Where you would least expect it, halfway between Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, lies a National Park. One of the greatest features of this park is the Towpath Trail which follows the historic Ohio and Erie canal route though the Cuyahoga River valley. The trail is fully accessible to pedestrians and cyclist to travel the same path used by mules tow the canal boats. You can also travel through the park by steam engine, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers visitors one of a kind views of the park. Another park attraction is winter sports like snowboarding and cross country skiing. I went in the fall so know nothing about this but most of their trail guides also offer information of ski times and skill level.
There is only one campground in the park with only five sites, so reservations are a must. There is also lodging at Stanford House and the Inn at Brandywine Falls. These facilities are not managed by the National Park though they are on park lands so the rules are a little wonky and camping is a steep $25 a night. There is no parking at the campsites so you can backpack in or, unload and park about a mile away at the Boston Store. The upside it the campsites are a great starting point for hiking to Brandywine Falls.
Hikes I Hikes
Stanford Trail - 1.5 miles - This trail takes you to Brandywine falls. You start at Stanford House and cut through the campgrounds and then travel uphill for about a mile. There are two small creek crossings which had little to no water when I crossed them in the fall. This is an easy to moderate hike through the woods and the last quarter mile is along a paved trail which ends at the Brandywine Falls.
Brandywine Gorge Loop - 1.4 milses - I hiked the eastern portion of this trail which is paved and nearest to the falls. The whole loop will circle the gorge that is home to the Brandywine Falls and offer different viewpoints of these falls and the creek below.
Tree Farm Trail - 2.75 miles - This was my favorite hike due to the diversity of flora, even though I never truly felt like I was hiking, due to the constant hum of traffic and town life nearby. The hike starts at the most perfect lake for picnics and then dips back into the woods. As you come out of the woods, a little more than half way, you'll get a spectacular view of a tree farm and some amazing wildflowers. After a quarter mile you're back into the woods until exiting again at the pond.
Sites I Saw
Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail - The towpath is open 24 hours 365 days a year and can be used to travel from Cleveland to Zoar, Ohio. This tail is amazing, the distance it speeds and its accessibility are unparalleled to anything else I've seen. Along the route are historical sites and beautiful wildlife.
Indigo Lake - Just your average lake but what's around it is what counts. There is fishing, restrooms and a translation. All together this makes a good spot for lunch. There are also a few hiking trails nearby
Brandywine Falls - These falls are not as grandiose as those at Yosemite or Yellowstone, but they are worth a visit. The falls can be reached by the Stanford Trail or you can drive to them on Brandywine Road.
Ledges Overlook - This is the go to spot for the sunset. Bring a blanket and a tripod and get cozy. The Ledges Trail is 2.2 miles but if you cut South-west through the field by the parking area you can walk onto the trail at the Overlook.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad - The railroad runs through the entirety of the park and into Akron, Ohio. They're are weird rules about getting on and off so check in with the ticket office if you plan to train hop. My best advice is to ride your bike one way and take the train back the other. Bikers get a reduced fair! The full loop, Rockside to Akron and back again, is about three and a half hours. Check out their website for information about beer and wine nights and, if you're going in the winter they offer a Polar Express ride.
Train Stations and Depots - I'll leave you with one of my favorite parts of the park, these adorable train stations a depots. There are 9 in total and they are all this great!