Cuyahoga Valley National Park Winter Activity Guide

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), located in northeast Ohio, is one of the smaller parks in the system. Due to its location, though, Cuyahoga is very easily accessible. It’s also perfect for year-round visiting! This park has all four seasons and winter offers plenty of opportunities for a variety of different outdoor activities. 

The first question that people typically ask is if Cuyahoga Valley National Park is even open in the winter, and the answer is mostly yes! While the activities change depending on the season, much of the park remains open and accessible during the winter months, too. There are plenty of activities to enjoy during a Cuyahoga Valley National Park winter!

Winter can be a great time to visit this national park, as, like many others, there are fewer visitors to contend with at the major attractions. Many of those enjoying the park in the winter are locals out for a workout or walking their dogs.

Cuyahoga has some great hiking trails and winter activities, so there is plenty to do. There are several fairly short hikes within the park that offer beautiful and peaceful surroundings, especially in the quiet of winter. Here are some of the ways that you can enjoy this winter wonderland!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Weather in Winter

Winter in Northeast Ohio and CVNP can be a lot of fun. Typically, there is plenty of snow to allow for many of your favorite winter activities, but not so much that you have to partake in them for 9 months out of the year. Nights can be quite cold, but during the daytime, temperatures are not typically unbearable.

You’ll definitely want to dress in layers, especially if you’re heading out to explore early in the morning. Average lows for the winter months of December through March stay somewhere in the low 20s Fahrenheit, but they definitely dip lower near zero every now and again. Highs for these months average in the 30s. These are just averages, though! Be sure to check the actual temperature predictions before your trip to be sure that you are packing and dressing appropriately for the weather.

Snowfall also averages about a foot per month from December through March and about 5 feet per year. Some years are better than others, but there is typically at least a little bit of that white stuff on the ground. Lake effect snow can be dramatic, putting lots on the ground in a short amount of time. 

Things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Winter

While there are spots in Cuyahoga that aren’t able to be visited in their entirety during the winter months, there are plenty of things to do to fill at least a couple of days. The most popular activities include hiking and skiing, and we’ll dive more into some of the best things to do and places to see in this guide to a Cuyahoga Valley National Park winter.

1. Hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Winter

The Ledges and Brandywine trails are best for hiking in winter. Park in the lot near Brandywine Falls and walk down the boardwalk to see the 65-foot (hopefully) frozen waterfall! In early and late winter, Brandywine Falls might not be completely frozen, but after a cold stretch in mid-winter, you’ll be in for quite a treat. 

After visiting Brandywine Falls, you might want to head over to the Ledges Trail. Although this trail is great during all times of the year, winter adds an extra dimension. Giant icicles hang from the large rocks and overhangs. Winter is not the time to be exploring through the rocks and close to the edges, though. 

Frozen Brandywine Falls from the top viewing platform

For a longer hike, you could plan to hike a section of the Buckeye Trail, as it travels through the park on its way throughout the whole state of Ohio. You could hike the whole way from Cincinnati to Cleveland and beyond on the Buckeye Trail and it passes near some of the best sights in the park.

You may want to have a pair of microspikes or ice cleats in your pack, just in case you run into some packed snow or ice, especially on trails like those to Blue Hen Falls. There are some steep hills on some of the trails throughout the park, and they’re highly trafficked. The snow gets packed down and can become very slippery very quickly!

2. Snowshoeing

Although there isn’t always enough snow to partake in snowshoeing, when the conditions allow, it’s a great alternative to plain old winter hiking. 

Rentals are available at the Boston Mills Visitor Center for a reasonable price for those who do not have shoes of their own. Snow must be at least 4 inches deep for this to be an option. Call before you go to ensure that conditions are appropriate and rentals are available.

There are a few areas that are better than others when looking to go snowshoeing. Trail options include:

Trail NameDistanceDifficulty
Oak Hill Trail1.5 milesEasy to Moderate
Cross Country Trail (Kendall Lake)2.5 milesModerate to Difficult
Tree Farm Trail2.75 milesEasy to Moderate
Boston Run Trail3.5 milesModerate to Difficult
Pine Grove Trail (Kendall Lake)3.5 milesModerate
Plateau Trail (Oak Hill)4.9 milesModerate

If you’re heading out on snowshoes and also see cross-country ski tracks, there are just a couple of things to remember. Always avoid stepping in the cross-country ski tracks, as the divots can be dangerous when skiers hit them on their way. Also, skiers have the right-of-way, so pay attention so you don’t accidentally get run over!

Everett Covered Bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in winter

3. Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is another great option for getting outdoors in the Cuyahoga Valley winters. There are plenty of miles of trails to explore on your skis, too!

If you are brand new to this activity, you might want to just practice in an open area without any obstacles to navigate around. There are open fields that would be great for this activity beside the Ledges trail parking and the covered bridge, especially. 

Otherwise, there are trails of all difficulties. Some, like Oak Hill and Tree Farm, are flatter, while Pine Grove has more hills. The Towpath Trail is the longest possible distance but covers easy, flat terrain.

Trail NameDistanceDifficulty
Oak Hill Trail1.5 milesEasy to Moderate
Cross Country Trail (Kendall Lake)2.5 milesModerate to Difficult
Tree Farm Trail2.75 milesEasy to Moderate
Boston Run Trail3.5 milesModerate to Difficult
Plateau Trail (Oak Hill)4.9 milesModerate
Bike & Hike Trail (with Summit Metroparks)10+ milesEasy
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail19.7 milesEasy

Bring your own skis if you really want to be able to explore all the areas. Rentals will take a little more work to secure.

4. Downhill Skiing/Snowboarding

There are two areas where downhill skiing and snowboarding are available in the Cuyahoga Valley. Boston Mills Ski Resort and Brandywine Ski Resort both offer lessons and rentals not far from the Boston Mill Visitor Center. The two resort areas are only separated by about 3 miles.

Boston Mills has 6 slopes of varying difficulty as well as 1 terrain park. There are 9 slopes and 2 terrain parks at Brandywine. Lift tickets purchased for skiing here are good at both locations.

A main lodge sits at the bottom of each of the ski areas and offers food and drink, restrooms, and a place to warm up from the cold. This is also where you can purchase lift tickets and lessons, as well as secure rental equipment.

5. Snow Tubing

If skiing or snowboarding is too much, there is another option! Check out the Polar Blast Snow Tubing Park! The tubing hill is located right next to the Brandywine Ski Resort. Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time to ensure that you have a spot. Reservations are recommended!

Tubing is a great activity for both adults and kids who are a little older, as you must be 42 inches tall to partake in this activity. You also don’t need to bring any of your own equipment! Tubes will be waiting for you at the hill.

You won’t have to walk back up the hill to take another ride, either! There are 2 conveyors at the tubing hill, so once you slide to the bottom, grab your tube and hop on one to take a ride back to the top of the hill.

6. Sledding in CVNP

Do you want to sail down a hill in a toboggan or sled, like when you were a kid? Do you have kids of your own but no access to a hill to enjoy in the winter? Check out the winter sledding hills at Kendall Hills. There is plenty of room for lots of sleds.

Bring your own sled or toboggan. There is also plenty of parking along Quick Road, just a short distance from the sledding hills.

Pack a thermos full of hot cocoa to warm up after spending some time out on the hill!

winter boardwalk trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

7. Ice Fishing

There are a few lakes, streams, and ponds throughout Cuyahoga Valley, and it is possible to ice fish in them. This activity is definitely at your own risk, as there isn’t anyone in the park who is monitoring the ice thickness. This probably isn’t the spot for beginner ice fishers.

 Typical fish that you can expect to catch include bluegill, bass, and crappie.

It is also much preferred that you do not plan to keep the fish that you catch here. This activity is more for recreation, so releasing the fish you catch ensures that the populations in the CVNP bodies of water are maintained for others to enjoy, too.

Be sure to check with the Ohio DNR for rules, regulations, and required fishing licenses.

8. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

If you’d love to be able to enjoy the winter scenes in the Cuyahoga Valley, but you either are not able to or just don’t want to get out in the cold and explore, then just hop aboard and take a train ride through the park and surrounding area.

National Park scenic tours typically only happen on the weekends during the winter, and tickets can be reserved ahead of time to ensure you have a spot. Book directly through the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. There are 3 stations to choose from when deciding where to begin your adventure.

The whole train ride typically takes about 2.5 hours, but if you purchase an “all-day pass,” you can get off and explore a little at the other stations.

Tips for Hiking Safely in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Winter

 When sharing a trail with cross-country skiers, it is important to know two things. First, skiers have the right of way. Second, take care to avoid stepping in any cross-country ski tracks. Footprints and disruptions in the tracks can be dangerous for skiers.

Winter hiking, in general, presents different challenges than hiking in the other three seasons. As we mentioned before, you’ll want to have some sort of traction device when heading out on the trails. Many of the trails here include stairs, hills, and slopes. They can definitely become icy due to traffic and temperature changes, so better safe than sorry.

You should also be prepared for cold temperatures and wind. Be sure to dress in layers, wear a hat and gloves, and maybe even bring an extra pair of socks for when you’re finished exploring. Your wet and cold feet will thank you!

How Many Days Do You Need in Cuyahoga Valley National Park?

This depends entirely on what activities you’d like to experience. If you’d like to go skiing and snowshoeing, then you may need to book multiple days. There are miles and miles of trails and slopes to explore! However, if you’d prefer to just see the highlights of the park, you could get to most of them for quick stops in one day. We’d recommend a weekend-type getaway to get the most out of Cuyahoga.

If visiting during the winter months does not sound like it is for you, there are plenty of other options. There are things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in all seasons.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers many winter activities for visitors to enjoy during their stay, making Cuyahoga worth visiting during any season. From skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and even snow tubing, there are plenty of ways to spend your time at CVNP.

So, whether you’re planning a weekend trip or a week-long vacation, take advantage of the many activities offered by CVNP and enjoy a snowy experience unlike anything else!