous landmark. Here, Brandywine Creek falls over 60 feet through the picturesque gorge.
Most visitors take the short boardwalk down to the Brandywine Falls overlook and return. But if you have the time, consider hiking the entire 1.4 mile loop of the Gorge.
To complete the loop, follow the Brandywine Boardwalk to the right to the top of the falls, then continue on over the falls via the Bike and Hike Trail. Follow the bike trail to the picturesque Inn at Brandywine Falls hotel, and stay left for the Brandywine Gorge Trail.
Like most trails in Cuyahoga, the Gorge Loop intersects with multiple trails. Pick up a map at the Visitor’s Center, take a photograph of the trail map on the bulletin board at the trailhead.
Tips for visiting Brandywine Falls: Brandywine Falls is the largest waterfall in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the Park’s most famous waterfall. Avoid visiting the Falls during the most crowded times of day, usually 10AM to 3PM.
Blue Hen Falls via Buckeye Trail
Distance: 3 Miles
Difficulty: 580′ Gain / Moderate
Take a short but rewarding hike to Cuyahoga’s second highest waterfall, Blue Hen Falls. The picturesque 15 foot falls is a favorite spot for photographers and hikers who want to stretch their legs on one of Cuyahoga’s dirt trails.
Blue Hen Falls is located on the Buckeye Trail, a 1400 mile scenic trail that circles the state of Ohio, with several scenic miles running through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The Buckeye Trail to Blue Hen Falls can be easily accessed from the Boston Mill Visitor Center. Park at, or take the Scenic Railroad to, Boston Mill. From the Visitor Center, (carefully) cross Riverview Rd and walk north (away from the River) on Boston Mills Road. A small sign for the Buckeye Trail will be on your left, leading into the woods.
After approximately 1.4 Miles, stay to the right and follow signs for Blue Hen Falls.
What is a Buckeye? Talk to any Ohio-an long enough and you will realize that they are strangely, passionately proud of their state tree, the Ohio Buckeye. You’ll find Buckeye trees throughout Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and you might recognize them by their distinctive round brown nut. While actual buckeye nuts are toxic, don’t miss trying the delicious chocolate and peanut butter Buckeye candy found in the Boston Store and at farmer’s markets, truck stops, really anywhere across the state.
Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Distance: 1 to 87 Miles
This is a popular trail for biking, hiking, dog walking, and even horseback riding.
The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath is an 87-mile long dirt and gravel path that travels from Cleveland to Akron, Ohio. The Towpath trail is open to hikers and bikers (and horses in some sections) and is a popular recreation spot for local families and visitors alike.
19 miles of the Towpath Trail wind through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, including 10 different trailheads to access the path.
Park your car and explore as far as you would like before returning to your car, or for a real adventure, hop on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and take the train back to your vehicle!
The Towpath Trail follows the original route of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath. From the late 1800’s until 1913, the Towpath was used by mules to pull canal boats filled with goods and people, up and down the Ohio & Erie Canal. Before large-scale use of trains, the Canal was an essential highway for goods and water for towns between Akron and Lake Erie.
Popular Spots on the Towpath Trail Inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Canal Exploration Center: 7104 Canal Rd., Valley View, OH 44125 – Learn about the history of the canal and explore a restored lock up close. Great for kids!
- Boston Mill: Collect your park stamp, pick up a map, and learn about the history of Cuyahoga Valley at the Boston Mill Visitor Center.
- Beaver Marsh: This 1 mile section of the towpath is now a beautiful and wheelchair accessible boardwalk. The boardwalk crosses a marsh that is often teaming with birds, frogs, turtles, muskrats, and of course beavers. Learn more about Beaver Marsh here.
Kendall Lake Loop
Distance: 1.5 Miles
Difficulty: 98′ Gain / Easy
This easy trail circles Kendall Lake and is great for families and anyone looking for an easy stroll. The Lake is particularly beautiful in autumn. Keep your eyes peeled for beavers and other wildlife around the Lake.
Kendall Lake is located just a few short minutes drive from the Ledges Trail.
Deer Lick Cave and Bridal Loop Trail
Distance: 4.2 Miles
Difficulty: 498′ Gain / Moderate
Explore Deer Lick Cave, a small cave tucked into the side of a cliff, a waterfall and dense Cuyahoga Valley forests on this 4.2 mile moderate trail.
For a shorter option, you can visit Deer Lick Cave without doing the full loop trail. Park at Meadows Road and hike the 0.2 Mile Bridal Trail to the Cave.
As with many trails in Cuyahoga, there are multiple trails intersecting in this area. Pay attention at trail junctions and closely follow a map or GPS directions.
Tree Farm Trail
Distance: 2.8 Miles
Difficulty: 145′ Gain / Easy
The Tree Farm Trail makes for an easy and kid friendly hike through Cuyahoga Valley’s forest. The rows of pine trees you pass by are from an old tree farm which now gives the trail its name.
Watch out! This trail can become VERY muddy after rain and snow. Expect muddy conditions if there has been rain within the last few weeks. Waterproof shoes are recommended year round.
Hiking with Dogs in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Did you know Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of THE best National Parks to visit with your furry best-friend? Because Cuyahoga Valley is an “urban” Park and does not have an extensive wilderness area, this Park is almost entirely dog friendly!
In fact, getting to hike Cuyahoga’s trails with my fur-baby Coco is what keeps us coming back here again and again.
Leashed pets are allowed on all popular trails on this list, including the Ledges, Brandywine Gorge, Blue Hen Falls, and Buckeye Trail.
Pets are NOT permitted inside buildings, on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, on the East Rim Mountain Bike trails, at Hale Farm, or at the Farmer’s Markets outside “Yappy Hour.”
Tips for Visiting National Parks with Your Dog:
- Keep your pet leashed at all times.
- Don’t forget to bring water, a travel bowl, and extra food. Your pets get thirsty too – make sure they drink whenever you do!
- Always double check NPS.gov for a complete list of where your pet is, or is not permitted, inside a National Park. Most National Parks do not permit pets on any trails, or have specifically designated areas where pets are permitted.
- NEVER leave pets in the car!
- Always obey all rules regarding pets in National Parks. This is for your safety, your pet’s safety, and the safety of wildlife.
Planning a Visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
With plenty of transportation and lodging options nearby, planning a trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a breeze compared with other, bigger National Parks.
How Much Time Should I Spend in Cuyahoga Valley National Park?
First time visitors to Cuyahoga Valley should try and spend at least one full day exploring the Park. Thanks to its convenient location between Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley makes the perfect day-trip or weekend getaway.
Cuyahoga Valley is located directly next to Interstate 80, which means its the perfect stop on your next road trip. As mentioned elsewhere, Cuyahoga is extremely dog-friendly, meaning you don’t have to worry about leaving your furry friend behind to visit here.
Even if you only have a few hours (or less), Cuyahoga Valley makes a great visit for anyone who loves National Parks, hiking or just wants to stretch their legs during a road trip.
Where to Stay in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
There are no campgrounds or dispersed camping inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For State Park camping and private campgrounds nearby, click here.
If you’re bringing a recreational vehicle (RV) to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, there is designated parking at Boston Mill Visitor Center and Rockside Station, as well as parking that can accommodate large vehicles at other trailheads. In 2022 we visited Cuyahoga while towing a large trailer for our cross-country move, and we had no problems finding an easy spot at Boston Mill.
There are numerous hotels in and around Cuyahoga Valley National Park, ranging from historic Bed-and-Breakfasts to budget chain hotels.
The charming Inn at Brandywine Falls is the only hotel located inside the National Park. Built in 1848, this adorable bed-and-breakfast has charming, if not dated, guestrooms, and a full-service plated breakfast included with your stay. Book the Inn at Brandywine Falls here.
Within a few minutes drive of the National Park are multiple hotel chains perfect for road trippers, stay-cationers, and dog-parents.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind National Park experience, consider renting out the historic Stanford House, owned by the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This historic house built in 1843 has beds for up to 30 guests. But start planning now, this property takes reservations 2 years in advance!
How to Get to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Thanks to Cuyahoga’s convenient location, this National Park is accessible from almost anywhere in the Midwest.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in and around the town of Peninsula, Ohio. The Boston Mill Visitor’s Center is a great place start any visit to the park.
Rental cars are available at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and other nearby airports.
|City||Distance to Boston Mill Visitor Center|
|Cleveland, OH||22 Miles / 30 Minutes|
|Akron, OH||17 Miles / 23 Minutes|
|Pittsburgh, PA||114 Miles / 1 Hour 45 Minutes|
|Columbus, OH||129 Miles / 2 Hours|
|Cincinnati||283 Miles / 3 Hours 30 Minutes|
Nearest Airports to Cuyahoga
Flying to Cuyahoga? The nearest airport to Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
There are multiple airports within a reasonable drive to Cuyahoga, and it pays to compare flights. Use the table to compare the closest airports to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
|Airport||Distance to Boston Mill Visitor Center|
|Cleveland Hopkins Intl Airport||24 Miles / 30 Minutes|
|Akron-Canton Airport||30 Miles / 35 Minutes|
|Pittsburgh International Airport||104 Miles / 1 Hour 40 Minutes|
|Columbus International Airport||129 Miles / 2 Hours|
Ready to compare flights? Click below to start booking your flight to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Getting Around Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Like other East Coast Parks, Cuyahoga is pieced together around existing farms, towns, and highways. To access all areas of the park, a car is strongly recommended. Cell Service and Data are widely available inside the National Park, except on some hiking trails.
Cuyahoga Valley is the 9th most visited National Park, with over 2,900,000 visitors in 2022. That means that Parking can get crowded, especially during the summer and on weekends.
Plan on arriving to popular trailheads like Brandywine, Boston Mills, Ledges and Blue Hen Falls early in the day. Have a backup plan if parking is full and come back to a popular spot later in the day.
Select stops in Cuyahoga Valley National Park are accessible via the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Learn more about getting around Cuyahoga by rail, here.
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