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 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.
RELATED: NATIONAL PARKS IN VIRGINIA
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 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.
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 area?
- 10 Reasons to Visit Cleveland
- 4 Can’t-Miss Outdoor Adventures in the Poconos
- Everything You Must Do in Akron, Ohio
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Have you ever been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park? What was your experience like?
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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. 🙂
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.
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
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
Thank you for the post…we live in Wisconsin and had never heard of this park. It’s going on our list.
You are welcome! That’s how we were Karen! How did we not know there was a national park so close to us? Now we are in the know!
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.
Haha it took us a few times on the pronunciation!
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!
Thanks Kathi! It was downpouring when we reached Peninsula so we didn’t get a chance to explore too much. Next time for sure!
I love national parks and if I could rent a bike there that would be totally awesome! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this useful information.
Next time we go, we will definitely bike the path. It looked awesome!
Anita, you can rent a bike at Century Cycles in Peninsula.
Thanks for sharing Kathi!
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. 🙂
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!
Sounds like a plan Christina!
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.
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 🙂
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!
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:
Thanks Deej! Your pictures are beautiful! Love the idea of seeing bald eagles flying over the crooked river 😉
By the way… this post has been shared by the fine folks of Cuyahoga Valley National Park on their Facebook page, where it has gotten over 50 Likes in the first 8 hours.
Thanks for the info!
Your Conductor on the train that day was the wonderful Doug Pearson!! He’s still there…and one of the best!
He was so sweet!