Back in May 2016 I had the opportunity to visit Ohio’s only National Park with some wonderful extended family! The main reason for the trip was to celebrate Mother’s day with my Mother, Aunts and Grandmother in Redford, Michigan. We always have a great time in the friendly town of Redford which neighbors Detroit and where my mother and her 5 siblings grew up. Before Mother’s Day my Uncle Jerry’s family and I drove down to Cuyahoga Valley National Park 2 hours and 30 minutes away. As a proud Michigander I’ve always looked at Ohio like a rival but that changed after a visit to this beautiful park preserved between Cleveland and Akron.
The park is centered on the ‘Crooked River’ aka the winding Cuyahoga River. Running parallel to the river is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. The 85 mile towpath trail is the perfect escape for outdoor recreation whether you’re looking for wildlife, running or biking. We would explore as much of the park by foot as we could in one day. We started at the Canal Exploration Center at the North end of the park to learn about the locks and rich cultural history before setting off on our own. It was wet and foggy but the view into the Tinker’s Creek Gorge was still very pretty.
Clouds and rain may block the views but they make waterfalls even more spectacular. For that it was the perfect time to check out the second highest waterfall in Ohio, Brandywine Falls. To get the legs moving we took the Brandywine Gorge Loop that crosses Brandywine Creek.
The loop finished by going over the top of the falls to a viewing platform on the right side of the 60 foot waterfall.
From there we went to my favorite area of the park, The Ledges. Before taking another hike my pro camp chef uncle cooked up lunch under the Ledges Shelter. The Ledges is a rugged trail over and through narrow sandstone cliffs rising up from a moist hemlock-birch forest.
The giant mossy cracks make this trail so interesting that you could get lost just wondering where the next slot canyon takes you.
All the rock was unique and full of bright green colors.
Where there wasn’t rock there was still green.
Our group had a ton of fun squeezing through small cracks, being goofy and simply standing in awe!
It’s crazy how the steps below just fell into place like that.
I think I may have got one laugh from that joke. Atop the Ledges was a nice view. Nice enough for wedding pictures so we saw!
From there we frolicked back to the car.
Next we’d take a hike along the Towpath trail staring from the Ira Trailhead. We’d be exploring the Beaver Marsh which is the richest wildlife region of the park. We saw an array of different birds and some ducks.
Our last stop was the beautiful Everett Road Covered Bridge.
Cuyahoga Valley is a glorious getaway from the urban areas of Northern Ohio! There is so much to do for everyone from ultra athletes to families. On top of that there’s a sweet restaurant within the park called The Winking Lizard which we enjoyed. Spending quality time in a National Park with family I rarely get to see was the ultimate blessing! The rest of the trip was spent celebrating the wonderful Garver Mother’s in my favorite house ever!
Lola Valley is where I’d like to think my park loving roots began.
Apparently it’s also where my road trip planning began…
Being back here makes me so happy and proud to call Michigan my birthplace. One day soon I’ll be exploring the parks of Northern Michigan like Isle Royal!