I only had three days to explore Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I was going to make the most of it! After a month of road tripping across Ohio – I had visited Columbus, Toledo, and Cincinnati – I was ready to escape into nature. I was eager to put the notepad away, turn the travel writing side of my brain off, and just focus on photography.
The locals call it Urban National Park because it’s hard to know when you’re inside the national park or some suburb of Cleveland or Akron. Despite the urban jungle surrounding the park, I found the interior a pleasant display of nature through the valley.
Here are some of my favorite photos I captured during that first visit. I already have the return visit planned for 2021 – I wonder what I’ll capture the next time?
The Cuyahoga River is the primary artery through the national park. In fact, the river is the reason the park exists. In the 1950s and 1960s, the river was so polluted it would frequently catch on fire. After the 13th fire, the Congress passed several acts to protect waterways and the environment. This led to the establishment of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974 – and in 2000 it was redesignated a national park.
The 19.5-mile Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail is one of the most adventurous ways to explore the park. The trail follows the route of the historic canal. I didn’t have to wait long for a bicyclist to pass by – several more passed just a minute after this rider.
Everett Covered Bridge was one of my favorites places I visited in Cuyahoga Valley National Park – but I had to visit twice to capture a great photo. Photography is all about the light, and during my first visit I was shooting into the light. I came back earlier the next day and found gorgeous lighting.
The Beaver Marsh was the best place in the national park for viewing wildlife. However, I didn’t get there early enough for the best show. Wildlife often requires a pre-dawn alarm clock and I’m allergic to anything that early in the day.
Although I didn’t arrive until about 10 a.m., there was still plenty of wildlife to view at the Beaver Marsh. Ducks and geese on the water. Gorgeous song birds in the trees. And a woodpecker clunking away on the tree trunks!
I absolutely love chasing waterfalls. In fact, part of my one-month road trip was about waterfalls across Ohio. Brandywine Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state. The walk was easy enough, but require a long climb down a flight of stairs to a wooden observation deck.
The Ledges was my favorite place to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park. A trail wrapped around an area of exposed ledges and giant boulders. I hiked half the trail the first day in the park, but I didn’t take the tripod with me. Realizing I wanted to capture really great photos, I went back on the last day in the park.
The trail was only 1.8 miles long – you would think I could have hiked that easily, right? After stopping every hundred feet to place the camera on a tripod and capture a photo, I spent three hours just moving half that distance. I never finished the entire trail. Motivation for a return visit!