Day 35, Sunday, August 19, 2018
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
My first day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park I did some exploring. I didn’t know much about Cuyahoga Valley before I went, so I was curious to see what it was all about. I entered through a side road towards the middle of the park, although I didn’t know that at the time! Later I learned that Cuyahoga Valley National Park is kind of a long, skinny park going through the valley, with some fingers of land going off to the sides at some points, and a main road traveling through it.
I stopped to check out the Happy Days Camp near The Ledges section of the park, which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression as a youth camp. These days the building is used as an events center, but it was quiet the day that I was there. Nearby there is also a community cemetery, which like many old cemeteries, has seen better days. It was still cool to see it and wander among the old graves; the trail to get to the area from the parking lot even took me under the street through a culvert!
Next I checked out the Boston Store Visitor’s Center and got my passport stamp and some postcards. I also got some information on hikes – the ranger explained that many of the waterfall hikes would be a bit disappointing in the height of summer, as many of the waterfalls dry up. I decided to hike to Brandywine Falls, a 65 foot waterfall; the tallest waterfall in the park. I left my car at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center, and headed down the Towpath Trail.
The Towpath Trail follows the old Ohio and Erie canal, which was built in the 1820s to provide an easier route to move goods to and from the Great Lakes. I walked along the Towpath Trail for about a mile (best guess), and looked at the canal walls and the remains of the locks that evened out the water levels along the canal. How cool! It was a sunny, hot day, and there were a lot of runners and bikers on the trail, but not many walkers like me. I turned off at the Stanford House, a historic home that was built in 1843 along the canal. James Stanford originally settled the property in 1806, after coming to the area as a part of a survey group. When he died in 1827, he willed his property to his oldest son George, who built the home and a number of outbuildings, including the barn which also still stands today.
After passing the home down a few generations of Stanfords and then their neighbors, the home was purchased by the National Park Service in 1978, who operated it as a hostel for several years before converting it to a community meeting space with overnight accommodations. It is such a pretty property, and the trail to get to Brandywine Falls passes through it. You pass through a meadow, and walk through a forest with bedrock outcroppings, and cross over a little stream a few times on the way to the falls. There were other people, but it wasn’t too busy except at the falls itself!
There are a number of good views of the falls from a boardwalk that is built into the bedrock, the falls are in between rock outcroppings. It isn’t very tall based on my west coast waterfall standard, but it is pretty!
From the Stanford House the trail to Brandywine Falls is about 3.6 miles if you do the entire loop, but with starting from the Boston Store I would estimate you add another 2 miles round-trip. That’s a pretty good hike! There are some stairs, but the total elevation gain is only about 190 feet, so although the park rates it as moderate to difficult, I rated it as easy. If you aren’t interested in hiking to the falls, you can park up above them and just take a short walk down the boardwalk to the viewpoint; that isn’t as fun, in my opinion!
After my hike, I headed back to the Boston Store, and got a sandwich and some iced tea to eat in the sunshine, before heading back to my campground for the night. What a nice day!