Our goal to travel somewhere new every month in 2019 was both exciting and challenging, as most goals prove to be. We had to balance our more expensive adventures with those we could make cheaper by exploring nearby destinations. We knew we still wanted to be able to visit National Parks, despite this attempt to maintain a budget. Even though Michigan has a National Park, it is in the Upper Peninsula and further away and more expensive than some out of state parks.
America's Urban National Park
If you are from the midwest, you know of the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio. However, we found ourselves exploring the nearby state more than once during our 2019 adventures. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only a 2.5-hour drive from Detroit, so we decided to go in March to save money before our larger Florida trip in April.
Ohio Route 82 Passing Through The Park
The weather in March was okay. A little chilly, but not too cold for us Michiganders. We were comfortable in a fleece or zip-up jacket. However, we do recommend visiting the park during a more definite season. We were visiting during an off time when the trees were bare, no colorful leaves, snow, or greenery. The waterfalls were still beautiful, but this was perhaps one of the few National Park visits where we left wishing we would have visited during a different season in order to fully experience it all.
Bare Trees Of Winter's End
While there were moments that we felt rather gloomy due to the weather and lack of seasonal evidence, we did enjoy many of the unique aspects of the park. We wanted to start the day on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. You can find information for this train ride on the National Park Website here, or go directly to the railroad site here. We parked at the Peninsula Depot Station and tickets were $15. We recommend the train ride, especially if you have children. The views are really pretty, despite having rather brown scenery during our Mach visit. The second website provides options for a few upgraded rides where you can eat breakfast, or even drink wine on the train with the Grape Escape option. We didn’t know of these were options when booking, but would have enjoyed the wine tour because, well, we love wine and we don’t have kids.
The Peninsula Station
Don’t get us wrong, we love kids. However, our train probably had a 5-1 kid to adult ratio. How do you entertain kids except for letting them roam around the cabin? We had a rather crowded train ride and it was louder and busier than we had anticipated. We saw a lot of passengers dressed very nicely heading towards the back of the train, and this is when we realized we’d prefer a different riding option.
Choo - Choo!
The train ride took us through the park and then back to Peninsula Depot where our car was parked. It was a nice ride but then we were able to head to the falls and the other trails we had planned. We visited some of the main attractions in the park including Crazy Man’s Hollow, Brandywine Falls, Blue Hen Falls and The Ledges.
Each spot has its own creative aspect that makes the park special and made our visit wonderful. While we were able to visit some great spots, an important note is to check online before heading to the park to make sure trails are open. We intended to see Twin Sisters Falls, however after walking for a mile down the towpath, we realized we had passed the trail opening and it was no longer accessible. While we were frustrated, we ended up REALLY loving our next hike to Crazy Man’s Hollow. We had to walk on a path that wasn’t a managed, and this was so much fun. We had to climb around the creek, down trees and some slippery slopes. The end destination was beautiful, and the pictures don’t accurately represent how small you feel while surrounded by this cave like formation.
Crazy Man's Hollow
Blue Hen Falls was another beautiful spot and you could get nice and close to the falls. You start off on a maintained path and then have to climb down a small section of the woods to get in front of the falls. If you aren’t able to climb down, the views on the trail are still great. We had perfect lighting and enjoyed taking some fun photographs while down here.
Blue Hen Falls
Brandywine Falls is the must-see attraction at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The path to get to these falls is really easy to follow and the views are well worth it. We stayed for a while looking around and this was the perfect location or our flag photo.
FIRE UP CHIPS!
We wanted to end the day and catch the sunset at Ledges Overlook. However, while we were searching for this trail, we came across something called Icebox Trail. We were slightly worried about missing the sunset, however we decided to take a chance and go off our original path. It was a HUGE win, as this became one of our favorite parts of this park. If you are planning on going to Ledges Overlook, or even if you aren’t, we highly recommend this trail. It was not only beautiful, but made you feel like you were in a different environment completely.
We got a little confused with all the trails and titles. There is the Ledges Trail which goes through the cool rock formations, the Ledges Overlook, that is the perfect place to go for sunset and then there is the Ice Box Trail, that actually takes you into the cave of the Ledges, but is closed off to the public. We were confused by the difference between Ledges Overlook and Trail and that’s how we came across Icebox, which was really just the Ledges Trail.
Nooks And Crannies Of The Ledges
We had so much fun exploring all the small passageways, some of which were initially frightening not knowing what was hidden behind the rocks. With the exception of a few spider friends, we were alone on this trail. But if you come with a group, it would be a great place for an epic game of hide-and-seek.
The Otherworldly Ledges
After our surprise hiking find, we walked over to the actual Ledges Overlook to watch the sunset. The views were spectacular; however, this area was definitely a popular destination and we were no longer alone with our eight-legged friends. As soon as the sun went down, we could feel the temperature drop, so we quickly went back to the car to assess our adventure. We definitely want to go back to Cuyahoga (though there is hardly ever a time we don’t want to go back) during the summer or fall. The river would be great to kayak on and the leaves during the fall would be stunning.
The Very Worthwhile Ledges Overlook
For any Christmas Story fans, the house where A Christmas Story was filmed is located in Cleveland and only 20 minutes from the park. We ate dinner at Rowley Inn right across the street, and had a nice view of the house at nighttime. You can take a tour of the house and there is a gift shop and museum across the street.