History and Stats
The Cuyahoga Valley has a long history of providing recreation to inhabitants of the region, dating back to the 1870s. As the nearby cities of Cleveland and Akron grew in the early part of the 20th century, the park infrastructure began to take shape. Cleveland business owner Hayward Kendall donated 430 acres of his estate in 1929, expressly reserved for parkland. The Civilian Conservation Corps would substantially add to the park infrastructure and facilities in the 1930s, building many of the structures still in use today.
Throughout the 1960s, citizen conservationists agitated for the preservation of the area, fearing the encroachment of suburban sprawl. Protection would finally be granted when Gerald Ford designated the area a National Recreation Area in 1974.
A large portion of the park, formerly known as the Krejci Dump, was designated a Superfund site in 1986, shortly after being acquired by the NPS, who were previously unaware of the full history of the site. Several companies were found at fault by the EPA, and as a result, those parties largely funded the recovery efforts. By 2015, remediation was largely complete, and the process of re-vegetation had been well underway for some time. The area is now mostly natural wetlands.
Date Founded: First designated as Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area on December 27, 1974, later designated as a National Park on October 11, 2000
Size: 51sq miles
Rainfall: 36in, 43in of snow
Visitors: 2.2 million a year
Open: 24 hours, year-round, though some specific areas close at dusk.
Fees: Access to the park is entirely free, but guests are encouraged to donate to the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“To preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
The park has over 125 miles of trails, 20 of which comprise the Towpath Trail, a restored section of the historic Erie Canal. The area is popular year-round, offering activities such as hiking, historical tours, sledding and cross-country skiing. Access to the Cuyahoga River is also available, allowing for canoeing and kayaking. Some of the facilities are available to rent for special events, and the park plays a large role in the communities of Northeast Ohio.
The Boston Visitor Center offers a gateway and information center to the park, while the Canal Exploration Center, housed in a historical building, has interactive displays detailing the history of the Erie and Ohio Canal. The Hunt House, along the Towpath Trail, features nature exhibits. The Winter Sports Center has snowshoes and cross-country skis available for rent when there is at least 6″ of snow on the ground.
Hours for the facilities change seasonally, but full information can be found here.
The Happy Days Lodge and Howe Meadow are available for rent for community events, including picnics, concerts and farmers’ markets.
The Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park operates two retail outlets (Trail Mix Boston and Trail Mix Peninsula) in the park, both of which offer grab-and-go meals and Mitchell’s Ice Cream, a much-beloved local treat.
Additionally, many local municipalities have parks and facilities adjacent or close to CVNP, and there is no shortage of options for outdoor activities. Hale Farm and Village, a restored historical village is nearby, as are the Boston Mills and Brandywine ski resorts.
Cuyahoga Valley is quite literally an oasis tucked inside the massive suburban sprawl of Northeast Ohio. The park can be anywhere from 15 minutes to a half an hour away from civilization. Akron, Canton, Kent, and Cleveland and countless towns are all close by.
The park has five reservation-only campsites along the Towpath Trail that are available from May through October. The sites can be reserved here for $25 a site, not including a $3.50 reservation fee. RVs and other large vehicles are permitted in the parking lots, but all lots are for day-use only.
Additionally, given the location of the park, there is no shortage of nearby hotels, motels and AirBnB options.
Novice; while the sites are primitive, they do have access to water and a toilet. Our Novice Camping Gear Guide can be found here. If you’re just out for a day hike, like most going to CVNP, our Newbie Gear Guide will make sure you’re prepared for an awesome day.
CVNP offers a wide array of programming, with a great emphasis on children’s programs. There are programs focusing on the ecology of the region, the canal and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Guided Ranger tours are also offered.
J grew up in the area and has visited multiple parts of the park throughout his life. The park is fairly large, and as such, always offers new surprises year-round. On our most recent visit, we enjoyed an afternoon hike around Brandywine Falls.
Things we’d like to try next time
We would likely take a walk down a section of the Towpath Trail, and arrange a visit to a local brewery before or after our hike. There’s no shortage of things to do in and around the park, from waterfalls to taking in the fall colors to birding.
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park protects nearly 33,000 acres, however, approximately 2,400 acres of land remain under private ownership, accounting for approximately 5% of total acreage.
- Despite Ohio having a robust state and local parks system, Cuyahoga Valley is the only National Park within the bounds of the state.
- The Krajci Dump clean-up and remediation is the single most expensive recovery effort in National Park History, totaling $50 million. Though it took a great deal of time and effort, the recovery has been a great success.
- There are over 100 bodies of water within the park, a result of the region’s glacier-covered geologic past.
- The park administration is also responsible for the David Berger National Memorial (which is further North and well outside of the park itself), honoring the US-born Israeli weightlifter, who was one of 11 Israeli athletes killed in the Munich Massacre during the 1972 Olympic Games.
What time of year do you like to visit CVNP? What’s your favorite nearby activity? Best place for a drink and some food? Did we leave anything out?
Read more about our experience at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park here.