By Chris Boron
Fun Fact: Did you know that the ONLY National Park in Ohio is just a mere 30 minutes away from North Canton? It is also one of the most-visited national parks in the country, and if you are one of the 2.2 million visitors per year, it’s easy to see why so many come to check out this natural beauty.
It’s hard to believe that Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), a 33,000 acre nature haven, is within walking distance of the bustling and busy cities of Akron and Cleveland. In fact, if you’ve ever ridden the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad system (Polar Express, anyone?), gone skiing in Boston Mills or Brandywine, or been to a concert at Blossom Music Center, you’ve been to this National Park!
But have you ever really experienced the park? It’s one of my favorite exploration destinations to burn calories! It’s free, it’s beautiful, it’s accessible 365 days a year, and it’s big enough that I’m always finding new trails and sights to check out. With over 125 miles of hiking trails within the park (including 19 miles of the well-known Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail), I’m never at a loss of ideas on where to do my next hike. Here are a few of my favorite CVNP hiking trails to check out!
- JAITE TO BOSTON (using the Buckeye Trail): I am all for a challenge when it comes to hiking (a.k.a. “I need to burn off last night’s pizza and ice cream”), and I get what I’m looking for in this trail. These 5.6 miles will test your booty and calf muscles (and your grip strength, if you go on a particularly muddy day!) as you go through a 250 foot elevation change multiple times. If you like going up and down hills, you will love this trail! Once you get to Boston, you will need to hop the flat Towpath Trail for an additional 1.75-ish miles to get back to your car, making this an approximately 8 mile round trip (pizza and ice cream: be gone!).
- TREE FARM TRAIL: This relatively flat 2.75 mile loop might just be one of the quietest and most serene places in the park. Take a stroll on this beautiful trail (you’ll quickly notice why it is named the Tree Farm Trail) if you need a little head-clearing of that busy mind of yours. You’ll still activate those core and glute muscles, but your brain power will explode after this walk!
- LEDGES TRAIL: If scenery is your thing, this 2.2 mile loop offers a beautiful overlook that allows you to really appreciate the altitude of this portion of the park. You’ll still feel some burn with an 80 foot elevation change, but carefully climbing in and around the gigantic boulders along the trail will help burn some extra calories, too.
- BUTTERMILK FALLS: Okay, I hesitate to put this on the list, because technically, the trail doesn’t exist. But if you’re feeling adventurous and can spot an unmarked path, the destination views are so worth it. I’d guesstimate this as a 2.5 mile round trip that requires a bit of climbing, jumping, and fording a stream 3 separate times. Calories will be torched on this one; however, you’ll have to go on a hike with me to find it!
If you need to “get away” but can’t afford a weekend out of town, I highly suggest you get lost in our local national park, and enjoy the calories burned during your exploration! Not only will you benefit from the physical exercise, but being in nature is well-known for its mentality-healing properties, as well. Brandywine Falls, a must-see located in CVNP, is one of the more beautiful areas of the park that will easily allow your brain to clear of all the junk, if just for a moment.
So, for the sake of your health, start exploring!
For more information on Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s list of trails, visit https://www.nps.gov/cuva/planyourvisit/hiking.htm.