As summer break nears its end, you might be tired of hanging out at the local pool. If you’re looking to get back to nature, why not head out to our closest National Park — the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) — in nearby Peninsula?
This park, which was designated as a National Park in 2000, is probably best known as the home of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. The trail is the same path where mules walked to tow canal boats loaded with goods and passengers in the mid 1800’s. It served as the main transportation between Akron and Cleveland until railroads replaced canal boats in the 1860’s.
Today, the level, hard-packed path is perfect for bicycling, running, strollers, or hiking. It runs within the park borders from the Rockside Station in Independence to the Boston Mill Station in Boston Mills, but outside the park, it continues from Cleveland in the north to Akron to the south. If hiking or biking the entire 19-mile path within CVNP is off-putting for you and your crew, The Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad, which runs through the park, offers visitors the chance to see the park from the rails, or to bike one way and return by train for a small fee. Whether you decide to walk or to ride, the park is a lush, inviting place to explore.
The Boston Store Visitor Center is a great place to begin your visit. The canal-era building is located at the intersection of Boston Mills Road and the Towpath Trail north of Peninsula. The store, which features interactive exhibits on the history of the area, is open year round. This is where we stopped to pick up a map and choose from the over 125 miles of trails the park has to offer. From portions of the Buckeye Trail, to Brandywine Falls to the Ledges, the park’s trails pass through various habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and old fields. We chose a route that led us away from the bike traffic on the Towpath, past the Stanford House, a hostel and small campground available for rental, to Brandywine Falls, roughly a four-mile round trip excursion that took us across an open field and through the woods to the scenic boardwalk trail that offers a close-up view of the park’s largest waterfall.
After our hike, we were ready for lunch. We passed by the Trail Mix Store, which sells ice cream, cold drinks, and snacks as well as books, and CVNP merchandise. Once we noticed the Mitchell’s ice cream, we made plans to return for dessert. We were meeting friends for a picnic lunch at Szalay’s Farm & Market, so we headed over to the iconic landmark on Riverview Road. Once there, we bought sweet corn and fresh fruit, and enjoyed a picnic in the shaded seating area. Szalay’s, which began in 1931 as a vegetable farm, now specializes in sweet corn, but also runs a farmers market that features fruits, veggies, and local products. During weekends, they offer prepared foods for sale, including roasted sweet corn, sandwiches, and ice cream; during autumn, they host a corn maze and sell pumpkins, fresh cider, and other fall favorites.
Feeling refreshed after our break, our group headed to see the Everett Covered Bridge, the only covered bridge remaining in Summit County. A short trail leads to the historic structure, which was originally built in the 1870s. An unofficial trail leads under the bridge, offering a unique view of the bridge and Furnace Run, which it crosses. Beneath the bridge, the kids found an excellent spot to skip stones and reflect on our day at CVNP.
There are so many trails and unique sites at CVNP, it’s a wonderful destination throughout the year. Why not plan a visit to find your family’s favorites spots some day soon? For more information, visit: www.nps.gov/cuva.