The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio's only national park, stretching over 33,000 acres between Akron and Cleveland. There are many visitor's guides and other resources available for the park, but since many of our staff enjoy cycling, hiking, running, birding, and other activities in the park, we thought we'd weigh in with our own. Our Peninsula store is situated smack dab in the middle of the park and on the village's main road, so we often feel like we're unofficial park rangers with the number of people who stop in looking for directions and advice!
Note that admission to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is FREE 365 days a year!
Most Popular Attractions
Here are four of the most popular destinations in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. All of them can be rather busy, especially on weekend days with nice weather. See "Avoiding the Crowds" below for tips on visiting these areas.
There are over 100 miles of hiking trails in the CVNP. Many of them are part of the Buckeye Trail, a loop of over 1,400 miles around Ohio that is the longest loop hiking trail in the country. Note that some of the trails in the park can have very muddy conditions any time of the year. Wear sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots, and carry drinking water and snacks. All trails in the park are open from dawn until dusk, except for the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which is open 24/7. Here are some of our favorite hikes:
Most Scenic Hikes
The Ledges Trail - One of the most popular hikes in the park, it passes a high overlook that looks to the west, which is especially beautiful at sunset or on colorful autumn days. You'll walk next to cliffs that were once under a vast inland sea. Park at The Ledges Shelter (701 Truxell Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264). Follow the gravel path from near the parking lot and look for signs for the Ledges Trail. You can go clockwise or counter-clockwise; the whole loop is less than two miles. There are other trails that branch off from this loop; continue looking for signs to stay on the Ledges Trail.
Brandywine Gorge Trail - Only 1.4 miles, but follows a rocky climb along Brandywine Creek, with access to Brandywine Falls, another of the most popular spots in the park. The parking lot is located at 8176 Brandywine Rd, Northfield, OH 44067. Walk past the restrooms, then turn left onto the gravel path, then look for the sign on your left for the Brandywine Gorge Trail. You can even skip the hike and go directly from the parking lot to the wooden walkway overlooking the waterfall.
Buckeye Trail to Blue Hen Falls - Park at the Boston Mill Visitor Center (6947 Riverview Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264). Walk across Riverview Road and look for the trail heading up the hill into the woods. It's mostly uphill the whole way, but the trail was recently renovated, so it's likely to be firm and not too muddy. Near the top, you'll cross Boston Mills Road. Continue on the trail, then a short access trail will take you down a short hill to Blue Hen Falls. Return the same way you came; it's about three miles total for the round trip.
Most Challenging Hikes
Pine Lane Loop - About six miles total with some steep climbs and descents, this hike follows part of the Buckeye Trail one way, then returns on the Valley Bridle Trail. Park at the Pine Lane Trailhead (1281 Pine Ln, Peninsula, OH 44264, about one mile east of downtown Peninsula). Look for the trail marked with the blue blazes of the Buckeye Trail to the left of the toilet. Continue to follow the blue blazes; you will cross a bridge above the Ohio Turnpike at one point. Continue until you reach a gravel path at the bottom of a hill as you exit the woods. Turn left on the gravel path and follow the signs for the Valley Bridle Trail. You'll cross under the Ohio Turnpike (distinguished by the "T" shaped support columns), then turn left and walk uphill parallel to the Turnpike. You'll cross over the Buckeye Trail where you came through earlier. Continue following the signs for the Valley Bridle Trail, and you'll reach the Pine Lane Trailhead. There are a couple of stream crossings that may be impassable during periods of high water, usually after heavy rains or during heavy snow melt.
Wetmore Trail - A loop of about 4.5 miles, in a more secluded area of the park where you won't hear freeway traffic. Park at the Wetmore Trailhead (4653 Wetmore Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264) and take the access trail down the hill from the parking lot. At the bottom of the hill, take the Wetmore Trail to the left or right. You'll loop around about four miles and come back to this same spot to take the access trail back up to the parking lot.
Plateau Trail - A loop of about five miles; the signage on this trail can be confusing because this trail overlaps with the Oak Hill Trail in three different spots. Park at the Oak Hill Trailhead (3901 Oak Hill Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264). Look for the entrance to both trails to the left of the toilet. Go left at the first fork in the trail to stay on the Plateau Trail, and continue looking for signs for the Plateau Trail. You'll walk down a long gravel hill; continue past the detour for Sylvan Pond, and look for the Plateau Trail to split off to the right further down the gravel path. At the FIRST sign for Hemlock Point, turn left to stay on the Plateau Trail. At the SECOND sign for Hemlock Point, go straight to continue on the Plateau Trail (you can take the detour to Hemlock Point; it's a short out-and-back, then turn left to continue on the Plateau Trail). Turn left at all remaining intersections to stay on the Plateau Trail, until it ends on the opposite side of the parking lot from where you started.
Overlooking the Cuyahoga River and the Ohio Turnpike from the Buckeye Trail along the Pine Lane Loop hike
The "Pine Lane" section of the Buckeye Trail on the Pine Lane Loop hike
Most Accessible Hikes
Beaver Marsh - The Towpath Trail crosses a restored wetland, home to numerous native plants and wildlife. The area is accessible to most visitors in wheelchairs and some others with limited mobility. Park at the Ira Trailhead (3801 Riverview Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264) then go left on the Towpath Trail. The Beaver Marsh is less than half a mile up the trail. Alternate parking is across the road from the Hunt Farm Visitor Information Center (2045 Bolanz Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264); from there, it's a little over one mile on the Towpath to the Beaver Marsh.
Everett Road Covered Bridge - The only remaining covered bridge in Summit County, Ohio. Parking is at 2247 Everett Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264. It's a short walk on a flat gravel path from the parking lot to the bridge.
Haskell Run Trail - A short half-mile loop around the Happy Days Lodge, but it is NOT wheelchair-accessible, and might still be a challenge for those with limited mobility. Park on the other side of the road at 501 W Streetsboro Rd, Hudson, OH 44236 then follow the paved path, stairs, and tunnel that take you under the road over to Happy Days Lodge. Follow the driveway to the back of the lodge, then turn left onto the Haskell Run Trail, following it clockwise until you reach the small open field in front of the Lodge. Return to the parking lot via the tunnel and stairs. Note that the parking lot may be closed during private events at Happy Days Lodge.
Avoiding the Crowds
The following areas tend to be the busiest spots in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park; here are some alternate ways to see them if the main parking lots for each are full:
The Ledges Overlook - If the main parking lot at The Ledges Shelter is full, here are two alternate ways you can reach the Overlook:
- Park at the Boston Run Trailhead (501 W Streetsboro Rd, Hudson, OH 44236) and take the access stairs and tunnel under the road and over to Happy Days Lodge. Follow the driveway to the back of the Lodge, and turn left onto the Haskell Run Trail. Go downhill and look for the connector trail to the Ledges Trail on your left. Follow the Ledges Trail either clockwise or counter-clockwise to get to the Ledges Overlook.
- Park at the Kendall Lake Shelter (1000 Truxell Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264). Walk across Truxell Road and take the connector trail towards the Pine Grove Trail. Turn right on the Pine Grove Trail, then look for another connector trail, which will be the next right turn marked by a sign for The Ledges. Continue following the signs to get to The Ledges Overlook.
Brandywine Falls - The main parking lot for the falls often fills up. Here are two alternate ways to park elsewhere and see the falls:
- If you feel up for a challenging hike to see the falls, park at either the Boston Mill Visitor Center (6947 Riverview Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264) or the Boston Trailhead (1498 Boston Mills Rd West, Peninsula, OH 44264). Go north on the Towpath Trail (across the road from the Boston Store). In a little less than half a mile, there will be a connector trail on your right that takes you over to the Stanford House. Go through the Stanford House driveway, and the Stanford Trail starts at the far end after the garage. This trail takes you all the way to Brandywine Falls. You can detour on the Brandywine Gorge Loop Trail if you wish. You can return the same way, or return on the abandoned Stanford Road, which is the gravel path the leads away from the Brandywine Falls parking lot. Total distance is between five and six miles, depending on the route you take.
- By bicycle - Unfortunately, Brandywine Falls is not easily accessible by bike from the Towpath Trail (unless you're an advanced-level cyclist and want to try the Cuyahoga Valley Adventure Loop). However, you can park at the East Rim Trailhead (281 Boston Mills Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264) and bike (or hike) about 2 miles north to the falls on the paved Summit Metro Park Bike & Hike Trail. Or, park at the State Route 303 Trailhead (64 W Streetsboro St, Hudson, OH 44236) and go 4.2 miles north to the falls. Or, park at the State Route 82 Trailhead (680 W Aurora Rd, Northfield, OH 44067) and go about 3 miles south to the falls. Bike parking is available at Brandywine Falls; bring a lock to secure your bike while you walk around the falls.
Blue Hen Falls - If the main parking lot at the Boston Mill Visitor Center is full, park at the Boston Trailhead (1498 Boston Mills Rd West, Peninsula, OH 44264) that is a short distance east. For an even more challenging hike, park at the Jaite Trailhead (Vaughn Rd, Brecksville, OH 44141). Walk along the paved path that leads behind the yellow park buildings, cross over Riverview Road, cross over Snowville Road, and follow the signs to the Buckeye Trail going south. Total round-trip distance is about 9.5 miles.
Towpath Trail - The Towpath tends to be the busiest within a few miles north and south of Peninsula, especially on nice weather weekends. To avoid the crowds, park at the Botzum Trailhead (2928 Riverview Rd, Akron, OH 44313) and go south, or park at the Brecksville/Station Road Trailhead (13513 Station Rd, Brecksville, OH 44141) and go north.
Kendall Lake - This is a popular area, but there is a fairly large parking lot, so it's usually easy to find a parking spot. The Kendall Lake Shelter (1000 Truxell Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264) has restrooms with indoor plumbing. There are three hiking trails of various lengths here:
- Lake Trail - 1 mile; easy.
- Cross-Country Trail - 2.5 miles; moderate.
- Salt Run Trail - 3.3 miles; challenging.
You can also access the Cross-Country Trail and the Salt Run Trail from the Pine Hollow Shelter (5465 Quick Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264).
The Cuyahoga River flows in a unique U-shape through four Northeast Ohio counties to Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. 17 miles of the river flow through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is segment number 4 out of the 5 segments of the Cuyahoga River Water Trail. There are four put-in/take-out trailheads for kayaks or canoes within the CVNP; click here for details.
There are no kayak rental operations within the CVNP, but see our Local Cleveland/Akron Resources page for a list of nearby kayak rental options.
Activities: Winter Sports
Sledding & Tobogganing
A sledding hill can be found at Kendall Hills, also known as the Pine Hollow area (5523 Quick Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264), with restrooms, snacks, and a warming hut available seasonally.
When snow conditions are favorable, many people enjoy cross-country skiing in CVNP. The most popular trails for xc skiing are:
- Cross-Country Trail - 2.5 miles; in the Kendall Lake area (1000 Truxell Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264).
- Tree Farm Trail - 2.75 miles; also known as the Horseshoe Pond Trail; 2167 Major Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264.
- Towpath Trail - Various trailheads and distance options; see link in the Bicycling section above.
See our Local Cleveland/Akron Resources page for nearby xc ski rental options.
When the amount of snowfall warrants, many of the hiking trails in the CVNP can be enjoyed on snowshoes. The most popular are the same ones listed for cross-country skiing above. See our Local Cleveland/Akron Resources page for nearby snowshoe rental options.
Although not a part of the CVNP, the Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resorts are located within the confines of the park. There is a snow tubing park at the Brandywine Ski Resort.
A stream crossing on the Cross-Country trail on a snowy winter day.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
You might encounter animals that are typical throughout the urban, suburban, and rural areas of Ohio, such as deer, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks. Many species of birds call the park home; if you are lucky, you may even spot a bald eagle, great blue heron, or peregrine falcon. The rivers, old canal bed, and wetlands are home to beavers and otters. There are packs of coyotes in the park, but they are not dangerous to humans. Sightings are rare, and if you're out after dark, you may hear them communicating with their howls.
When hiking on trails through the woods, note that ticks, poison ivy, and poison oak are common in the area; take appropriate precautions.
A great blue heron stands on a fallen branch in the bed of the former Ohio & Erie Canal
A bald eagle overlooks the Cuyahoga River
Food & Shopping
Century Cycles - Our full-service bicycle shop, with sales, repairs, rentals, and a wide selection of cycling clothing, parts, and accessories, located at 1621 Main St, Peninsula, OH 44264. We also have stores in Medina, Rocky River, and Shaker Heights.
Appalachian Outfitters - Clothing and gear for hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. The Kendall Cliffs Climbing Gym is in the same location. 60 Kendall Park Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264
Trail Mix Peninsula - Sandwiches, snacks, ice cream, park-related gifts, and locally sourced merchandise. 1600 Mill St W, Peninsula, OH 44264.
Boston Mill Visitor Center - Park exhibits and information, snacks, and park-related gifts. 6947 Riverview Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264.
Fisher's Cafe and Pub - Locally owned restaurant with lunch and dinner daily and breakfast on weekends. 1607 Main Street St, Peninsula, OH 44264
The Winking Lizard Tavern - Locally owned restaurant chain with pub fare and beverages of all types. 1615 Main St, Peninsula, OH 44264
For a list of other local business in the Village of Peninsula, visit the Peninsula Area Chamber of Commerce at: peninsulaohio.com
Support Your Park
The Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the local friends group that supports the park through fundraising, volunteer activities, special events, and more. Learn more at: forcvnp.org
Mobile telephone service coverage is usually pretty good in most areas of CVNP. To report unsafe trail conditions or other hazards within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, call the Park Dispatch/Communications Center at 440-546-5945. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
Useful links on the park's website (nps.gov/cuva):
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