A true hidden gem of the National Park Service (no really, I had never even heard of this park before planning this trip), Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in Peninsula, OH (outside of Akron). The park is scattered amongst the quaint suburbs of the area, making it a little difficult to navigate (or maybe that's just me). I relied heavily on the AllTrails app to navigate me to the trailheads!
When we arrived in the park, we had been in the car for a looong time. It was about a 7 hour drive from Mammoth Cave. We were desperate to stretch our legs before heading to our Air BNB (there is no camping in the park).
Oak Hills Trail
We decided to hike the Oak Hills trail to regain blood flow in our legs. When we got to the trailhead, it was definitely raining but I didn't care at all because I was desperate for some fresh air and movement. Luckily, the canopy of the forest protected us from most of the rain. I gotta tell you..... hiking in a forest while it is raining is pretty magical. The sounds of the raindrops bouncing off the green leaves of all the plants. The smell of wet soil and humid air. The refreshing splashes of the cool raindrops. Pure bliss. Okay, back to reality.
The Oak Hills trail is only 1.5 miles and is a pretty easy hike. The trail was pretty flat and well maintained and there was little to no gain in elevation. It was perfect for what we were looking for. It took us through the forest, around a pond, and looped back around to the parking lot. There are restrooms at the trailhead but they are just pit toilets so be sure to fill water bottles ahead of time!
After the hike, we were damp and ready for hot showers and some clean laundry. Our Air BNB was the cutest place and was perfect for what we needed - a washer and dryer, rural setting (with farm animals but because of the rain, we didn't play outside and see them), a super comfortable bed, air conditioning, and a TV. Plus, our hosts were great and were very accommodating! We got clean and warm, did two loads of laundry, made some burgers for dinner, and fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
Brandywine Falls + Brandywine Gorge Trail
The next day, we started off by hitting Brandywine Falls, a 60 foot waterfall. It was really beautiful and there are multiple viewing areas. They have a boardwalk that you can walk down for a viewing area, a lower viewing area that's a bit more challenging to access, and you can view it from above on a paved road/trail. We pretty much viewed it from all areas and additionally hiked the 1.4 mile Brandywine Gorge trail. Because of all the recent rains, the trail was pretty muddy and slippery in a few spots, but we managed to survive without falling (which is rare for us).
After lunch, we headed towards the Ledges trail. This was my favorite part of the park. The trail is 2.2 miles, rated as moderate, and has lots of opportunities for climbing over and between rocks. Big rocks. There are some points at the beginning of the trail where it's basically two big rock faces right next to each other with a small area in between that you can walk through. Most of the rocks were covered in bright green moss and the forest was so damn fragrant. It was really beautiful. The trail also takes you past a cave, which has been closed in order to protect the bats that reside in it. You can still walk to the mouth of the cave and holy crap, the temperature change was insane. It dropped like 10 degrees around the cave.
As you keep adventuring around the rocks and forests, you eventually come to a nice overlook area. From there, the trail loops around and brings you back to the parking area. This is a great hike for kids that like to climb and explore!
Have you visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park before? What is your favorite thing to do or see there?