All Aboard to Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Katherine RivardTravel Ideas
— Steve Ash/NPS

Cuyahoga Valley National Park isn’t the only park in the National Park System to offer visitors a scenic train route, but the opportunity is a unique way to explore this almost 33,000-acre park. Lush foliage in the summer, changing colors in the fall, and snow-covered trees in the winter — this is one park that’s truly enjoyable at any time of the year. Friendly, knowledgeable staff answer questions as you ride along, taking in the passing scenery and learning about the park’s history.

Those who wish to stay on the train for the entire ride will have a pleasant trip through the park that lasts for about 3 hours. Rambling past wildlife, greenery, and the “crooked river,” you’ll have the opportunity to see deer and eagles in their natural environment.

The orange sun low in the horizon with sun beams cutting through the fog and trees at Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Rick Hanger/NPS

All-day passes are only available at two of the stations (Rockside Station in Independence and Akron Northside Station). However, you can get off at any of the stops and hop on a later train, as the train makes loops through the park.

For those who’d prefer to bike or hike through part of the park, the train offers a special bike rate, picking up cyclists and hikers and returning them to where they started.

Wondering when to pop off the train for a #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque adventure? These sites will be sure to please.

Canal Exploration Center

Some people walking and biking on a wooden boardwalk over a marsh covered in lily pads and surrounded by trees at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Towpath Trail

Time Fenner/NPS

The Canal Exploration Center is a great spot to hop off the train and explore. The building is over 150 years old, having been used in a number of capacities, including as a tavern and boardinghouse. Today, a store offers goods that take you back to a time when the canal was booming. Visitors can use interactive displays to learn all about the canal system and the inhabitants of the area.

Then, stretch your legs along the Towpath Trail, which follows the Ohio & Erie Canal. Forests, fields, and wetlands pass as you walk, run, or bike the path. The canal itself was built between 1825 and 1832 and the canal locks and other structures are still visible as you follow the same paths once used by mules.

Boston Store Visitor Center

A sun-lit cascading waterfall Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brandywine Falls

National Park Service

Waterfalls are always a welcome view, hidden away from the sights and sounds of city life. Brandywine Falls is about a one-hour hike from the visitor center and is one of the most popular spots in the park.  Brandywine Creek carves out this 65-foot waterfall that once powered a mill-based village. This is Ohio’s second largest waterfall and a must-see feature of the park.

Meanwhile, Blue Hen Falls, a half-hour walk from the visitor center, is another favorite among nature seekers. This smaller waterfall is located at the end of an old driveway to Spring Creek. Gaze at the water dropping about 15 feet from a plate of sandstone. The surrounding scenery changes based on the weather, ensuring it’s always a beautiful experience.

Other potential attractions at this stop include the Stanford House, a large house and barn built during the 19th century by the Stanford family. Here, the family raised wheat, cattle, and sheep and today, the house serves as a lodging for visitors. The visitor center itself is another great way to learn more about the park. The building was built in 1836 and once served as the small town’s store and boarding house. Stop in to speak with a ranger or watch a short video about the park.

Peninsula Depot

A group of people dancing contra dance under a covered bridge at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Contra dancers at Everett Road

National Park Service

Not far from the station are several historic buildings and sites including Everett Village and Bridge, and Ritchie Ledges. The Ledges, a four-mile walk from the stop, show off 300 million years of rock formation. The warm sandstone colors beside the hemlock and yellow birch forests are a beautiful sight to behold.

Meanwhile, Everett Village offers a more historic perspective to the area. Once a small hamlet, the village began in the 1820s with fewer than ten residents. By 1880, as the Valley Railway connected Everett to other villages, the community began to grow, amassing some 200 residents by the end of the 19th century.

The Everett Bridge is also an important feature of the local history, standing as the only remaining covered bridge in the county, despite having been one of 2000+ similar bridges in Ohio in the 19th century. This covered, wooden bridge was an important improvement for travelers in the late 1800s, ensuring a safer means for transportation.

Indigo Lake

A cold foggy day with bare trees next to Indigo Lake at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Indigo Lake

Rick Hanger/NPS

A mile from the Indigo Lake stop, Beaver Marsh offers some of the most unique wildlife viewing opportunities in the park. Read: bring your camera. Throughout the year, you’ll see (and hear) a changing assortment of animals and birds, from turtles to cardinals to frogs. Despite having been drained in the 19th century, beavers and humans have both aided in returning the area back to its original wetland state.

Whether you’re visiting for the history or the nature, the scenic train is an excellent way for visitors of all ages to enjoy many areas of this expansive park. No matter the season, the train provides a pleasant trip through the past along a historic path. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is an incredible attraction within the National Park System, but it’s only one way to experience this park. Find your park at Cuyahoga Valley National Park to create your own memories and traditions!

Comments

I’ve had a roadtrip planned for quite some time with Cuyahoga Valley and Acadia on my list of stops. Does anyone have any information on how the shutdown has affected these two parks?
Alayna
Owens
Hi Alayna, I live in Greater Cleveland, so Cuyahoga Valley is my backyard national park. The park is always open, with no entry gates. Like all national park properties, there are no ranger activities or visitors centers open right now, but there are a lot of private businesses in association with the park that are still operating services in and around the park. The Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park operates a gift shop in the village of Peninsula in the heart of the park, and they have open and maintained restrooms and information available during their business hours. All trails are open for regular use, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is still running. Also of note, there are a few areas of the park that are managed by local Metroparks, specifically Brecksville Reservation and Bedford Reservation (Cleveland Metroparks) and Furnace Run, Hampton Hills, and O'Neil Woods Metroparks (Summit Metroparks); these areas are being run normally, with bathroom cleaning and resupply and routine park management still occurring. Overall, CVNP is less affected by the shutdown than a lot of parks, although the lack of ranger activities and normal maintenance is missed. Still, there's a lot left available to enjoy if you decide to visit during the shutdown. Hope this helps!
Linda
Brashear

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