An extension of our summer road trip continues with a visit to our 14th national park of the year! We started this trip in Ohio to downtown Cleveland, Akron next, and then will finish up in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.
While in Akron, we spent the day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Pronounced “Kai-uh-ho-ga,” it took us awhile to get it right. In 2015, it was the 11th most visited national park in America. A national park between Cleveland and Akron in Ohio? That’s what I said when I found out there was one so close. It is roughly 5 hours, 340 miles from us in Chicago. Maybe part of the reason we didn’t know it existed was because it earned its designation from a recreation area to national park in 2000. It’s a newbie if compared to the oldies like Yellowstone, Mt. Rainier or Glacier.
The park covers 33,000 acres of land in a long narrow formation along the Cuyahoga River. Capitalizing on the most prominent natural feature, the majority of activities in the park revolve around water.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) is one of the oldest scenic tourist railroads in the country. It travels a little over 25 miles along the Ohio and Erie Canalway throughout the park.
Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with us during our few days in the Akron area. Our original plan was to take the scenic train one way and bike 20 miles back. Since it was raining, we decided to relax and enjoy the views of the park from the comfort of our seat on the train.
National Park Scenic Day Pass – All Aboard!
The National Park Scenic Coach Day Pass allows you to get on or off at any station throughout the day. We hopped on the train in Akron and road it all the way to Rockside and back with a lunch stop at the Winking Lizard in the cute small town of Peninsula.
Tickets are available for coach (above), premium upper dome, first class, or the caboose. The National Park Scenic Pass is the only one that has on and off privileges. Choose your seating option based on your preferences.
We had so much fun on the train! The staff were overly nice and helpful throughout the day. They offer wine, beer and snacks on board which gets a thumbs up from us. Headphones are given out for the audio tour (included in your ticket price) which tells stories of the valley and park history.
Tip: Take a ride for one of the special events offered throughout the year like The Polar Express, Ales on Rails or Grape Escape.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Waterfalls
After the morning on the train, the weather seemed to clear up a bit. We jumped back in the car and headed north to check out a few waterfalls.
All the waterfalls are relatively short hikes and considered easy. The first on our list is the popular Brandywine Falls. A short board walk takes us to the 65-foot cascading drop. Next up is Bridal Veil Falls which was my favorite of the day. We couldn’t get clear photos because the rain decided to join us again. We didn’t let it get us down, we put on our raincoats and headed over to Great Falls, the last waterfall of the day.
When We Come Back – Ohio and Erie Towpath Trail
One of the most common things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is to walk or ride the Towpath Trail. It is a 20-mile level and hard-packed trail that follows the historic Ohio & Erie Canal route. Our original plan was to bike the trail at least one way and take advantage of the $3 ride back on the train, but we decided against it with the bad weather. Next time we visit we will for sure though!
All in all, it was an excellent day seeing our 14th national park of the year in a unique way from the train and chasing waterfalls in the rain.
Know Before You Go
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
National Park Scenic Day Pass
- $15 Adults, $10 children ages 3 – 12, includes the Voices of the Valley audio tour
- Hours vary throughout the year.
- Jump on at any station with your bike
- Only $3 one-way fee, pay on board
- Also available for distance hikers and runners.
- No guaranteed seats.
Looking for more travel ideas in the Midwest?
- 10 Reasons to Visit Cleveland
- Chasing history in Cape Girardeau County
- Top 10 Things to Do in St. Louis
- Kenosha, Wisconsin: Small Town, Big Heart
Be Part of the Adventure.
Have you ever been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park? What was your experience like?
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