I love the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). I’ve come to know it as a place for exercise and rest. It’s a setting for fun with friends and family as well as spiritual solitude. It feels both very close and very far away from my everyday life here in Kent. And yesterday, I reached an important milestone in my relationship with the CVNP.
The official National Park Service (NPS) website for the CVNP says, “Over 125 miles of hiking trails are available for your hiking pleasure in CVNP” — and I can now say that I’ve hiked them all. At least all of the ones marked on the official map of the National Park Service.
I think the idea for coloring in all the trails on the CVNP map came from my friend, Chad. He once talked about trying to do it all in one summer, though I’m not sure how that worked out for him. In my case, anyway, it’s taken way longer than a summer to finish. I’ve been coloring in all the trails on my map with a red Sharpie. I’ve been at it for a couple of years, with a pretty persistent push over the last six months. So I was pretty excited when I got to walk the northwestern-most segment of the Towpath Trail yesterday afternoon — and when I got to color in my map today.
To quote again from the NPS website, “These trails range from nearly level to challenging, and pass through various habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and old fields. Some trails require you to cross streams with stepping stones or log bridges, while others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and are accessible to all visitors. A portion of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail also passes through the park.”
I definitely have some favorites, among all the different trail segments and landmarks I’ve experienced. In fact, I spent some time today thinking through something of a preliminary ranking of my “Top Twenty,” which I will list here below (both for my own reference, and for anyone else who might like a glimpse into some of my recommendations):
- Back Door entrance to the Great Falls of Tinker’s Creek off the Buckeye Trail in the Bedford Reservation
- Deer Lick Cave Trail in the Brecksville Reservation
- The segment of the Valley View Bridle Trail, starting from the barn and trails immediately to the north of the elbow on the closed-off section of Stanford Road
- The segment of the Valley View Bridle Trail, between its crossing with Riverview Road and the Vaughn Road trailhead (the western half of the linked map)
- Blue Hen Falls and the segment of the Buckeye Trail immediately to the north (the western half of the linked map)
- The segment of the Buckeye Trail between Snowville Road and Parkville Road, running roughly parallel to Riverview Road (the southeastern section of the linked map, plus a bit further to the south)
- Hike upstream through Brandywine Creek to Brandywine Falls
- Ledges Trail (probably one of the trails I’ve hiked the most!)
- Tree Farm Trail, especially a space I call the “Pine Cathedral”
- Wetmore Trail (I always seem to run into some great wildlife on this trail)
- Salamander Loop in Bedford Reservation
- The segment of the Buckeye Trail which runs alongside the falling waters of Tinker’s Creek in the Bedford Reservation
- Pine Lane disappearing brick road out of Peninsula up to Buckeye Trail
- Sylvan Pond Area around Plateau Trail and Oak Hill Trail
- Bridal Veil Falls in the Bedford Reservation
- Averill Pond, between Stanford House Trail and the Brandywine Falls Trails
- Old Carriage Trail (the eastern half of the linked map)
- Mars Quarry Trail in the Bedford Reservation
- Daffodil Trail, just off Brush Road (in a very out-of-the-way portion of the CVNP)
- Twin Sisters Falls, an unofficial trail off the Towpath Trail, just north of the Brecksville Train Station
As I list out these hikes and review my own memories of each experience, I’m filled with a desire to go back and try them all again to make sure that I’ve got my ranking right. But that may have to wait a little bit longer.
According to other sources available online (particularly through GaiaGPS.com), there are still at least twenty other trail segments that do not appear on the official National Park Service map, which I have not hiked, but which nonetheless exist within the boundaries of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It may still be awhile before I can get to all of them and officially claim that I’ve hiked every known trail within the park — but I don’t mind. I’m enjoying the journey.