Smack in between New York and Chicago, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the most bizarrely designed National Parks I’ve ever been to. Perhaps it is because the park was originally a National Recreation area, but the fact that it features natural, man-made, and private attractions is fairly unique to the park. Residential areas butt right up against to the park borders and several busy roads cut through the area- its cradled by the Ohio and Erie Canalway National Heritage Area. Even the Visitor Center is as innocuous as a general store along the side of the road.
Putting that all aside, the most popular attraction of Cuyahoga Valley is absolutely Brandywine Falls. The waterfall cascades dramatically down an 86 foot drop. A well structured boardwalk guides visitors from the parking lot to the falls, but the trail continues into a 1.4 mile loop around the gorge , with an extra 1.5 miles available along the Standard Trail for the energetic hikers- though the boardwalk only continues so far.
We didn’t have a ton of time given the last minute nature of our stop, but we did manage to make our way over to the Ledges Trail. This trail was both rocky and unpaved, so it was a bit of a shift from the easy Brandywine Gorge Loop hike, but somewhat more enjoyable for its wildness. We were able to take stairs down a steep ledge, and once down on the other side, the temperature was a relief, even in May. It must have been a 10 degree difference and genuinely felt like air conditioning at times.
The entire park was lush with greenery and gentle rock formations which was definitely a contrast from our long trip through the American Southwest. While we didn’t see a significant amount of the park, I feel like we experienced enough to get a feel for the area. It’s worth a stop- and with the number of major roads running through it you may just not have the choice.