Exploring Cuyahoga National Park

Easy family trail suggestions at Cuyahgoa National ParkIt is a beautiful thing to travel when you visit a place without any preconceived expectations and walk away with wonderful memories. This was our experience when we visited Cuyahoga National Park last summer. It is located just south of Cleveland, following the Ohio and Erie canal through the Cuyahoga River valley.

Cuyahoga National Park is not one of the better know national parks. It’s relatively small, fairly new and even free to get into – woo hoo. However I am on a kick to explore as many national parks as possible and since we live in the East there are not many national parks that are easy for us to get to. We had a wedding in Ohio to go to and Cuyahoga National Park was on the way. We decided to extend our trip by a day and explore this park. We had a wonderful time and started planning our return trip even before we left.
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We started out at the Boston Store Visitors Center, where we picked up the Junior Ranger packets and asked for some hiking Ohio-2015-Aug-074suggestions. The visitors center had displays of canal life, with both a replica of canal activity and boat life. Next to the visitors center was an old time gas station. For some odd reason I was fascinated by this and my family was somewhat patient as I took pictures of a gas station.
The best memory we made was the hike we never finished. The ranger at the Visitors center suggested the Ledges trail. We started out on this trail but quickly found an area of sandstone rock formations called Ritchie Ledges that became our own natural rock playground. We had no expectation of what we would find on this hike so it was a surprise for us. My kids are climbers and we all had so much fun exploring, climbing and playing. We lost track of the hiking trail and never bothered to finish the hike due to the amount of time spent exploring the ledges. One note, also in this area is the Ice Box Cave. Apparently it is home to many bats but it is closed off to slow the spread of a disease to the local bat population.

 

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After some lunch we headed to the Beaver Marsh. This was an easy, flat walk to a board walk over this marsh habitat. I was fascinated to learn that this area had been restored from a junk yard to its original state and now home to many local animals.. We did not see any beavers, but birds and turtles still provided some fun entertainment. The trail to the Beaver marsh is part of the Towpath trail of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The sections of this trail we saw appeared well maintained and flat. Perfect for biking. We did not have our bikes with us, but I would love to come back again and explore further on our bikes.
One of the better known highlights of Cuyahoga National Park is Brandywine Falls. This was our last Ohio-2015-Aug-063stop for the day and even though there is a short 1.5 mile hike around the falls area we chose the shorter boardwalk hike to see the falls. This allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the falls but keep everybody sane by understanding our limits. By this time we had tired and hungry kids and we were ready to find some dinner.
This was the first Junior Ranger packet we were able to complete. We attempted the one at Shenandoah, but it was too lengthy for the time we were there. To help us complete the Junior Ranger packet for Cuyahoga National Park I printed some of the packet before we left to have an idea of what needed to be done. The kids worked on it during the day and finished up at dinner that night. We made it a point to return to the Boston Visitors Center the next day before we left to hand them in. My kids didn’t know what to expect and I think they were a little embarrassed by the attention they received when they handed them in. However, they were proud of the badge they received.
I love finding little hidden places to explore with my family. This was officially National Park #3.

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