Camping World’s Guide Cuyahoga Valley National Park 5054

Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio is truly a unique mixture of city attractions and rural life, where history is preserved in the midst of today’s hectic existence. It’s a fantastic place to go if you want to camp, and even if you have an RV and can’t camp right in the park, there are plenty of places nearby that offer camping accomodations.

In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you can take a scenic train ride through the valley to discover a river tamed almost 200 years ago, with locks and canal boats moving precious cargo to Lake Erie and on to the East Coast long before semis and airplanes came on the scene. You can kayak the now clean waters that burned, not once but twice, from pollution years ago and wonder at the great blue heron who raise their young in this piece of paradise caught between two cities.

You can also see and do all sorts of other things. With all that in mind, let’s dig into what makes this park so special.

History of Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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The early habitation of the Cuyahoga Valley included several Native American tribes, who moved in and out of the region. By the mid-1700s European explorers began to build trading posts in the area, eventually enticing New England settlers to spread throughout Ohio.

The settlements grew into productive cities, looking for a way to get their products to the markets back east. So, in the 1830s, the Ohio & Erie Canal was built, connecting Akron, Ohio with Lake Erie via the Cuyahoga River.

Within 50 years, as the industry grew in urban centers, city dwellers looked to escape to rural regions for their recreation. The land along the Cuyahoga River was just such a place. By 1880 the Valley Railway began bringing these “tourists” to the area for boat trips on the canal and carriage rides.

When Cleveland and Akron established their own parks districts, locals began to think about preserving the area between the two cities, limiting development there. In 1929, Hayward Kendall left 430 acres to be perpetually used for park purposes in the area, essentially beginning the formation of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

It took 45 years and a great deal of cooperation among cities, private attractions and the park service, but this unique national park gained official status in 1974. Today it combines metropolitan regions with historic waterways, forestlands, and wildlife, giving visitors an example of yesteryear in the midst of progress.

Why Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Your RV?

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Photo Credit: NPS by Jim Schmidt

Cuyahoga Valley is unusual in that it lies between two urban areas and is crisscrossed by metropolitan attractions and amenities. RVs make a perfect home when parked in any of the nearby campgrounds. Then access the region by walking, biking or even riding the train through this unique national park. There’s plent to do and see here, and you should really take the time to make the most of it.

It’s the park’s unique location that makes it such a wonderful Midwestern destination to visit. Are there other fantastic places to camp in the Midwest? Yes, of course, but there’s really no other place out ther like this unique national park. Ohio has a real gem in this park, and it’s one that will often be overloooked in favor of the other more-famous national parks. You should spend some time at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You won’t regret it.

Places to Go in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The park is large, at well over 50 square miles. With that in mind, you’re bound to find plenty of unqiue places within the park’s boundaries. However, there are some places you should definitely visit if you go. Don’t miss out on any of these opportunities in the park:

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

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Let the engineer do all the driving while viewing the national park from the seat of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. A 2-1/2 hour trip will take riders past many of the highlights of the area while following the Cuyahoga River. Passengers can board and deboard at three different stops to do further exploring.

This is one of the best ways to see as much of the park as possible. As you can image, this large of a park can take some time to really get a feel for and the scenic railroad is a good way to really take everything in.

Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

Is a train ride not your thing? Another smart thing to do is hike, bike, or run on the packed gravel Towpath Trail, which follows the old Ohio & Erie Canal. The 85-mile long trail runs from Cleveland, and when finished at 101 miles, will end in North Philadelphia.

You certainly don’t need to do the whole thing, but it’s another great way to really take in all that this park has to offer. It’s also a great way to get a good workout in and stay active while there!

Brandywine Falls

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Photo Credit: Erik Drost (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the most popular attractions at Cuyahoga Valley National Park is this 65-foot tall waterfall. When the area was first settled a sawmill was built at the top of Brandywine, and later grist and woolen mills utilized the falls’ power.

There’s something amazing about these falls. They’re an absolute must-see and one of the best photo opportunities in all of Ohio and much of the Midwest. If you’re with your family, make some time to go here to take in the falls in all their glory.

Boston Store Visitor Center

As the park’s main visitor center, Boston Store has a gift shop, restrooms and exhibits showcasing canal boat building in the valley. Ranger-led tours leave from this location, as well. The place iteself isn’t wildly impressive, but it’s somewhere worth stopping.

It can also make a smart location to kind of base all of your park activities out of. This is especially true if you plan on taking part in any of the ranger-led tours, which come highly recommended.

Canal Exploration Center

Purchase goods from the Canal Era here, and try your hand at guiding a canal boat through a lock with interactive touch screens. There’s all sorts of information here, and if you want to bring an educational aspect to your trip, which can make for a more memorable trip overall, then you should stop in.

The interactive site will go into why canals are and were important and what function the site itself served. You can check out the park’s website page on the center for more information.

Hunt House

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Kids will love the nature exhibits at Hunt House, and adults will be grateful for a rest break here. It’s a wonderful place to sit back and relax for a few moments before moving on to the next location.

The Hunt House is along the canal towpath trail, so you may want to take some time and relax here after hiking, running, or biking. It operates seasonally, so make sure to check the schedule before going there.

Things to Do at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

There are several ways to enjoy the park. I’ve already discussed many of them in the text above, but it’s important to call them out specifically, so you know exactly what you can do while you’re here. Here are just a few:

Hiking

There are over 125 miles of hiking trails throughout Cuyahoga Valley. Many are accessible to all visitors, and several regional trails run through the park, as well, like the Ohio Buckeye Trail. Here are the different sections of the park, with links to maps for the trails within them:

I would suggest taking some time to look over the trails before you go and selecting a few areas you’d like to hike. Have a plan before you show up to the park. This will not only help you hike the trails you want, but it will help you decide what to bring with you in terms of snacks, water, etc.

Biking

Ride along the Towpath Trail in either direction. If you get tired, you can catch the Cuyahoga Train at any stop. This helps make things easy and allows you to bike as far as you want and then be able to take some time to relax on the train when you need it.

Mountain biking is also popular on the East Rim Trail System. If you’re interested in more than just riding along the Towpath Trail, then this is the place to go. The trail system is a little more advanced and extreme.

Fishing

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The Cuyahoga River is home to numerous steelhead, trout, and bullhead. Catch-and-release is suggested to keep the fish population healthy. There are also many lakes and ponds throughout the area that offer bluegill, bass, and crappy wherever you cast a line.

Fishing is allowed in the park, but make sure you have an Ohio fishing liscense on-hand. You don’t want to get a ticket for fishing without a license. Also licenses are inexpensive and the money goes back into the parks system in most cases.

Canoeing and Kayaking

The national park does not maintain the river for recreational use, but it is open to anyone bringing their own kayak or canoe. There are five different access points throughout the park.

Make sure to read up on the canoeing and kayaing rules for the park. These change from time to time, so check it before you go. You can do that by clicking here.

The link above is also a great place to find out about any warnings the Park’s Department puts out about the park. Don’t just blindly jump on the river with your kayak or canoe. Make sure to check with the website and see if there are any warnings or issues you need to be aware of.

Another way to enjoy the river is through companies that offer river experiences. There are several that will rent you a canoe or kayak. These companies take care of everything from dropping you off to picking you up. There are various trips you can take and they vary in length and duration. Paddle the River is one that offers a few different options.

Horseback Riding

Cuyahoga Valley has many different bridle trails within the park boundaries. Bring your own horse, as there is ample trailer parking at the Station Road parking lot.

BRIDLE TRAIL NAMES DETAILS & LOCATIONS
Wetmore Trail

(See Wetmore Trail Map.)

Length: 4 miles
Riding Time:1.5 hours
Elevation Change: 250 feet
Rating: Moderate
Trailhead Location: On Wetmore Road .6 miles east of Akron Peninsula Road, 1.75 miles south of Peninsula, Ohio. Trail is north of Wetmore Road.
Tabletop Trail

(See Wetmore Trail Map.)

Length: 0.75 miles after access from Wetmore Trail
Riding Time: 20 minutes
Elevation Change: 100 feet
Rating: Easy to moderate
Trailhead Location: Wetmore Trailhead. On Wetmore Road .6 miles east of Akron Peninsula Road, 1.75 miles south of Peninsula, Ohio. Trail is north of Wetmore Road.
Langes Run Trail

(See Wetmore Trail Map.)

Length: 4.5 miles
Riding Time: 2 hours
Elevation Change: 190 feet
Rating: Moderate to difficult
Trailhead Location:Wetmore Trailhead. On Wetmore Road .6 miles east of Akron Peninsula Road, 1.75 miles south of Peninsula, Ohio. Trail is mostly south of Wetmore Road.
Butler’s Trail

(See Wetmore Trail Map.)

Length: 0.75 miles
Riding Time: 20 minutes
Elevation Change:150 feet
Rating: Easy
Trailhead Location: Wetmore Trailhead. On Wetmore Road .6 miles east of Akron Peninsula Road, 1.75 miles south of Peninsula, Ohio. Trail is south of Wetmore Road.
Valley Trail

(See Buckeye and Valley Trails: Station Road to Boston Trail Map.)

(See Buckeye and Valley Trails: Boston to Everett Trail Map.)

Length: Brecksville Stables to Wetmore is 11.4 miles
Wetmore to Riding Run is 3.1 miles
(Wetmore and Langes Run connect the north and south segments)
Riding Time: 4-5 hours
Elevation Change: 360 feet
Rating: Moderate to difficult
Trailhead Location: Trailhead is on the Langes Run Bridle Trail accessible via the Wetmore Trailhead. On Wetmore Road .6 miles east of Akron Peninsula Road, 1.75 miles south of Peninsula, Ohio.
Riding Run Trail

(See Riding Run and Perkins Trails Map.)

Length: 3.25 miles
Riding Time: 1.5 hours
Elevation Change: 260 feet
Rating: Moderate to difficult
Trailhead Location: Everett Road Covered Bridge Trailhead. On Everett Road .5 miles west of Riverview Road in Everett, Ohio.
Perkins Trail

(See Riding Run and Perkins Trails Map.)

Length: 3.75 miles
Riding Time: 2 hours
Elevation Change: 260 feet
Rating: Difficult
Trailhead Location: Everett Road Covered Bridge Trailhead. On Everett Road .5 miles west of Riverview Road in Everett, Ohio.
Cleveland MetroParks Bridle Trails w/in CVNP
Bedford Reservation Length: 6 miles
Riding Time: 2.5 hours
Elevation Change: 270 feet
Rating: Moderate to difficult
Trailhead Location: Hemlock Creek Trailhead. On Dunham Road immediately across from Tinker’s Creek Road, 1.4 miles north of Alexander Road in Bedford Reservation.
Bedford Reservation Length: 3 miles
Riding Time: 1 hour
Elevation Change: 8 feet
Rating: Easy
Trailhead Location: Station Road Bridge Trailhead. On Riverview Road, 0.2 miles south of State Route 82 in Brecksville, Ohio.
Brecksville Reservation Length: 9 miles
Riding Time: 3 hours
Elevation Change: 260 feet
Rating: Moderate to difficult
Trailhead Location: Stables Parking Area Trailhead. On Meadows Drive, 0.4 miles south of Valley Parkway on on Meadows Drive in Brecksville, Ohio.

If you’d like to get more information about horseback riding in the park, make sure to check out the park’s website page on the subject by clicking here.

Questing

Follow a map and clues to discover natural and historical gems throughout the park. No GPS is needed! This is something you’ll have to do of your own volition. It’s well worth it, though. Set various goals for yourself throughout the park and see if you can get to all of the places on your list.

You can also think about Geocaching. There are geocaches within the park. Read more about the caches in the park by clicking here.

Snowshoeing

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Yes, the park is open during the cold winter months. And yes, it’s still a great time to visit the park. There’s still plenty to do and see and certain areas of the park are even more enjoyable and beautiful in the winter.

Grab some snowshoes at the Winter Sports Center at M.D. Garage, and wander the trails after a good storm has deposited at least six inches or so of snow. Any less and your regular snow boots will get the job done.

When To Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The park is open year-round, some places close at dusk, but everything else is open 24 hours a day. Autumn is a popular season for leaf peepers to watch the changing colors, and summer brings tourists and locals alike, anxious to explore the attractions throughout the park and enjoy hiking and biking the many trails.

The winter months are also great, but generally, a day trip is what you’ll need. If you want to spend more time there, I suggest staying in an RV park that’s winter-ready or getting a hotel in a nearby town.

Where RVers Can Stay

Unfortunately, you can no longer camp within the park. However, there are four metro and state parks within the area that offer RV sites. They are:

If you really want to stay within the park, there are some lodging options. You can either stay at the Stanford House or the The Inn at Brandywine Falls. Both offer top-notch accomodations, though it’s nothing like the camping we all know and love.

Getting To and Around Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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From the south, the park is accessible 18 miles from Akron via I-77 and Highway 8, and from the north, travelers from Cleveland can travel I-77 south to Highway 21. The Boston Store Visitor Center marks the entrance to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and is located in the center of the park.

Once inside, there are numerous roads, as this park sits in the midst of several outlying towns and districts. There are many forms of transportation to see the public and private attractions within the park, such as bicycling, walking or riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

From Past to Future

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an anomaly. It is a collection of wilderness locales and historical locations protected from the encroachment of progress. One only has to trek a few miles from the city to travel back in time, viewing life as it was here 150 years ago. And yet, this park is looking far into the future, recognizing the need to preserve its heritage and natural habitat for the generations to come.


Have you been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park? If so, what’d you think? Leave a comment below. 

Camping World's guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Shelley Dennis Contributor
Shelley Dennis is a travel photographer and writer who threw caution to the wind and gave up most of her belongings to travel the country in an RV. Her trusty sidekick for this lifetime adventure is her Golden Retriever, Sully. You can find them both at www.PhotoTrippingAmerica.com

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