The 1 day we could go to Cuyahoga Valley National Park was the worst possible day to go. The rain was relentless. But with the rain comes fewer people, so there are silver linings even in rain clouds.
It was only about an hour’s drive from our campground, but the weather and knowing we probably were not going to get in any hiking made it feel so much longer. However, we could not be that close to a National Park and not make the trip, no matter how long we stayed.
Will and I had visited the park about 5 years ago and did a little hiking then. There is a train that runs through much of the park, so on a typical visit, you are able to park in one place, hike along the river, then catch the train back. Due to COVID, we did not even look into if the train was operating, and due to the weather, it would not have mattered anyway. But we were excited to be back.
The park is in a seemingly random area and is spread out along the Cuyahoga River, with small towns dotting the map between park property. Even driving between different park attractions, we drove through several towns and neighborhoods. In fact, to get to Brandywine Falls, you turn off a main business district, drive past a cemetery, through a neighborhood, and end up at the parking lot. It is random and fun and about 10 minutes from a Chick-fil-A!
Random as it seems, the park was established to preserve the river between Akron and Cleveland, and the history of how the citizens made a case for it to become a National Park is really interesting. Having a National Park outside of Cleveland seems almost like an oxymoron (especially to those of us from Pittsburgh, just kidding, Cleveland is actually a really cool city), but it is truly beautiful and a fun oasis among so much development.
Aside from the short hike down to Brandywine Falls, we made a quick stop to see the Everett covered bridge and Rockside Road bridge. Even though the Rockside Road bridge is one of the iconic views of the park, we likely would not have gone out of our way to see it, except it was the highlight of our previous visit and seeing it was about the only way we got our bearings and figured out where we had visited before.
There is no fee to visit this park and there are many opportunities for hiking and exploring, which we were sad to miss on this visit.
Even with the rain condensing our visit, we enjoyed what Cuyahoga Valley National Park had to offer and would certainly return in the future to explore, hike, and catch the train.