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Top 8 Adventures at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Though the state of Ohio may immediately bring to mind popular cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati, it is also known for its rolling hills, plunging valleys, and over 40,000 miles of waterways. The natural terrain of Ohio is rich and full of life. Try out these noteworthy adventures in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Along the Cuyahoga River between the cities of Cleveland and Akron lies Ohio’s only National Park. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park features waterfalls, waterways, a scenic railroad, and plenty of hiking trails to set foot on. 

Before it became a national park, it was first established as a national recreation area in 1974. In the park, people can enjoy activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and simply observing and taking in nature. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is unique because the park itself is surrounded by small towns and the city of Cleveland to the north. This makes it truly feel like a secluded escape into the depths of nature when in need of time away from industrial bustle. Don’t shy away from exploring places you’ve never been before and enjoying all that this one-of-a-kind park has to offer.

Hike the Buckeye Towpath Loop 

Photo: Rachel Tand

Distance: 7.77 miles
Elevation: 860 feet
Route: Out-and-back

This loop trail is only a small portion of the full Buckeye Trail, which extends for 1,444 miles. There are opportunities to see free-flowing waterfalls and streams along this path. A connector trail allows you to transition to the nearby Towpath Trail for some time spent on both popular paths.

Note: Since this is a rather extensive trail system, sections of the entire trail may be closed or contain detours. Double-check before beginning your adventure.

Hike to Brandywine Falls

Photo: Rachel Tand

Distance: 3.66 miles
Elevation: 600 feet
Route: Loop

This hike takes you through stunning woodland trails to arrive at the popular Brandywine Falls, which is considered Ohio’s most beautiful waterfall. Do not climb the rocks here or pass over fenced areas for your safety and protection. A nice viewing deck is open and allows for ideal views.

Hike to Contour Falls

Photo: Joseph Linsky

Distance: 1 mile
Route: Out-and-back

Contour Falls is a roughly 40-foot waterfall that flows freely after rainfall. The path to the falls is a challenging hike, unknown by most, but is one that will give you a sense of accomplishment and will reward you with views of this uniquely curvy waterfall. It is located near the Station Road Bridge Trailhead in Brecksville. Dress accordingly as you may get wet.

Hike the Ledges Trail

Photo: Andrew Gacom

Distance: 2.34 miles
Elevation: 210 feet
Route: Loop

This beautiful hike features giant boulders, over 100-foot rock faces of sandstone cliffs, and sweeping views of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trail is easy to follow and is one of the most scenic in the park. Note that it’s mostly rocky terrain so be sure to wear the appropriate footwear.

Hike Towpath Trail 

Photo: Mallory McCrea

Distance: 3.29 miles
Elevation: 259 feet
Route: Out-and-back

This historic trail begins south of Indigo Lake near Akron, close to but not to be confused with the Buckeye Trail. It passes along the Cuyahoga River and is heavily wooded, but there is a road and bike lane which makes for easy terrain. The entire trail is 87-miles long-- perfect for hiking, running, and biking adventures. 

Note: Some parts of this extensive trail may be closed or contain detours. Please check your specific route for any changes before embarking.


Bike Along the Cuyahoga River

Photo: Michael Wigle

Distance: 39.57 miles
Elevation: 1804 feet
Route: Out-and-back

Spanning a total of 36 miles along the canal, this path lies among natural woods and wetlands. One of the best ways to escape into nature is through a head-clearing bike ride. The trail itself is wide and relatively flat the entire way. While peddling this path, you can also see wildlife up close.

Hike the Bridal Veil Falls and Tinkers Creek Loop

Photo: Beth T

Distance: 3.54 miles
Elevation: 489 feet
Route: Loop

This hike leads to a popular waterfall and gorge found within the park. The trail contains plenty of overlooks and is surrounded by beautiful scenery. The cascading falls lie amidst hardwoods and hemlocks, making it a great spot to snap some photos.

Kayak the Cuyahoga River

Photo: Margo Schmiederer

Rent kayaks or use your own to paddle along the Cuyahoga River and see Cleveland from a new point of view. While still outdoors and immersed in the elements, you’ll be able to appreciate the city without being in the heart of it. Watch for motorboats while paddling on this adventure.


Cover Photo: Rachel Tand

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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