If you are looking for something fun to do when you are in the state of Ohio, head to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for an enjoyable outdoor adventure! Cuyahoga Valley is a beautiful park to explore. It consists of 33,000 acres in the Cuyahoga River Valley, located between the cities of Cleveland and Akron, and lies within the historic Ohio and Erie Canalway.

There are many things to do when visiting the park including exploring one of the picturesque hiking trails, paddling the Cuyahoga River, or taking a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The location of the park has historical significance because the Ohio and Erie Canals traveled right through the Cuyahoga Valley, connecting the Ohio River and Lake Erie. It operated from 1827 to 1913. Today in the park, you can visit the Canal Exploration Center and learn about this national heritage area. You can also explore the park by bicycle on the Towpath Trail where mules once walked pulling canal boats. 

The landscape of the park includes steep beautiful ravines and gorgeous scenery including a large waterfall called Brandywine Falls. The waterfall is incredible to see in all seasons, even when nearly frozen in the winter!

Don’t forget to visit the Boston Mill Visitor Center to learn more about this incredible park. There are exhibits to see, and on the second floor of the center, there is even a fun area for kids where you can create a nature poem on the wall with phrases and words made from wood.

As a Student Ambassador for the National Park Trust, I had the opportunity to learn even more about Cuyahoga Valley National Park by interviewing CVNP Ranger Ella Church. Below is a recap of our lovely conversation. 

Everleigh: “My first question is….what is your favorite thing to do in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park?” 

Ranger Ella: “I like to hike a lot. My favorite trail is the Ledges trail. It’s got some really neat rock formations.”

Everleigh: “That sounds really fun. I want to go on that trail! My second question is….can you tell me a little bit about the canals here?”

Ranger Ella: “The canals were built in the 1800s. Canals are like a road for a boat. It’s a big ditch, dug by hand. Water is pumped into that ditch and boats are able to go back and forth across the land on it.  The canals are also special because they used what are called locks, which are like boat elevators, so that’s how boats are able to go up and down on canals. It was very important to this area because people were able to ship cargo from point A to point B from big cities like Cleveland all the way down to the Ohio river.” 

Everleigh: “Are there any invasive species or problems you have in this park?”

Ranger Ella: “Yes, lots of invasive species. Most National Parks deal with invasive species. We’ve got a lot here. One of the big ones is purple loosestrife. It’s actually a very beautiful-looking invasive species with this big purple flower.  We also have emerald ash borers which are beetles that come from overseas and they burrow into mature ash trees and kill them. If you see lots of dead trees in the park, some of them are probably ash trees. We have a lot of invasive species. We have programs that happen pretty often in the summer where volunteers come in and we remove the invasive species. It’s an ongoing effort. It’s never going to be perfect but we try our best.”

Everleigh: “Maybe someday I can volunteer and help! My final question is….do you have any suggestions for three fun things kids can do when visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park? ” 

Ranger Ella: “The best suggestion I have is to be a Junior Ranger. Being a Junior Ranger means doing some activities having to do with the park’s history and learning more about the surrounding nature. It’s a great way for kids to learn all about the park, and you also get a cool Junior Ranger badge when you’re done! 

Another great thing to do is to visit the Boston Mill Visitor Center.  We have a lot of exhibits that will tell you more about the park, we’ve got maps, we’ve got scavenger hunts, and we have the junior ranger books as well. If you are looking for fun things to do in the park, the best place to start is the visitor center.  

I would say the third fun thing to do in the park is to visit one of the hiking trails. We have over 150 miles of hiking trails in the park. We aren’t a huge park but we have a lot of opportunities to have fun! Even if you don’t like hiking, we have trails that are under a mile long. It’s a great way to get out in the park and experience what there is to see. You can’t necessarily see all the cool things from the road or from the visitor center. It’s a good idea to get out there and do some walking. “

Everleigh: “Ok, Thanks! It was a pleasure to ask you some questions and meet you today.” 

Ranger Ella: “Yes, it was very nice to meet you too. You are a natural interviewer! “