(Ritchie Ledges Overlook, Cuyahoga Valley National Park)
This past weekend I visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Ohio's only national park. Cuyahoga, a word that means "crooked river" has been a favorite recreational spot for Ohioans since the 19th century. The effort to designate Cuyahoga Valley as a National Park began with the birth of the National Park Service in the early 20th century, but it was not until 2000 that Cuyahoga Valley joined the ranks of Yosemite and Yellowstone. At just over 18,000 acres, Cuyahoga Valley may not be the biggest National Park, but it has it all - waterfalls, forests, meadows, wildlife, biking, hiking, and human history - within its borders. This park protects some of Ohio's most beautiful natural resources as well as historical sites.
My visit started with a bike ride along the Towpath Trail, built along the historic Ohio and Erie Canal. The Canal was finished in 1832, and much of its path has been converted into the Ohio to Erie Trail, the multi-use trail previously featured on Be Ohio Proud. The path is open to cyclists and hikers, as well as cross-country skiers in the winter. The trail takes you through the park and gives you the opportunity to see a little bit of everything the park has to offer. The old canal locks are marked along the way, as well as railroad crossings and historic buildings.
My next stop was the popular Brandywine Falls, one of 70 waterfalls within the park. An easy hike from the trailhead gives you a spectacular view of these falls, and recent rainfall did not disappoint! You can hike over the falls then down into the Brandywine Gorge for a 1.5 mile loop.
After the falls, I headed over to the Ritchie Ledges area of the park. There are several different hikes in this area, so I just followed the Apple Jacks that somebody before me dropped on the path and headed toward the Ice Box Cave. Unfortunately, the actual cave is closed to protect the bats from White Nose Syndrome, so I wasn't able to go in. There were still some really, really cool rock formations to explore in the area.
There are so many things I didn't get to do while I was there, so I am definitely going to make it a point to go back as soon as possible. The ranger I talked to said that it is definitely worth it to see the park from a train. You can ride your bike along the Towpath Trail then take the train back, or you can check out the Grape Escape and Ales on Rails Excursion.