Did you know there was a National Park in Ohio? Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a beautiful gem located between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio along the Cuyahoga River. This free national park is easily accessible and is very family friendly. On your visit, hike to a waterfall at Brandywine Falls and explore moss covered boulders at Virginia Kendall Ledges. Pick up trail maps and learn the history of the canal system by stopping at the visitor centers. Or take a bike ride on the Ohio Erie Canal Tow Path. If you are spending a weekend in Cleveland or traveling from nearby states, this is a perfect family weekend getaway. Check out all the things to do at Cuyahoga Valley National Park with kids.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park was established in 2000 and is one of the newest national parks in the country. This makes it a little different than many other national parks as you have towns already built throughout the park. So, you will be going in and out of civilization. We spent just one night and two days at the park and that was a perfect amount of time. This gave us enough time to see all the highlights of the park and not feel rushed. You will find plenty of hotels available in Akron and Cleveland at reasonable prices.
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Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Things to Do
Brandywine Falls is a scenic 65-foot waterfall. There are several waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park but this is the easiest to access. You will find a small parking lot area near the entrance to the trail. I would suggest hiking this trail earlier in the day before the lot fills up.
A boardwalk with handrails from the parking lot leads you on a path to the waterfall. There are many stairs so it is not easily accessible for wheelchairs or strollers. The boardwalk hangs along the cliff so be a little careful with the kids. There is a flat landing area to view the falls and get great pictures.
If you go back up the stairs, there is a boardwalk that continues up the waterfall where you can get a closer view of the falls from the top. You will also find some ruins the kids can climb around from the old town of Brandywine. From here, you can turn around and go back to the parking lot or continue on for a 2 mile loop hike on the Brandywine Gorge Trail.
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Virginia Kendall Ledges
This area was by far our family’s favorite! You will arrive at a parking lot area that has bathrooms and a picnic area. Find the signage for the Virginia Kendall Ledges Trail and take a walk down a gravel path through the trees. At first it will seem like just a regular hike in the woods but then you will come upon the huge moss covered boulders. All of a sudden you will feel like you are in another world.
Our kids loved following these paths and climbing all over the rock formations. And I admit it was fun for us adults too! You can find small caves and paths to walk on all around this loop trail. Keep an eye out for the Ice Box Cave – it’s closed off for the safety of the bat that live in the cave but you can feel the cold air coming out of the cave which is pretty cool. We did not see any bats in the daylight so don’t be scared (lol). When you are done climbing around the rocks, you can head back to the parking area or keep following the Ledges Trail for a 2.2 mile loop hike.
Ohio Erie Canal Tow Path
The Ohio Erie Canal Tow Path follows the historic routes along the Ohio & Erie Canal. The canals were built between 1825 and 1832 and were used before there were roads for farmers to transport their goods to market. The paths are the ones mules used to pull the canal boats along the river. You can now walk or bike through these historic trails.
Along these trails, you will find beautiful views of forests, wetlands, and fields. The trails are hard packed and level so you are able to use wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes.
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Cuyahoga Valley National Park Visitor Center
The Visitor Centers at National Parks are a great way to get your bearings and find out all the great things to see while you are there. It’s also a great place to talk to the forest rangers and ask any questions you may have. We usually ask about the trails, directions, and where to see the best wildlife. Here are the two visitor centers we liked the best in this park.
Boston Store Visitor Center
The Boston Store Visitor Center is a great place to start your journey and ask questions of the park rangers. Inside, there is a small display on the history of the boats on the canal. Plus you can pick up a park map and brochures about the area. You will also find bathroom facilities and a water bottle refilling station. If you are riding your bike on the many trails, you can park it here at the bike racks and take a break.
Address: 1550 Boston Mills Road, east of Riverview Road
Peninsula, Ohio 44264
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Canal Exploration Center
The Canal Exploration Center is located on one of the old canal lock systems. The building is an old tavern that used to serve passengers while they waited for their boats to be ready. You can get an up close look at how the locks worked and even attend a ranger-led demonstration. Then head inside to this two-story visitor center with a small store and large exhibit area.
The visitor center’s exhibits explain how the canal system worked and the history of the people who lived in the area. There are several interactive displays that are great for the kids. We spent an hour here exploring all the interesting exhibits.
Inside you can pick up a small snack, souvenir, and use the restroom facilities. The rangers are also available to answer any of your questions and provide maps of the trails.
Address: 7104 Canal Road, intersection of Canal and Hillside roads
Valley View, Ohio 44125
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Cuyahoga Valley National Park Maps
You will find Cuyahoga Valley National Park Maps at the visitor centers. If you would like to view them ahead of your visit, here is a link to maps. We found both the trail maps and map of the entire park very helpful. The park is in the middle of towns and homes so it is helpful to have an idea where you are going. Also, I always feel better when I have a trail map for our family hikes.
After you enjoy Cuyahoga Valley National Park another great place to hike in Ohio is Hocking Hills State Park. Learn all about it in Hiking in Hocking Hills.
So are you ready to explore Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park? The areas I highlighted were our favorite spots to visit in the park. Brandywine Falls and Virginia Kendall Ledges are not to be missed on your visit. I would love to hear back from you after your visit about what you loved. Or if you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments. I love to hear from my readers and answer questions.
If you love visiting the outdoors with your family, be sure to read my Tips on Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Door County Wisconsin. Both have beautiful National and State parks to explore and cute towns to visit. A another great state park in Ohio to visit is Hiking in Hocking Hills. If you are looking for fun weekend getaway ideas, check out my 9 Best Weekend Getaways in the Midwest.
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