Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a fantastic destination for families as there are many great options of things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park with kids.
We stopped at this National Park for part of the day on our road trip to Niagara Falls, Canada.
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Here is everything you need to know for visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park as well as the best things to see and do in this national park.
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Cuyahoga Valley National Park Location
Located in Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located just twenty miles south of Cleveland and only seven miles from Akron.
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Cuyahoga Valley National Park is within a day’s driving distance from many major cities including:
- Chicago (5 hours 15 minutes)
- Nashville (7 hours 35 minutes)
- Indianapolis (4 hours 30 minutes)
- St. Louis (8 hours)
- Pittsburgh (1 hour 40 minutes)
This makes this national park a perfect day trip or quick getaway.
Best Time to Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The best time to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park is May through October.
In late spring and early autumn, temperatures are typically the most pleasant. Spring is beautiful with its budding trees while autumn is stunning with its colorful foliage.
Although summer can be hot and humid, it is still a nice time to visit Cuyahoga National Park.
Winter can be cold and snowy, but the hiking trails still remain open for those visitors that love the unique beauty that winter brings.
Best Things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park has a wide array of things to do for all ages and ability levels.
While the park has plenty of things to do and see to keep your family busy for 2-3 days, it is possible to get a good feel for Cuyahoga Valley National Park in a day, too!
Below are some ideas for things to do on your visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
1. Check out the Boston Mill Visitor Center
The Boston Mill Visitor Center should be your first stop on your visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
This visitor center is the perfect opportunity to get a map, ask questions and receive recommendations from staff, learn more about the park while enjoying some interactive exhibits, getting your National Park passport stamped, and purchasing souvenirs.
The Boston Mill Visitor Center is open year round except for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and New Years Day.
2. Hike to Brandywine Falls
Brandywine Falls is definitely one of the top things to see and photograph in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
It is an iconic spot that most visitors that come to Cuyahoga Valley National Park make sure to see.
Hiking to Brandywine Falls is very easy and kid friendly.
The hike to the waterfall is on a boardwalk and then as you get closer to it, there are quite a bit of stairs, but it is very doable.
After seeing Brandywine Falls from the bottom, you can then go up the stairs and continue to the left to view the top of the waterfall.
Next, you can either go back to the parking lot or continue along the 1.5 mile Brandywine Gorge loop trail.
Most information you read about visiting Brandywine Falls, it says to arrive early or later in the day as the parking lot gets full, I 100% recommend trying to do this.
During our visit, we were not able to arrive at Brandywine Falls early but got there about 11:00 a.m. Upon our arrival, there was a sign that said the parking lot was full and to return after 5pm. There was also a park ranger there.
We knew that we could not come back after 5pm but really wanted to see the waterfall so we drove in anyways and were able to find a parking spot.
I recommend that if you come to visit and see that sign to still drive in as many people just walk to see the waterfall and return back to their vehicle to leave.
3. Bike the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath
Biking along the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath is another unique thing to do in a national park and a fun thing to do with kids!
Many people visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park do not have their own bikes with them.
If you are looking to rent bikes, check out Century Cycles in Peninsula, Ohio. Here, you can rent bicycles by the hour.
Century Cycle offers a diverse range of bicycle options for rent including hybrid and electric bikes. It also has bicycle trailers for rent if you want to pull small children behind you.
You can easily access the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath from Century Cycles.
The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath is 20 miles long within Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
It is mostly crushed rock with some paved trail.
You can simply bike along the trail to enjoy the scenery or bike to a certain trailhead or landmark and head back.
Alternatively, you can take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Train to a specific stop and then bike back to your starting destination.
For $5 per person you can load your bicycle on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Explorer and ride the train in a one way direction.
This is a great option to get the opportunity to ride the train and do a little biking too! It is also very affordable.
4. Take the Scenic Train Ride
Another thing to do in Cuyahoga National Park is take the scenic train ride.
This scenic ride is 2 hours round trip and departs from two different train stations.
We did not get to do the train ride but I have heard from various people that it is underwhelming.
If you are limited on time, I would perhaps spend my time doing something else.
On the other hand, if you do have 2 or 3 days to visit the park, then you may enjoy part of the day relaxing on the train ride.
5. Explore the Ledges Trail
The Ledges Trail is the most unique trail in Cuyahoga National Park and a favorite of many visitors to the park.
It is a 1.8 mile loop with incredible rock formations plus amazing views.
This is a fun trail for the kids to do a little rock scrambling.
We thought the Ledges Trail was a little confusing so make sure to pick up a map at the Trailhead near the parking lot.
You will start walking down a short paved trail which will quickly turn into a gravel and dirt trail.
About .2 miles in you will want to look for the sign to take a right to proceed towards the Ledges Trail.
You can do the Ledges Loop in any direction, but it is recommended to do it clockwise in order to save the best views for last!
The Ledges Trail will take you over an hour to do.
Also near the parking lot is the Ledges Shelter with restrooms and tons of picnic tables. This is a great place for a picnic!
The Ledges Trail is definitely a treat and it is sure to be one of your family’s favorite hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
6. See Wildlife from the Beaver Marsh Boardwalk
Beaver Marsh has an abundant array of wildlife to see throughout the year.
Kids will LOVE spying all of the birds and other wildlife.
This is the perfect place to bird watch, see turtles, frogs, snakes, and even beavers.
Beaver Marsh is fully accessible so you can bring a stroller or wheelchair.
It can be accessed from the Ira Trailhead at 3801 Riverview Road, Cuyahoga Falls.
Beaver Marsh is .25 miles north of this trailhead.
7. See More Waterfalls
If you are a lover of waterfalls like me, there are a few more hikes to waterfalls that you can do!
One is the 3 mile round trip hike to Blue Hen Falls.
This trail starts from the Boston Mill Visitor Center.
It is a strenuous hike so make sure to have good hiking shoes.
This may be one that would be difficult to do with younger kids or kids that are not used to hiking.
You will have to cross River Road to get to this Buckeye Trail that will take you to Blue Hen Falls.
This hike is quite hilly and has a 100 ft staircase. You will walk down this staircase going towards the waterfall and then have to walk back up it as you depart.
Click here for tips and recommendations for visiting other National Parks with your family.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in a Day
Visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park in a day is definitely doable.
You can easily see all of the major highlights of the park in just one day.
I always love starting my day in a national park taking a picture with the national park sign and stopping at the visitor center.
The Boston Mill Visitor Center is a great place to begin your visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Make sure to get your maps and use the restroom while you are there!
Note: If you wanted to get an extra early start and get to the park before the Boston Mill Visitor Center even opens, you could head to Brandywine Falls right away first and then do the Boston Mill Visitor Center afterwards.
Next, if you haven’t already, I would recommend heading to Brandywine Falls. If you simply want to see the waterfall, you can do the short boardwalk hike to the bottom and top of the falls in about 15-30 minutes.
You could definitely continue on and hike the Brandywine Gorge Trail which will take you about an hour.
Next, I would proceed to the Ledges Trail. This hike will take you about 90 minutes if the kids are doing some exploring and rock climbing.
You could do a picnic lunch here as well!
For the afternoon, you could either rent bicycles at Century Cycles or another bicycle rental spot in the area and ride on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
As mentioned above, depending on the day that you visit, you could do the Train Explorer Program which involves a one way ride on the train and then you can bike back to your original destination.
If you do not want to bike, another option would be to do the Scenic Train ride. Again, make sure you check dates and times to board.
If you are not interested in the train at all, you could do Beaver Marsh or hike to one of the other waterfalls–either Blue Hen Falls or Bridal Veil Falls.
In the evening, plan on having dinner in Cuyahoga Falls or Peninsula.
There are a few restaurants on the river in Cuyahoga Falls and a couple on Main Street in Peninsula.
Another option is to get some ice cream at Country Maid ice cream.
This ice cream store is just 6 minutes from the Boston Mill Visitor Center.
Tips for Visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- There is no entrance fee for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park is very sprawling. It involves driving between towns to get to different trailheads.
- Make sure everyone has on a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. There are many trails with uneven ground.
- Have some sort of plan for your visit before you arrive. Confirm Scenic Train Ride times if that is something you are interested in.
- If you plan to bike, make sure to have on some sort of athletic clothes and shoes.
- Check the weather before your visit to ensure you are properly dressed. Consider dressing in layers or bringing a change of clothes as well!
- If you are planning on any creek walking make sure to have on a good pair of waterproof footwear.
- Make sure you have enough water and snacks for your hikes.
Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great place for families to spend time together and experience the beauty of nature.
For one, it has many short and kid friendly hikes.
Additionally, there are many towns around so it is easy to take a break and find something to eat or drink.
Also, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has s0 many unique things for visitors of all ages to do.
Finally, it is doable to see all of the major highlights of this national park in one day.
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May you LOVE your adventure. KW