A Day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

While in Akron, we spent the day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Pronounced “Kai-uh-ho-ga,” it took us a while 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 that it earned its designation from a recreation area to a national park in 2000. It’s a newbie if compared to the oldies like Yellowstone, Mt. Rainier, or Glacier.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day

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 National Park Day

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.


Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

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.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
Getting our tickets
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
He let me put on his hat!
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
Yum Yum Candy Store in Peninsula
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
Winking Lizard Restaurant in 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 Scenic Railroad
We were one of the first ones on the train

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

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 boardwalk 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.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
Boardwalk to Brandywine Falls
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
Some stairs to Brandywine Falls

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
Bridal Veil Falls – if the weather had just cooperated I could have gotten a better shot! Fav of the day!
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day
Great Falls

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.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

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.
    • Bike Aboard
      • 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.

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Have you ever been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park? What was your experience like?

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day

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Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

27 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    Who’d have thought Ohio could be a bucket list state! But thanks to Dang, you captivate your followers with great pictures of an area often overlooked. I also enjoyed the pictures of you and hubby…such a cute couple. 🙂

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Chris, especially about the cute couple part! 😉 We hadn’t spent much time in Ohio, but found many wonderful things to see and do! We are hoping to get back soon.

  2. jasmine@makingrestorations

    Love this post. Haven’t seen too many people visiting this national park and love the info you included on it. We’re up to our 9th NP this year now thanks to a recent trip to the PNW

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Jasmine! 9th? Wow! Which ones have you gone to? We are hoping to visit a few next fall on a big road trip, but not sure if we will get north. Maybe to Cali though

  3. Karen Poser

    Thank you for the post…we live in Wisconsin and had never heard of this park. It’s going on our list.

  4. Marge

    I actually found myself practicing the pronunciation of Cuyahoga too hahaha… It seems fun to explore Cuyahoga Valley. I was particularly taken with the falls (I have a fascination to them) and that sweet shop seems out of place in the woods, Hansel and Gretel-ish, but I think it added to its charm.

    • Kathi

      Marge…the Yum Yum isn’t actually in the woods – it is on the main street in the village of Peninsula, an old canal town that is now a touristy place in the park along the canal/towpath, CV Scenic RR and Cuyahoga River. The Winking Lizard Restaurant, Fishers Restaurant, Yum Yum, Century Cycles (where you can buy a bike, rent a bike for the day, or buy bike accessories) is also in town along with a lot of other cute shops. There is also a CVNP Trail Mix store that sells snacks and souvenirs, and the Train Depot. The park and the village are a treasure that we in the Cleveland/Akron area enjoy. I live only 10 minutes from the northern trailhead of the towpath, near the Canal Experience Center, and am down there practically every day in all seasons! I even used to volunteer in the park and may do it again now that I’m retired. Please visit – you will love it!

  5. Anita Zych

    I love national parks and if I could rent a bike there that would be totally awesome! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this useful information.

  6. Andi

    I have my mom with me reading your blog and both of us think that we didn’t get the right pronunciation of Cuyahoga. But anyway, It is a nice place definitely. I recently loved going to falls and rivers because it feels tiring and at the same time rewarding. One thing though, the lizard seems scary. but somehow cute. 🙂

  7. Christina

    I have to admit I have never heard of this National Park. But like you said, it only became an NP in 2000. I do love train rides and waterfalls so I will need to keep this in mind for next summer!

  8. Indrani

    Haven’t been there yet 🙁 The facilities seem to be wonderful and hassle free here. Great pics of your journey.
    And the info given is helpful indeed.

  9. Sheena

    Fantastic post, I felt like I was there with you guys! I love the photo of the Bridal Veil falls & you guys against Brandywine Falls – if only it was truer to its name! Look forward to reading soon, hopefully, about your 15th national park of the year 🙂

  10. Aditi

    Seems like you had a great time exploring Cuyahoga Valley! I love how you’ve given a proper itenary for a day, it’s so useful for first time visitors!

  11. Deej

    I’m a native NE Ohioan who visits the park at least once @ month, and has since before it was first named a National Recreation Area by Pres Ford back in 1974, joining together several local and regional parks along the Cuyahoga River valley between Akron & Cleveland.

    Here’s the way we Buckeyes pronounce it: “KY-a-HOG-ah”. From an old Iriquois word meaning “crooked river”.

    Lately I’ve been attracted by the Great Blue Heron rookery and a couple of families of Bald Eagles nesting along the river.

    I enjoyed the account & photos of your visit. Thanks to blogs like yours, visitation to the park increases every year as word gets out. It’s no longer ‘our little secret’ here, but we’re ok with that. Glad you enjoyed it and we look forward to your return.

    Here’s a few of my CVNP photos to help entice you back:

  12. Amy Lawson

    Your Conductor on the train that day was the wonderful Doug Pearson!! He’s still there…and one of the best!

  13. Ankita Sharma

    This is such a beautiful national park. I have been one time in the national park.

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