Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a year-round destination for trail activities. You can walk, jog, run, bicycle, push a stroller, or use a wheelchair. You can find routes that are short and flat or long and rugged. Regardless of what you do on trails this spring, make sure you take time to enjoy nature’s reawakening.
Haskell Run Trail is a hilly, half-mile loop that starts from Happy Days Lodge (500 W. Streetsboro Road/S.R. 303, Peninsula). The trail meanders through a moist, forested ravine that is a rich environment for spring flowers. Return throughout spring to observe the progression of change.
Wildflower season starts as early as late February when skunk cabbage blooms. Look for its low-growing, purple-and-brown flowering structure that resembles a hood. Peer into the hood to see the small yellow flowers protected inside.
As spring unfolds in April and May, plants grow in a hurry to soak up the sun before tree leaves shade the ground. April flowers include spring beauty, which has five white petals lined with pink. In early May, some of the more colorful flowers appear. Look for delicate bluets in the drier uplands and pink wild geraniums near the creek.
Visit the Towpath Trail to look for birds and listen for frogs. The crushed limestone trail is flat and accessible for wheelchairs. Historically, it is the route that mules walked to tow boats along the Ohio & Erie Canal. For spring nature observation, try the trail near Station Road Bridge Trailhead (Riverview Road and Chippewa Creek Drive, Brecksville) and the Beaver Marsh (Ira Trailhead; 3801 Riverview Road, Peninsula).
Bald eagles nest near the Towpath Trail north of Station Road Bridge Trailhead from late winter until early summer. Their nest is visible from the trail, although you have to look across the Cuyahoga River to see it.
In April and May, numerous songbirds pass through the valley on their annual migration. Yellow-throated and cerulean warblers are two species that bird watchers come to Station Road Bridge Trailhead to find. If you haven’t experienced colorful songbirds during spring migration, it is worth attending a bird walk with an expert who can help you develop your skills. We offer monthly programs.
Frogs add to the sense of life re-emerging with spring along the Towpath Trail. Spring peepers are the first frogs to join the spring chorus. They breed in groups that can number in the thousands. Their breeding call is a high-pitched peep that resembles jingling bells when their many voices mix together.
Many people come to the park to enjoy fall scenery, but spring also offers compelling views. The Ledges Overlook is a popular destination on the 2.2-mile Ledges Trail to appreciate how the 33,000 acres protected in the national park creates expansive scenery. The Ledges are a rocky outcrop that creates a natural plateau. The trail encircles the plateau, sometimes at its base and sometimes along its upper edge.
The Ledges Overlook occurs at a high point where the National Park Service trims trees to create an opening. From there, you can look west across the entire valley. Tree buds, flowers, and tender new leaves add colors and textures to the spring view.
Hiking series allow you to regularly join a ranger to explore the park and enjoy spring scenery. These series take you to places you might not find on your own, as well as offer the safety and socializing that comes with hiking in a group.
The park publishes its programs in a quarterly Valley Guide and posts them online at www.nps.gov/cuva. If you have questions about how to visit the park, stop by Boston Store Visitor Center (1550 Boston Mills Road, Peninsula) or call 330-657-2752.
We hope to see you in Cuyahoga Valley National Park this spring.
Vasarhelyi is Chief of Interpretation, Education & Visitor Services for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.