A 30-minute drive, but a world away: Cuyahoga Valley National Park


Henry Bendon

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is free to the public and contains amazing views and friendly canines being walked.

Henry Bendon, Staff Reporter

Saturday, Sept. 28, was officially a fall day. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell whoever schedules the weather, and the air we stepped into exiting our car at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) was 81 degrees and humid—not exactly ideal for hiking. 

It was, however, National Public Lands Day, an annual event held on the fourth Saturday of every September, designed to bring people together to help maintain the splendor and beauty of the country’s national parks. 

National Public Lands Day also opens up nearly every park to visitors free of charge, and while the CVNP is always free and accessible, it did make for an excellent excuse to head down I-77 and check the park out. 

For those looking to visit CVNP, a car is a necessity. The drive is half an hour to reach the park and another 10 minutes to find a parking spot and trailhead. Our exploratory mission started at the Boston Store Visitor Center, where one can find both parking and Mitchell’s ice cream. 

The parking lot itself suggested the trail we meant to take might be fairly packed: our intended route was down the towpath to the Stanford House to Brandywine Falls Trail loop, where we would walk to find the fall, take some cool, Instagrammable photos and then loop back around. 

The park, it turned out, is big enough to handle one full medium-sized parking lot. 

The hike we chose cut right through the quaint Boston Township area, which has been maintained to look like an old-timey Ohio rural village. Then we went through the wilderness itself. 

We struggled through marshes, up hills and through forests, our progress made possible only by our mental fortitude and the incredibly clean and well-maintained paths that made the hike approachable for pretty much anyone looking for some outside the big-city activities. 

The total time out to the falls was about 45 minutes, according to the timestamps from a photo of a cool turtle we found when we arrived and a photo from the waterfall overlooking the boardwalk. 

The hike was punctuated by cool views and large friendly dogs, whose owners were taking advantage of the deceptive summer-like weather to get their canine companions some outdoor time. 

We ran into some rain on the way out of the park, which was ironic considering the dry period prior to our arrival had left most bodies of water at fairly low levels, leaving us a less than perfect, but still impressive waterfall to cap off our hike and a very easy, although somewhat dusty, hiking environment. 

For those interested in visiting the waterfall without doing a hike, you can drive right up to the boardwalk and park. There are a few falls other than Brandywine in Cuyahoga Valley with hikes that are very achievable for any experience level.