By Jared Murphy
Originating as a National Recreation Area in 1974, Cuyahoga Valley was redesignated as a national park 26 years later in 2000, making it the only national park that originated as a national recreation area. Cuyahoga Valley is the only national park in Ohio and is the closest park to Pittsburgh.
Cuyahoga Valley is home to about one hundred waterfalls, with the most popular fall being the 65 foot tall Brandywine Falls. Bordering the national park are the Cleveland Metroparks and the Summit Metro Parks, featuring more waterfalls and walking trails.
Compared to other national parks, Cuyahoga Valley is relatively small, making it a great day trip to those in the greater Pittsburgh area. The park features the 21 mile Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail for a brisk walk or bike ride through the park. Along the towpath one can stop at the Beaver Marsh, and if you’re lucky one can spot beavers, otters, minks, turtles and a variety of water fowls. From January through May, one can even buy tickets to take a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad through the park.
While the hiking trails in Cuyahoga Valley aren’t long or strenuous, the Ledges Trail is a must-do for hikers. A fairly easy and accessible path, the ledges trail is a 1.8 mile loop along the Ritchie Ledges which were carved out of Sharon Conglomerate millions of years ago making for very unique looking features. There’s plenty of wildlife roaming throughout the park if one keeps their eyes peeled. I even spotted a Broad Winged Hawk perched in a tree along the Ledges Trail.
With Cuyahoga Valley being in Ohio, the climate is similar to Pittsburgh, with plenty of rain, making it a great spot for mushroom foragers as well. Along the Ledges Trail I spotted and identified over ten species of mushrooms, including Chicken of the Woods which is known for its edibility and similar taste to chicken.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an accessible park fairly close to home. The waterfalls and trails are very easy to reach compared to other national parks, and I highly recommend checking out the park for anyone looking to lose themselves in nature for the day.