One of the best things about living in or visiting Cleveland is the fact that a national park is right in our backyard!
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is a gem, boasting many waterfalls, overlooks, and some of the most gorgeous scenery for hiking any time of the year. And the best part is that this national park is entirely free to visit.
Founded as a national recreational area in 1974, and then named a national park by the year 2000, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the only national park in the state of Ohio. However, as this park spans across Cuyahoga and Summit counties, you know that there are ample places to go for a good hike.
Here are all our favorite trailheads plotted on a map (along with some of the points of interest mentioned):
Best Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trails for Hiking
1. Virginia Kendall Ledges Trail
This is one of the most popular hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park! Along the trail, you’ll spot the most beautiful sandstone layered rock “ledges” that are green with moss and create their own passageways that you can walk between. Peer down the narrow ledges, spot the caves, and wander between the formations before continuing on to the overlook.
If you are searching for one of the best views of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, this is the perfect place. As you approach the rocky overlook you’ll see for miles over the park – perfect for admiring colorful foliage in the autumn months, or a sunset in the summer.
The Ledges Trail is located in the Virginia Kendall Unit of CVNP just off of Kendall Park Rd, which is where you’ll start the trail. This hike is about 2.2 miles long with an 80 foot elevation gain. Expect to spend about an hour and a half hiking this moderately easy trail.
3. Pine Grove Trail
While you’re there near the Ledges, you may as well hike this beautiful trail, too. This CVNP hike is easy and pretty well traveled. It’s about 2 miles long, has an elevation gain of 90 feet, and should take about an hour to complete.
Start at the Pine Grove Trailhead and take the connector trail down to the Pine Grove Trail loop. Take the loop around and come back through the connector trail. This trail is perfect for lush greenery and the potential to see some wildlife like wild turkey!
3. Blue Hen Falls (2 options)
Park at the Boston Mills Visitor Center and hop on the Buckeye Trail to the lovely Blue Hen Falls, a scenic 15-foot-tall waterfall in the forest.
This is about a 3-mile hike round-trip and has an elevation gain of 580-feet, so be prepares to tackle some hills. Plan to spend around 1-2 hours on this hike and at the waterfall.
You could also make this more challenging by starting at the Jaite Trailhead and hiking longer on the Buckeye Trail. This would be about an 8-mile hike round trip, and takes about 3.5-4.5 hours to finish.
The trail is fairly challenging with 724 feet in elevation gain, so be prepares! More info on this longer hiking route in this post.
4. Deer Lick Cave Loop Trail
This little cave and waterfall are well worth it to hike to, and there are several smaller trails that lead to it. The cave isn’t so much a cave as it is a cave bluff, but the waterfall is perfect for taking photos without anyone else around, as this area isn’t as frequented as many other spots in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
I recommend taking the 4 mile loop to Deer Lick Cave by starting at the trail next to Valley Parkway and taking a right onto Deer Lick Cave Loop Trail. Then, this trail merges into the Bridle Trail Loop and finally merges onto Deer Lick Cave Loop Trail until you finish. You can either take the trail from Valley Parkway back, or take the Buckeye Trail until you hit the Valley Parkway and parking lot.
This moderate hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park only has about a 239 foot elevation gain and should only take about 2 hours to complete.
5. Valley Bridle Trail (with a stop at Everett Covered Bridge)
Cuyahoga Valley has something special along almost every trail. On this one, you can explore the beautiful Everett Covered Bridge right off of the Everett Covered Bridge parking lot before exploring the Valley Bridle Trail.
Explore the covered bridge, admire the creek, and take in the history of Cuyahoga Valley National Park with many signs explaining how this piece of land went from a national recreation area to a national park.
Then, I recommend going back to the parking lot and taking the Valley Bridle Trail past the cornfields. It passes by many scenic farms, goes deep into the woods, and you’ll even pass by Szalay’s market in the beginning of your hike. This market is fun to visit for fresh veggies and live music in the summer and fall, but, in autumn, this place is perfect for pumpkin picking!
The Valley Bridle Trail itself is a horse trail, so you could go horseback riding on this trail. However, you can also hike it if you’d like as well! This is pretty flat overall and a lesser-known CVNP trail, so you won’t see many people hiking during your time here.
Also, the Valley Bridle Trail is 19 miles long, so while you could certainly hike the whole thing if you wanted to, I typically just do a portion and turn around. On my last visit to the Valley Bridle Trail, I hiked about 4.5 miles in before turning back around toward the covered bridge.
Other hikes on the Valley Bridle Trail include the Everett Covered Bridge to Wetmore Trail that is about 2.75 miles, the Wetmore Trail to Boston Trailhead that is 9.25 miles, and the Boston Trailhead to Brecksville Reservation that is around 7 miles.
6. Bridal Veil Falls to Tinker’s Creek Gorge
Another great hike to be found along the Buckeye Trail, this short and easy hike is perfect for waterfall spotting and a gorgeous overlook!
This trail only has about an 83 foot elevation gain, is 2 miles long round-trip, and should only take about an hour. Start at the Bridal Veil Falls parking lot and take the Buckeye Trail going northwest into Bedford Reservation until you reach the overlook about a mile in.
Enjoy this scenic view of the trees overlooking the Cuyahoga Valley National Park before turning around back toward the waterfall.
7. Brandywine Gorge Trail to Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Note: The Brandywine Falls parking lot, upper section of the Brandywine Gorge Trail, and a section of the Summit Metroparks Bike & Hike Trail are closed until September 30 as the NPS upgrades the restrooms here. The only way to access the waterfall this summer will be to park at Boston Mill Visitor Center and hike the Stanford Trail (5 miles round trip).
The Brandywine Gorge Trail loop will take you to one of the most popular and scenic waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Brandywine Falls.
This short and relatively easy hike should take less than an hour, is about 1.4 miles long, and has an elevation gain of about 190 feet. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the cascading Brandywine Falls that flows year-round!
While the falls themselves are extremely popular, most people just take the stairs down to the falls from the parking lot rather than hike the loop. Just take the Stanford Road Trail from the Brandywine Falls parking lot. Then turn onto Brandywine Gorge Trail. Stay on that until it merges into the MetroParks Bike and Hike Trail going east until you make it to the falls.
8. Kendall Lake Loop and Salt Run Trail
These are two separate trails, but they’re right next to each other and easy hikes, so it’s worth combining them!
Both are loop trails, with the Salt Run Trail starting by the lake and going into the woods, and the Kendall Lake Loop encircling Kendall Lake.
The Salt Run Trail is about 3.25 miles long with a 160 feet elevation gain, and the Kendall Lake Loop Trail is about a mile long and is flat. Expect to spend a little less than 3 hours to hike both of them, with the Salt Run Trail taking about 2 hours to hike and the Lake Trail to take less than an hour.
These hikes aren’t terribly crowded either, so it is a perfect place to get away from crowds and enjoy a picturesque lake!
Start at the Kendall Lake parking lot and hop onto the Kendall Lake Loop Trail. Eventually you’ll see the Salt Run Trailhead. Take that and do the full loop before continuing on the Kendall Lake Loop Trail back to where you started.
9. Furnace Run MetroPark
Every time I hike in the Furnace Run Metro Park, I almost never see anyone. This off-the-beaten-path Summit Metro Park is inside of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and has easy hiking paths with a beautiful little lake and creek running through it.
There are two loop trails that make up this park, and I recommend hiking both of them. Each one is a little over a mile long, and together they make up about a 2.8 mile hike and have an elevation gain of 133 feet. To hike both it would only take about an hour and a half to complete.
Start at the Furnace Run Metro Park parking lot and continue to the trails. The Old Mill Trail splits off to the right and the Rock Creek Trail splits off to the left. Both are enjoyable and easy hikes to take with kids, go for a jog on, or just take a leisurely stroll.
10. Towpath Trail
This is the most well-known Cuyahoga Valley National Park hiking trail, and it’s easy to see why. With 2.5 million visitors on this trail per year, this easy walking path is ideal for runners, bikers, hikers, and families with small children.
The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail runs along the path of the old canal system that used to connect Ohio cities like Akron to Lake Erie. Now, the bike-and-hike trails have beautiful points of interest including canals, locks, waterfalls, wildlife ranging from blue herons to turtles, and more!
The Towpath Trail even extends beyond the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and goes all the way from downtown Cleveland (where there are some great running paths) to Tuscarawas County over a length of 87 miles.
As we’re talking specifically about Cuyahoga Valley National Park trails, this trail has many points of interest in the park itself.
Here are a few great spots to start a hike! As it is one big long trail, you can hike for as long or as little as you’d like:
- Lock 39: This is the start of the Towpath Trail that goes into Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This part has a lovely canal and lock.
- Lock 29: The Towpath Trail here is more wooded and passes by the river.
- Boston Store Visitor Center: If you’ve enjoyed hiking on the CVNP trails and want to explore the visitor center, pick up a Cuyahoga Valley National Park souvenir or national park passport stamp, or learn more about this national park, this is the place to go along the Towpath.
- Red Lock Trailhead: If you want to hop off of the Buckeye Trail onto more flat and easy hiking, this is a great spot with plenty of creeks and the rushing Cuyahoga River nearby.
11. Deer Run Trail
Deer Run Trail is located in O’Neil Woods Metro Park and is one of the best Cuyahoga Valley National Park trails for spotting the Virginia bluebells in the spring and amazing fall foliage in the autumn. Plus, you may spot a deer or two wandering along the area as well!
This small but mighty trail is only about 1.8 miles long, and has an elevation gain of 190 feet, which includes some steep inclines and several sets of wooden steps. The trail winds through the forest and down to the Yellow Creek.
The Deer Run Trail is listed as moderate, and usually isn’t terribly crowded. The trail should take about an hour to complete. (Pro tip: Follow the trail clockwise so you hit the stairs going down instead of up.)
Park at O’Neil Woods and take the Deer Run Trail as it loops around back to where you started.
12. Plateau Trail
If you’re up for a slightly challenging trail that is perfect for wildlife spotting and getting into the woods, then the Plateau Trail is perfect for you! This trail is a loop that runs about 4.5 miles long, taking less than 3 hours to complete with an elevation gain of 200 feet.
This is moderately crowded, but nothing close to the Towpath Trail or Brandywine Falls. There is one big challenging hill, but, other than that, you’ll enjoy the sights and smells of the surrounding nature on this trail with little difficulty.
Start at the Oak Hill Trailhead toward Plateau Trail. Follow the loop until it merges with Oak Hill Trail. Take a right heading west back to where you started.
13. Boston Run Trail
This loop trail is pretty popular amongst hikers and has ample opportunity for wildlife spotting, especially chipmunks, squirrels, and woodpeckers. There are also many beautiful trees, meadows with wildflowers, and creeks to explore on this 3.4 mile fairly easy trail.
Expect an elevation gain of 80 feet, and it should take about an hour and a half to complete. Start at Happy Days Lodge and take the Boston Run Trail Loop the whole way.
14. Tree Farm Trail
This trail goes along an old tree farm and offers up gorgeous views of the trees as well as Horseshoe Pond. The trail is only 2.75 miles, should take about an hour and a half to complete, and has an elevation gain of 80 feet.
This easy Cuyahoga Valley National Park trail does get some foot traffic, but is a wonderful and relaxing hike on a nice day.
Start at the Horseshoe Pond parking lot and take the loop trail around.
15. Deep Lock Quarry
Deep Lock Quarry certainly qualifies as one of the best Cuyahoga Valley National Park trails for its scenic sandstone quarries, a rushing river, and a canal lock. It’s also great for bird watching!
The Quarry Trail is pretty popular and is 1.4 miles long, takes less than an hour to complete, has about 108 foot elevation gain, and is pretty moderate in difficulty.
Start at the Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park parking lot before starting the Quarry Trail. It is a loop trail so you’ll follow it the whole time.
Best time to hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
As far as finding the best time to hike the CVNP trails, any time of year is great if you’re willing to brace whatever weather is happening! However, here is a good idea of temperatures and crowds each time of year that’ll help you in planning your next Cuyahoga Valley trails hike:
Winter: Winters in northeast Ohio can be chilly at best and brutally cold at worst. It’s a toss up depending on the year. However, December-February have average daily temperatures of 34-39ºF during the day and 20-26ºF at night. It isn’t uncommon to get precipitation of between 2-3 inches per month that is mostly snow.
This time of year certainly is the least crowded, and is also a truly beautiful time to visit as you’ll see lovely frozen waterfalls and untouched snowy landscapes, and you won’t have to wind your way around crowds to do it! Just be sure to potentially pack some Yaktrax if the trails are a bit slippery with ice.
Spring: Spring starts to warm up quite a bit with temperatures averaging around 48-72ºF during the day and 30-51ºF at night. Pack a poncho or umbrella in case of rain, as it can get quite rainy around April and May.
If you don’t mind some rain and some chillier days, this is a great sweet-spot before CVNP gets more crowded during the summer months. Also, you’ll be able to catch the lovely spring flowers! Charming Virginia bluebells, vibrant march marigolds, and lively purple cress are dotted along the forest floor, making it a photographer’s delight in the spring!
Summer: Summer is definitely the busiest time at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Families are traveling during the summer and the weather is nice and warm outside. Average daily temperatures are between 80-84ºF during the day and 60-64ºF at night.
While it can be quite crowded on some trails, many others are far less crowded, especially as you get off of the Towpath and main sights in the park.
It can get pretty hot and humid during the day in the summer, so have plenty of water on you!
Fall: Fall may be my favorite time to explore Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This place gets the best fall foliage, especially if you go to the Ledges Overlook! Temperatures are around 50-74ªF during the day and 36-56ºF at night, so you’ll want to bring a jacket for your hike.
Crowds are also not as large as the summer, but you’ll definitely find quite a few locals participating in the Fall Hiking Spree from September 1-November 30 each year. There are 13 trails on the Spree, and each hiker needs to complete 8 of them to get a walking stick (or a badge each year after that!).
If you want to spend a long weekend hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you can participate in the Fall Hiking Spree too!
Which of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park trails is your favorite?
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Kat is a Cleveland transplant and has lived here for over 5 years. She loves to eat, drink, and explore all across the city, and has made it her personal mission to find the best breweries and pizza in Northeast Ohio. She also runs a couples travel blog and podcast called World Wide Honeymoon.