Valley View: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park showcases pioneer history and natural beauty
Summer heat bakes the park, then fall leaves pack it, so September is the perfect time to explore the secluded waterfalls, winding bridle trails and canal history that have made Cuyahoga Valley one of the 10 most visited national parks in the county.
Located about two hours northeast of Columbus, the state’s only national park is a skinny strip connected by roughly 20-mile sections of the crushed-limestone Towpath Trail and passenger-toting Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which together link 33,000 acres preserving the history of the Ohio and Erie Canal.
Falls in Love
Cuyahoga Valley boasts dozens of waterfalls, including these eye-catchers.
Bridal Veil (above)
Savor romantic views from a bridge and deck in a shady, secluded valley.
Hike down to feel the spray, then walk barefoot over the creek’s smooth stone bottom.
The 65-foot powerhouse sits next to the park’s most popular bed-and-breakfast.
“That’s what the park was supposed to do,” says Donna Tirpak, a walking almanac of insider information and the innkeeper at horse-friendly Shady Oaks Farm Bed & Breakfast, which offers rooms starting at $150 per night along the park’s eastern border. “It’s not gorgeous like the Grand Canyon, but there’s a lot of historic stuff.”
Instead of plotting complex itineraries, start exploring around one of the visitor centers, which feature helpful rangers and daily schedules of acoustic concerts and beer-tasting train rides (next up: Oktoberfest sippers on Sept. 20). Trips abound for history buffs, bikers and families.
To explore the region’s rich past, the area near Boston Store Visitor Center offers trails to vintage locks and many of the park’s 250 restored buildings. You can peep weekend art exhibits from April through October inside the ’40s-era M.D. Garage, savor Cleveland-made Mitchell’s ice cream at the TrailMix shop and reserve one of nine bedrooms ($50 to $125) at the 19th-century Stanford House, also home to the park’s only overnight tent camping.
For a quick trail-and-ale, head to bustling Peninsula Depot. Walk south to Deep Lock Quarry’s abandoned rock slabs, or rent road-mountain hybrids from Century Cycles to see Beaver Marsh’s lily pads and great blue herons, about 5 miles south. (The marsh offers a misty, unforgettable sunrise.) Upon return, grab a patio table and a pint from Cleveland’s Brew Kettle at lively trailside Winking Lizard Tavern.
Don’t miss: September is prime time for the local produce that sprouts from Cuyahoga Valley’s farms and backyard gardens. Bring cash for honor-system stands packed with kale, green onions, peppers and homemade tomato sauce along Riverview Road, and be sure to stop for roasted sweet corn and fresh-fruit sundaes at Szalay’s Farm Market (4563 Riverview Rd., Peninsula).