Do you have a New Year’s resolution to spend more time outside? Trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) offer something for everyone regardless of your ability. In this article, I highlight ten features of park trails, with an eye towards inviting you to try something new.
1. There are over 200 miles of trails. CVNP encompasses 33,000 acres and over 200 miles of trails when you account for those on lands owned by the National Park Service and county park districts. The trails are interconnected. You can choose from short walks to long-distance adventures.
2. Trails explore the park’s valleyness. CVNP is a river valley. With leaves off the trees in winter, the flat bottomlands, highly dissected valley walls, and highlands become more visible. You can explore bottomlands along the Towpath Trail and highlands on the Ledges Trail. To experience one of the many steep, narrow gorges carved by streams into the valley walls, try the 0.5-mile Haskell Run Trail.
3. Trails help you find wildlife. Trails take you through forests, meadows, and wetlands that provide habitat for wildlife. The most popular wildlife viewing area, the Beaver Marsh, is less than a 0.5-mile walk on the Towpath Trail from Ira Trailhead. Beaver, muskrats, and river otters live in this wetland.
4. Trails are places to discover history. CVNP protects over 400 historic structures. Trails take you past these structures and along farms and small towns. Many trails have their own history. Some follow old roads. Others, including the Ledges Trail, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
5. Trails connect to Cleveland and Akron. CVNP sits between Akron and Cleveland. The Towpath Trail is a bicycle and foot trail that runs through the park and connects into the cities. It is a legacy of the Ohio & Erie Canal, a constructed waterway that extended from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Historically, mules and horses walked the towpath to pull boats along the canal. Connector trails link communities to the towpath. The newest is the Hemlock Creek Trail, which opened in Independence this fall. The woodland scenery along this trail is lovely, making it a destination itself.
6. E-bikes are now allowed on most park bicycle trails. In 2019, the towpath and connector trails in CVNP opened to Class I and II e-bikes. Even though these bicycles can reach speeds of 20 mph, we introduced a 15 mph limit on the Towpath Trail due to public concerns about safety.
7. Mountain bike trails provide bicycle access to more rugged terrain. In 2016, the National Park Service opened the East Rim Trail system for mountain bikes. We recommend this trail for people with at least intermediate mountain biking skills. Bedford Reservation and Hampton Hills Metro Park also have mountain bike trails. E-bikes are not allowed on mountain bike trails. Always check the status of mountain bike trails before heading out. They close in wet conditions.
8. Try snow shoes and cross country skis in winter. The National Park Service provides free use of snow shoes and cross country skis at the Winter Sports Center at M.D. Garage on weekends when snow conditions allow. Adult and child sizes are available. The nearby, flat Towpath Trail is a good option for beginners.
9. Enjoy solitude, natural sounds, and nighttime darkness. Trails get you away from roads and into settings surrounded by nature. Many visitors express appreciation for the sense of solitude and retreat from the pressures of everyday life. The National Park Service protects natural sounds and night skies, two aspects of nature that contribute to the feelings of being away from it all. The Towpath Trail in CVNP is open 24-7 and provides a nice nighttime option.
10. Trails are places to be social. You can enjoy trails with friends and family or meet new people. Meet-up groups regularly gather in the park. The National Park Service offers ranger-guided recreation hikes nearly every weekend. They are listed in the Valley Guide and online at nps.gov/cuva.
Trail maps and additional information is available at Boston Mill Visitor Center (6947 Riverview Road, Peninsula; 330-657-2752). We can help you select trails that match your physical abilities. Winter weather does not need to keep you away. We recommend that you wear layers, wool socks, and a hat. A wool or synthetic layer next to your skin wicks away sweat and adds to comfort. We do not plow trails in CVNP, so footwear appropriate for snow and ice is needed on some days.
I hope that I see you on trails this winter.
Note: Vasarhelyi is Chief of Interpretation, Education & Visitor Services for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.