Is Cuyahoga Valley National Park Worth Visiting?

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Are you on a mission to visit each national park in the United States? You’ve probably been doing your research and may have seen Cuyahoga Valley National Park on lists of the most underwhelming national parks. 

Now you’re wondering if Cuyahoga Valley National Park is even worth visiting.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio’s only national park, and if you’re checking each one off of your bucket list, you’ll stop on your way through. If you’re willing to take some time to explore the depths of the park, you just might be in for a surprise. With its wide variety and deep history, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an easy-access park to explore.

So let’s get to it. Is this park even worth it?

Is Cuyahoga Valley National Park Worth Visiting?

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is absolutely worth a visit, as long as you don’t have expectations that you’re walking into the same scenes as those in Yellowstone, Yosemite, or hiking Rocky Mountain National Park!

Located in the heart of Summit County, Ohio, this national park offers visitors miles of hiking trails and a couple of beautiful waterfalls to discover in Cuyahoga. From the picturesque Brandywine Falls to the tranquil Blue Hen Falls, you’ll find breathtaking hidden views during your adventure.

You can also take a break from walking by hopping on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a unique train ride through the valley. There are plenty of parking lots available throughout the park, making it easy to access all these amazing attractions, although the more popular ones do fill up on the weekends.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or an exciting adventure, you’ll find it all at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It’s certainly worth visiting for its miles of trails and accessible scenery.

Brandywine Falls is the largest and most popular Cuyahoga Valley National Park waterfall

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is NOT FOR YOU If:

  • You must see mountain vistas.
  • You want a remote multi-day backcountry camping trip.
  • You’re searching for elk or moose.
  • You can’t get past the sounds of cars on the highway in a few areas.
  • You need total seclusion and serenity.

You SHOULD Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park If:

  • You’re looking for a national park to visit in a weekend.
  • You are bringing the whole family with different hiking abilities.
  • You want to see an easy-access waterfall.
  • History excites you.
  • You want to ski or snowboard in a national park.

Helpful Things to Know Before You Go

Before visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park, there are a few things you should know so that you can be best prepared for your visit.

Cuyahoga is a fairly urban national park. It’s situated with the city of Cleveland about 30 minutes to the north and Akron 10-15 minutes to the south. The beauty of this location is that it is easy to access either by driving on a road trip or by flying into either Cleveland or Akron-Canton airports.

The downside of this is that in some parts of the park, you’ll be able to hear highway traffic while you’re hiking or exploring. Hopefully, this is not something that will ruin your entire visit. 

Many of the trails in this park are popular with locals who are out for a morning walk with their coffee or to walk their dogs. Because the park is so close to these urban areas, there are quite a few locals! Some of the trails, including the Ledges and Brandywine Falls, get quite crowded on the weekends. 

For the best experience, you’ll want to go early in the morning or during the week when there aren’t quite so many visitors on the trails and at the main attractions.

Another positive is that this park has plenty of activities in all seasons, so whether you are looking for things to do in the summer or planning a winter visit to Cuyaghoa, you will find no shortage of things to do for a day or two.

There are also plenty of restaurants and places to stay nearby, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding accommodations or worry about getting a hotel for the night near the park, like some other parks.

One of the best things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is visit and explore the rock formations on the Ledges Trail.
Exploring the Ledges Trail during the fall months.

How to Get There

When planning a visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, getting there is easy. The park is located between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, and can be accessed by interstates 77, 271, and 80.

If you’re flying in for your trip, you can land at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and take I-480 to I-77, taking you east and then south into the heart of the park. From there, you are free to explore as you’d like. 

From the Akron-Canton airport, it’s about a 30-minute drive north on I-77 and then OH-8, straight into the park.

You can be in the park in about 30 minutes from either of these cities to the north or the south. If you’re flying into the area, you will need to rent a car to explore.

Whichever way you choose to get there, make sure you come prepared with snacks and plenty of water.

When is the Best Time to Visit?

The best time to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park is any time of the year, but it does depend on which activities you’d like to take advantage of during your visit. From mild summers to crisp, colorful fall days and snowy winters, the park has something to do during each season.

In summer, the days are long and sunny, making it perfect for outdoor activities like hiking or biking. The trails are well marked and there are various parking lots located throughout the park so you can easily access any part of it.

Come autumn, the leaves begin to turn into beautiful shades of reds, oranges, and yellows – making this a great season for sightseeing and photography. The trails are still open during this time so don’t forget your camera! If you’re lucky enough to come in mid-October, you’ll most likely get to experience peak foliage season at its finest.

Finally, winter brings with it plenty of snow-covered trails. There are even two ski hills and a tubing hill that you can take advantage of during a good winter visit. So bundle up and bring your thermos of hot cocoa because Cuyahoga Valley National Park is just as magical in winter as it is in summer or fall.

winter boardwalk trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The boardwalk to Brandywine Falls in winter is a different experience than during the summer months.

What to Do When Visiting Cuyahoga?

If you’re planning a visit, there are a number of things you can do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park to make the most out of your trip. First and foremost, take advantage of the park’s many hiking trails.

There are trails of varying difficulty levels, so whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, there’s a trail you can explore. The Ledges and Brandywine Falls are popular shorter hikes, or you can hike a section of the Buckeye Trail as a longer hike.

In addition to hiking, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to enjoy in the park. You can bring or rent a bike and explore the park on two wheels via the 20-mile Towpath Trail, or float a kayak down the Cuyahoga River. There are also opportunities for fishing and spotting wildlife.

If you’re interested in history, be sure to visit some of the park’s historical sites, like the Boston Store Visitor Center or the Canal Exploration Center. You can learn about the park’s history and the role this area played in the development and use of the Ohio & Erie Canal.

Take advantage of skiing, snow tubing, or sledding if you visit during the winter. There are only three national parks in the US with ski hills, and this is one of them. The runs are not very long or extremely difficult, but it’s something you can add to your bucket list.

How Many Days Should You Spend in Cuyahoga Valley National Park?

Visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great way to explore the beautiful scenery and take in some of the incredible sights. But how many days do you need to fully experience the park?

The answer depends on what you want to get out of your visit. If you’re just looking to check out the highlights, such as Brandywine Falls, Blue Hen Falls, or Ledges Trail – one full day should be enough. However, if you plan on taking part in activities such as biking, kayaking, or taking in more history – two to three days would be ideal.

With so much to see and do within Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it’s worth making a weekend trip out of it! You’ll have plenty of time to explore all of the amazing natural attractions, as well as catch a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for unique views of Summit County.

Take advantage of the surrounding areas with great restaurants, too. You shouldn’t go hungry on your visit to this park.

Where to Stay Nearby

When planning a trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it’s important to consider where you’ll be staying in order to make the most of your visit. There are several options available for those looking for an overnight stay while visiting the park.

The Staybridge Suites in Stowe is a great hotel because it’s conveniently located and the larger rooms have plenty of space to spread out your gear. 

Book the Staybridge Suites in Stowe.

If you’d rather stay in a home rental, check out this secluded cabin in the woods. You’ll be able to enjoy a little more quiet time like you might expect when visiting a national park, just a 25-minute drive from the park.

Click to Check Availability and Book this Secluded Cabin in the Woods.

Is Cuyahoga Valley National Park worth visiting? This small but beautiful waterfall is a great spot to explore.
Blue Hen Falls in with the autumn colors was beautiful.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is absolutely worth visiting with managed expectations. Don’t expect the same views that you’ll get at Glacier National Park or the same wildlife as in Rocky Mountain National Park. From its own beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails to the scenic railroad and historic landmarks, there is so much to enjoy in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

So if you’re on a road trip or planning a national park visit, consider a day or two at Cuyahoga.