When speaking of national parks, the United States has its fair share of interesting ones to explore. Growing up on the West Coast and attending college in Idaho, I have been to Yellowstone National Park on a few occasions. I’ve always wanted to explore more national parks around the country- especially now that I have children. Allowing Ladybug and Buddy to experience nature at its finest has always been a goal of mine.
So when D had a whole week off from work between quitting his job and starting a new one, we decided to start our quest of visiting every national park in the US by planning a last minute trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I didn’t even know Cuyahoga Valley existed until I started researching national parks close to home for our family getaway.
We decided to give Cuyahoga Valley a chance mostly because of its proximity to our home- it is less than a six hour drive. However, based on the images I found on the internet, Cuyahoga Valley appeared to be a gorgeous place, especially in the fall. After concluding that Cuyahoga Valley was our destination, we packed up the car, loaded the kids up and headed to Ohio. (Okay, maybe there was a little more planning involved.)
More detailed posts about this picturesque national park are coming soon, but for now, here is an overview of our time at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
About Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in northeast Ohio and covers almost 33,000 acres. Located along the Cuyahoga River, this national park is only a short distance south of Cleveland. Cuyahoga Valley National park is also close to Akron. Its close proximity to both cities makes it easy to do a little city exploration after a day of hiking.
The great thing about Cuyahoga Valley National Park is that there is no entrance fee. According to one of the park rangers we talked to, the reason for this is because there are so many public roads leading through the park that it would be impossible to monitor who was coming and going in order to charge admission. Whatever the reason, the fact that it is free is a great reason to go visit.
Where We Stayed
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is not lacking in lodging options. We looked at staying on park property as there are two possible locations. Stanford House and the Inn at Brandywine Falls both seemed quaint and full of character. However, as they are both bed and breakfast types we decided it would be best to stay elsewhere. (Two noisy children staying in close proximity to other people probably wouldn’t be enjoyable for the other guests.)
Many hotels in the surrounding towns offer comfortable lodging for guests frequenting the park. We opted to stay at La Quinta Inn and Suites- Cleveland in Macedonia. It was spacious and comfortable and the staff was friendly. Despite a few unfavorable circumstances, we enjoyed our four night stay.
What We Did
Nature lovers will love the wide variety of hiking trails and walking paths set in the midst of beautiful scenery. For the history lover, multiple visitors centers explain the history behind this beautiful region of Ohio. Among the must-see attractions are Brandywine Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Ledges Overlook.
Brandywine Falls is a fairly short, easy stroll down a walkway with several lookout points to see the falls at different angles. For a more interesting hike- but still easily doable with a three year old and a baby- Bridal Veil Falls is a fun option. Ledges Overlook is well-named and not for the faint of heart but offers an incredible view across the landscape. It is accessible by a hike through the woods or a straight walk from the parking lot through a large field. Make sure you keep a careful eye on any children in your party as the drop off is quite steep and very high up.
We spent the three days almost entirely outside. The kids were introduced to hiking (we’re from Illinois which offers no opportunities for hiking) and I realized how much I missed being outside, completely surrounded by nature. A good time was had by all. I cannot recommend Cuyahoga Valley National Park enough.
Where We Ate
We tried a few local restaurants while we were in Ohio. Simon’s Restaurant and Delicatessen is a great place suitable for a light dinner. Our other favorite was Charm Thai in Cleveland which had some of the best Thai food I’ve had outside of Thailand.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park completely flew under my radar, until now. We were blown away by the sheer beauty of the place. Both D and I frequently muttered phrases such as “I could live here” the whole trip. We’re still wondering what’s stopping us.
The lack of fall colors was the only thing that disappointed me about our time in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I was hoping to be able to capture the ambiance of autumn at Cuyahoga Valley during our time surrounded by nature but alas, the foliage was still mostly green. There was very little of the vibrant fall colors for which I was hoping. But I still give Cuyahoga Valley National Park a hearty recommendation to whomever is considering a visit.
Have you ever been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park?
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