Like many of you, our summer vacation this year has morphed into more of stay-cation but that doesn’t mean that we’re struggling with things to do. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is just a hop-skip from our house and has proven to be a real sanity-saver this year!
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park has been a federally protected area since 1974. It encompasses the Ohio & Erie Canalway area running between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. It’s a wonderful spot to hike, bike, or enjoy water sports like kayaking or paddleboarding.
In fact, you can now bike nearly the entire way from downtown Akron to the Cleveland lakefront on mostly non-roadway trails (a bonus for those of us that don’t like street biking)! Full expansion will be complete in 2021.
CVNP: The Towpath Trail
Some of the more prominent stops along the CVNP Towpath trail include:
- Canal Visitor Center in Independence, where they have an operational lock on display and seasonal weekend demonstrations on its usage.
- Station Road Bridge in Brecksville, a scenic spot for photographers and close to the eagle nesting area (in season).
- The beautiful new Boston Mills Visitor Center in Peninsula, the adjacent MD Garage & Gallery, and snack stand.
- Peninsula Depot and the town of Peninsula. This charming little town is a great place to stop for lunch. Check out Fisher’s or local chain, the Winking Lizard. Be sure to leave some time to explore the many little art galleries and boutiques, and, of course, the park store Trail Mix. If you’re bike-curious but don’t have wheels, Century Cycles has rentals that you can try!
- Szalay’s Farm & Market, a fantastic place to pick up some Ohio sweet corn and other delicious treats.
- Everett Road Covered Bridge (another great photo spot)
- Akron Northside Station – like Peninsula, this is another fun place to stop and explore for a while. Check out the famous Luigi’s, enjoy an upscale meal at dba, and check out artisans at the Northside Marketplace. A favorite brewery, Lock 15 is just a short walk or pedal away.
Along the way, you’ll encounter a lot of nature. Turtles, herons, a beaver marsh, etc. If this seems like a lot of ground to cover in one trip, you may want to explore the Bike Aboard option where you can take the train one-direction and bike the other. While it’s currently out of service until 9/30/20 due to COVID, check back on their website for updates.
CVNP: Outside the Towpath Trail
If you’re already familiar with the Towpath Trail and are looking to branch out on some different routes, check out the following:
- Brandywine Falls Trail. This trail starts near the Boston Mills Trailhead and takes you past the Stanford House Hostel, Brandywine Falls, and the Inn at Brandywine Falls. You can pick up the Bike & Hike Trail from this area. Our favorite place to eat along the Bike & Hike is Tiki Underground. The path will roll you right to their doorstep, bike racks at the ready, where you can unwide with a top-quality, hand-crafted tiki drink and enjoy some lunch!
- Everett Area Trail. Located near the Everett Road Covered Bridge, this group offers several hike/horse loops that vary in intensity from easy to difficult.
- The Cuyahoga Valley Trails. The Valley and Buckeye Trail can be accessed from a few different points between Station and Everett Roads.
Directly across Riverview Road from the Station Road trailhead is the Brecksville Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, another outdoor area gem. Be sure to make a stop at the River Ford (first parking area as you enter the park from Riverview Road).
The Stone Stacker of the Brecksville Reservation
When I was out taking photos for this post, I was lucky to run into Gene, one of several area stone stackers. Gene came to Ohio from Tonawanda, New York to wait out the COVID quarantine closer to his family. He builds his beautiful creations exclusively at the Brecksville River Ford, even lighting them in the evening if they stand that long!
I asked if I could photograph him among his creations and he obliged, showing me how this front arrangement actually serves as “throne” and can be sat upon. Note the slightly depressed areas running up from the creek bed next to each cairn. He dug those by hand and when the water levels are higher they make little canals around his work.
Are you traveling this summer or sticking close to home? What sort of amenities or opportunities do you have for “backyard travel” in your state? Share your favorites with me in the comments below!
Until next time…keep cultivating a simple, stylish and satisfying life!