Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
For the past few years, Mike and I have really found a love in hiking together. I've always been in love with nature and exercise, so merging them together is a no-brainer! We've been on some pretty cool hikes the past few years all over the U.S, but we had yet to go to a National Park.... until this weekend.
It took two days, an overnight stay, and a lot of coffee. We drove from Columbus, Ohio Friday morning and got to Breksville, Ohio in a little under 2 hours. Like any and every trip, I had everything planned out so we were never lost and hit the BEST places possible.
side note, if I had a different job, I'd be the best travel agent. I absolutely love discovering the most popular places to go, things to eat, and make time for everything without being rushed or feel "planned".
Before our hike, we grabbed a late lunch at Courtyard Cafe. I knew it was a restaurant in a strip mall before we got there. But, I also knew they had an amazing patio and the menu looked looked right up our alley. So once we got there, we plopped down in a seat and chowed on salad (for me) and halibut (for him) with of course, a side of french fries.
Just like that, we are OFF!
Hike 1: Stanford House to Brandywine Falls (3.8 mile loop, moderate).
Our first hike of the day was to see the well-known Brandywine Falls. There are two ways to get here:
a) drive and park on the road and walk .25 miles to the lookout.
b) hike from Stanford House, to the outlook, and back completing a 3.8 mile loop.
Any takers on guessing which one we did? You betcha. We started at Stanford House and walked through a wooded/field terrain to get to Brandywine Falls. This hike was gorgeous. We were along water the entire time, and even got rained on a little :).
When it started raining. we had just reached Brandywine Falls. So, we had to be super careful as the overlook was nicely kept but all the steps were made from wood. The falls were much larger in person - pictures simply do not do this place justice. We got to spend some time there admiring the experience of the sticky fresh rain air and almost taste the waterfall water. It truly was magical. I kept dreaming about being at the bottom of the waterfall, where I'd sit, and converse with God.
Our trek back was rather hot and muggy as it stopped raining and we were pretty sweaty. We completed the 3.8 miles in 1 hour and 38 minutes (via Apple watch) and my calorie burn was around 310.
Hike 2: Ledges Trail Loop (2.5 mile loop, moderate)
We drove about 15 minutes to our next location, and started right away. Ledges trail was highly recommended and is rated as one of the best at the park! The entire trail was on/beside/under/over huge rocks and ledges. This created a really cool (temp) trail! I think this was Mike's favorite. All the rocks were covered in moss, and it honestly was mind blowing how big they were. We completed this trail in one hour and 9 minutes, and I burned about 210 calories (Apple Watch). I found this trail to be a bit easier. There were some hills, but the hardest part is walking up and down rocks. That is what made this trail moderate.
At days end, we clocked in a grand total of 6.3 miles! We headed to our hotel and checked in at the Hampton Inn Richfield. We realized that the park is so large, that it runs through many towns. Luckily all of our hikes were about 15 min from our hotel.
Later in the evening we went to Beau's on the River for dinner. We actually liked the restaurant on the outside MORE, so we changed locations and headed outside. They only had grilled food, which was perfect for us! I ordered a simple salad with salmon, and (maybe) had too many glasses of wine. We sat by the water and listened to old throwback 90's hits. It was the perfect way to end the night.
On Saturday, I woke up around 8 and went to the little hotel gym to run. I didn't want to run too fast or far considering we had a long hike today, but I am currently racing a virtual challenge, so a few miles were needed. An easy 4 will do! We decided to just have bars/protein before our hike and get after it. I tried PEScience select caramel macchiatto protein powder mixed with water. It had a little caffeine, but it was perfect way to start the hike.
Hike 3: Buckeye Trail via Boston to Red Lock Loop (8.4 mile loop, moderate/hard)
The day started off pretty hot. We drove to Boston starting point and got the chance to talk to a park ranger about the trail and where to start. The beginning of the hike was incredibly challenging. Everything was uphill with rivers, steep hills, and rocks everywhere. It was completely covered with luscious trees (and shade), so we were lucky with that!
This trail was honestly the 2nd hardest trail we've ever hiked. After the first few miles, we got lost and ended up repelling from the side of a cliff. Not exaggerating. It was then we decided to pull out our trusty AllTrails app and back track to the real path! On this trail, we saw Blue Hen Falls which we got to actually walk out to. We went through fields, muggy forests, across streams, under tree trunks.... it was insane.
Our last 1.5 miles was purely on a paved bike trail and we COULD NOT be happier! Mike was READY to be done, as I was just loving the heat and sun on my face.
Side note, Buckeye trail actually goes around the entire state of Ohio. We did a portion of it, then followed a new trail to rap back around to our car.
We finished at 8.4 miles, in about 3 hours and 26 minutes, burning about 662 active calories.
The last and final stop-- we were SO excited for. Fishers Pub and Cafe was just what we needed. Mike was starving. I needed a drink. It was perfect. We sat outside and the environment was tame (it was only 3 pm) but it looked like a fun, summer party place. I ordered a pinot grigio and a strawberry summer chicken salad. We split the hummus appetizer and we were on cloud 9!
If you love hiking and the outdoors, I cannot recommend this park enough. Our biggest tips:
1) Download AllTrails app, and use it. It will take you straight to where you start, and you can also follow yourself on a map to ensure you're on the right trail.
2) Pack your snacks. I packed peanut butter and RX bars and they ALWAYS come in handy.
3) Have an idea of where you are wanting to eat. I love this part of vacation planning! My first step is to type in the "vibe" into google and go from there. Look at menus, ratings, etc. Don't just go off of the first thing on yelp. Actually, I avoid yelp, they never help! (punny).
4) Pack throw away shoes. I keep all of my old running shoes for this reason. I'll get them dirty and not be afraid to soak them, because they will be in the trash that night!
If you have any questions about my experience, DM me on instagram, email me or comment. Happy trails!