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Brandywine Falls/ Shutterstock Image

Brandywine Falls/ Shutterstock Image

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Itinerary

Rayne

shaka guides cuyahoga national park tour map

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a shining example of the power of conservation. Given the park’s location, sandwiched between the cities of Cleveland and Akron, it’s almost a miracle that this oasis even exists. But, it doesn’t just exist…it thrives.

Cuyahoga Tour Highlights

The main artery of the Cuyahoga Valley is the Cuyahoga River. On the tour, you’ll learn about its history, who lived there, and how it made the river work for them.

And right alongside the river, you can see remnants of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal. The tour stops at recommended hiking trails, waterfalls, picnic areas, and more.

Cuyahoga Valley also has three visitor centers, each with its own unique focus.

The park is open year-round, with summer and winter activities, but some tour stops are only open in the summer.

Several things set this park apart from other National Parks. For instance, it’s the only National Park that’s ever been upgraded from a National Recreation Area. And, it’s the only National Park with its own scenic railroad!

There are surprises and fun activities around every corner in Cuyahoga Valley. 

Cuyahoga Tour Duration

The tour could take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, or more, depending on how many stops you visit, and how long you spend at each one.

The actual drive time, however, will only be about two hours and fifteen minutes.

Because there’s so much to explore, we recommend getting an early start, that way you won’t have to cut your exploration short!

Cuyahoga Important Information

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is on the small side, as National Parks go. But at 33,000 acres, that’s still a lot of ground to cover! Our tour makes 25 recommended stops at:

  • trailheads
  • waterfalls
  • visitor centers
  • scenic overlooks
  • and historical sites

So, while you can definitely finish the tour in a day, to truly explore all the park has to offer would really take you several days.

We’ll tell you about each stop in the tour before you get there, so you can decide if it’s worth your time.

And because of the park’s location, you’re never more than a few minutes drive from shops and restaurants.

Did you forget to pack bug spray? No problem! There’s probably a store nearby. 

Cuyahoga Tour Starting Points

The tour has four starting points, and they all converge on the north side of the park.

So whether you’re coming from Cleveland, Akron, or somewhere else, you should have no problem reaching a starting point.

The tour route winds south, crisscrossing the park in order to reach all the highlights, before ending the adventure in the town of Peninsula. 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Itinerary

1. Lock 39 Trailhead

big canalImage by Rayne Warne

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

The Lock 39 Trailhead is one of many access points for the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

Back when the canals were in use, the boats were towed by teams of mules or horses along that path.

If you take the towpath trail south for a quarter mile, away from the parking lot, you’ll reach Lock 39. 

Also from the south end of the parking lot, you can walk across a bridge over the Cuyahoga River.

The bridge takes you to the Rockside Station of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. 

2. Canal Exploration Center

exploration center near a canalNPS Gallery

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Canal Exploration Center is housed inside an old canal-side tavern. And outside, sits a reconstructed canal lock. The center is open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday.

But only from June through October. It has interactive exhibits that are fun for all ages and covers the complete history of the canal.

3. Tinkers Creek Overlook

overview sea of cloudsShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The first of three overlooks on this tour, the Tinkers Creek Overlook lets you look down into the Tinkers Creek Gorge, a National Natural Landmark. 

4. Bridal Veil Falls

waterfalls in cuyahoga valleyShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Bridal Veil Falls is a gentle, cascading waterfall that you can observe from a boardwalk and bridge over the creek.

You can follow the creek downstream a quarter-mile to the Lower Deerlick Creek Falls.  

5. Egbert Picnic Area

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

This is a large picnic area with tables, grills, a shelter, restrooms, and nature trails. 

6. Great Falls of Tinkers Creek

wide waterfalls in autumnShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

The Great Falls of Tinkers Creek can be found in Viaduct Park. A viaduct is a kind of bridge, supported by arches or columns.

This is called Viaduct Park because Tinkers Creek runs through a 512-foot, or 156-meter, man-made tunnel called “the Arch.” Sitting above the arch is a railroad bridge. 

You can climb the stairs at the end of the parking lot and look out over the creek below. And then, take the paved, half-mile round trip walkway, down to the Great Falls.

You can even explore the remains of an old hydroelectric power plant! The Great Falls has the largest volume of water of any waterfall in the park. 

7. Frazee House

brown brick houseImage by Rayne Warne

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

The Frazee House was one of the first brick structures in the valley. It was built in the 1820s, in the Federal style, by Stephen and Mehitable Frazee.

For the time period, it was actually kind of a dream home. But because Ohio was still technically the frontier, there weren’t any skilled laborers who could build this kind of house.

So, the family did it themselves! They even made the bricks out of mud and clay from their backyard. Today, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

8. Chippewa Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook

creekImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The Chippewa Creek Gorge was carved by glaciers during the last major ice age.

The top layer of rock is made up of Berea Sandstone, which was also used in the construction of the nearby Brecksville Nature Center. 

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9. Brecksville Nature Center

brown brick houseImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Brecksville Nature Center sits on the western edge of the National Park. Inside, there are all kinds of exhibits about the plants, animals, and history of the area.

There’s a kids' corner, with activities for the little ones. And even some rocking chairs where you can look out through a wall of windows into nature.

There’s also a park, picnic area, nature trails, and a program center for educational events.

10. Jaite Trailhead

Approximate Time: 1 hour

The Jaite Trailhead provides access to a highly recommended section of the Buckeye Trail.

Just a mile-and-a-half walk from the trailhead, you can find old-growth trees that have been around for hundreds of years.

11. Red Lock Trail

Approximate Time: 5 minutes - 1 hour

At this trailhead, you can inspect Lock 34, also known as Red Lock. If you take the Red Lock Trail a half-mile south, you’ll reach the remains of the old Jaite Paper Mill.

And across the street from the trailhead, is the entrance to the Brandywine Ski Area.

12. Brandywine Falls

waterfalls in cuyahoga valleyImage by Rayne Warne

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

At 60 feet high, Brandywine Falls is the tallest waterfall in Ohio. There are several boardwalk viewing areas, and the remains of an old appliance factory right next to the falls. 

13. Boston Mill Visitor Center

visitor center in cuyahogaImage by Rayne Warne

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

The Boston Mill was opened in 2019 as a new, state-of-the-art Visitor Center.

You can speak with a park ranger, pick up trail maps, use the restroom, shop the bookstore, or board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, all from the visitor center.

You can also visit the Boston Store next door for souvenirs and food. 

14. Lock 29 Trailhead

A gravel path lined with large rocks and trees leads to the river. To the left is an information panel.NPS/Arrye Rosser

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Park your car at the Lock 29 Trailhead to explore the Peninsula on foot.

You can shop at the National Park’s Trail Mix store, or visit one of the small towns restaurants, art galleries, gift shops, and more.

Lock 29 is also the only canal lock you can actually walk into! You can also park here to board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. 

15. The Ledges Trail

Image by Rayne Warne

Approximate Time: 1 hour

The Ledges Trail is the most highly recommended trail on the tour.

It’s an easy, 2-mile loop trail around the bottom of a plateau that explores rocky ledges, crevasses, caves, and overhangs. The rocks here are up to 400 million years old!

16. Kendall Lake

Perfect blue sky day sitting by Kendall Lake in OhioShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Kendall Lake was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. Today, it’s popular with birdwatchers and fishing enthusiasts.

17. Great Blue Heron Viewing Area

Great Blue Heron in Flight in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in OhioShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Between Valentine’s Day and Independence Day, this is a popular area for spotting Great Blue Herons, who nest nearby. 

18. Hale Farm & Village

The historic Hale Farm Village in Ohio's only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley.Shutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

The Hale Farm & Village is a living history museum where you can interact with volunteers dressed in period attire, and explore 32 historical structures.

First, stop at the Visitor Center to buy your tickets and pick up a map. There’s even a cafe if you get hungry.

Then, step outside and explore the nineteenth-century farm and village.

A few of our favorites are the barn full of old wagons, the blacksmith shop, and the yellow house at the eastern edge of the village.

This is a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon with the family.

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19. Beaver Marsh

marsh with floating water lilies with bridge deckShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Beaver Marsh is a wetland created by beavers after they dammed a portion of the old canal.

Amazingly, the wetland actually used to be an auto salvage yard, back in the 1970s.

Volunteers from a local branch of the Sierra Club cleaned it up in the 80s, and wildlife did the rest. 

20. Hunt Farm Visitor Information Center

Hunt Farm Visitor Center along the Towpath TrailU.S. National Park Service

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

The Hunt House offers child-friendly nature exhibits and information about nearby attractions.

It’s also a resting place for those hiking the Towpath Trail. Next door is a popular farm market, open in the summer and fall. 

21. Everett Covered Bridge

The Everett Covered Bridge crosses Furnace Run in Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park.Shutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

The original Everett Covered Bridge was built in the 1800s and was one of about 2,000 at the time.

It is now the last surviving covered bridge in Summit County. After being damaged in a series of floods, the bridge was rebuilt in 1986.

Some people say the bridge is haunted by the ghost of a farmer who drowned trying to cross the creek. 

22. Oak Hill Trailhead

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

The Oak Hill Trail is a flat, easy-loop trail that circles around Sylvan Pond. Even in the summer, you might have this trail all to yourself. 

23. Tree Farm Trail

Approximate Time: 10 minutes - 1 hour

Tree Farm trail gets its name because it used to be the site of a tree farm. The farm’s long gone, but plenty of evergreen trees remain.

The whole trail is just under three miles, or about five kilometers, but the best part of the trail is Horseshoe Pond, right by the parking lot.

You might catch sight of some fishers, casting their lines. And if you do hike the trail, there’s a good chance you’ll spot some wildlife.

24. Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park

Deep Lock Quarry is a park in the Summit County MetroPark System in Summit County, Ohio, in the United States.Image from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 30 minutes - hour

This is the final stop on the tour, just below the town of Peninsula. There are at least two features worth hiking to.

First, there’s Lock 28, which is also known as Deep Lock, because at 17 feet, it was the deepest lock on the Ohio and Erie Canal.

Secondly, there’s an old sandstone quarry. The Berea Sandstone quarried there was used to make millstones and to construct parts of the canal.

Later, the Civilian Conservation Corps used this quarry to build some local structures.

Conclusion

Cuyahoga Valley might not look like what you’d expect from a National Park, but it’s a National Treasure all the same.

The valley has made a dramatic and inspiring comeback since the 1960s, and it’s remarkable to see the transformation.

So while you’re in the park, please remember to follow the “Leave No Trace” principles by packing out what you bring in, staying on the trail, and leaving the park better than you found it. Happy travels!

Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Cuyahoga Valley National Park Tour!

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Ready to explore Cuyahoga Valley National Park? Here’s everything you need to know before you go! 

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