Cuyahoga River Valley — Our very own national parkWritten by Judy Pfaffenberger | | email@example.com
Did you know that just two hours from Toledo near exit 173 of the turnpike between Cleveland and Akron is Ohio’s first and only national park? More good news is that no entrance fee is required.
In September, my husband and I made a day trip there and enjoyed it very much. The park has many hiking trails but the two easiest ways to explore are by bicycle and steam train.
The closest part of the park to that turnpike exit is about 10 minutes away at Boston Store. We took our bikes and just wanted to get a little taste of what the park had to offer. The ranger at the visitors’ center there recommended that we take the Towpath Trail south and then return on the train. That trail follows the Cuyahoga River in some places but mostly follows the old canal that ran parallel. I had assumed since it was a towpath trail, it would be completely flat. For the most part it was, but there were slight grades here and there.
We went only about eight miles since we are not fast riders and it was already afternoon when we started and certainly didn’t want to take a chance on missing the train back. So we rode south to the Indigo Lake Station, which was the second railroad stop from where we started. We were there on a Friday and not much traffic was on the trail. I read that weekends can be pretty crowded in season.
We had packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed eating it while sitting on a bench by the beautiful blue lake. That way we would be on hand when the train came. The schedule is posted at the visitors’ centers and also at the stations. The day we were there, the train came by a station in one direction about every two hours. The prior information we found on the Internet said that the price was $2 to put a bike on the train and ride back to our starting point, but the price was actually $3 — still a great bargain by our thinking. Snacks are available for purchase on the train.
No bike rentals were available where we were in the park but a list of rental information is available at www.nps.gov/cuva.htm.
Taking the train on the full scenic excursion costs from $20 online and $18 walk-up. You can board the train at Canton Lincoln Highway Station or Rockside Station in Independence.
After our ride, we wanted to check out two waterfalls and the two places where it is possible to overnight in the park. Stanford House and Farm used to be a youth hostel but is now a budget inn. Not all of the rooms have private baths and prices start at about $50 for a double. It is located quite near Boston Store. About five miles from there is Brandywine Falls, located next to Brandywine Inn which is in the $200 per night range. The top of the falls is near the parking area, but getting a good view of them requires quite a few steps down and then back up on a wooden walkway.
Our last stop before heading home was to see Blue Hen Falls. This was only about a mile from Boston Store. The walk was about a quarter mile each way to see falls that were not nearly so high as Brandywine but over a picturesque rock formation. There is a trail but no boardwalk here.
All in all it was a fairly inexpensive and enjoyable excursion not too far from home.