Multiple times after telling people we were going to Ohio on vacation, people would incredulously ask, “Why Ohio?” It may not seem to be THE place to go for sight seeing and hiking, but Ohio does boast two National Parks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Hocking Hills National Park. After visiting Hocking Hills in 2020, my sister and I wanted to see Cuyahoga! So we planned a week away and invited a friend to come with us.
The first part of our trip we stayed in a lovely little Airbnb in Berea, a college town about 20 minutes away from Cleveland. It was perfect for the three of us. Berea itself had so much to offer, and we wished we could have explored it more! We knew from research that there were waterfalls in the town, so the first night we got there we had to go find them. We were staying just around the corner from them, so we walked over. After asking a local, we found the path that led right down to the river. You could go walking in the waterfalls as it is shallow and not strong. It was a bit slick with clay sediment and algae, but was fun to wade in. We went in the drier season so all the waterfalls we saw were running low. The falls would look very different in the wet seasons.
The next day was Sunday, and we spent the day going to church and then walking around the Cleveland Zoo. We love zoos, and this one had a variety of animals we haven’t seen before. It was also tons of fun because it was the Asian Lantern Festival happening (we had no idea) so there were cool lantern displays everywhere! There was a lot of walking around to different displays, but it made for good exercise.
Monday and Tuesday were spent exploring Cuyahoga. Monday we went and walked the Ledges Trail. We got there around 10am and because it was more the middle of the week, it was very quiet and peaceful. We didn’t encounter many people at all while out hiking. This trail was fun because it went down in the gorge and there were lots of rocks to climb, caves, and fissures to explore. If you were to purely do the trail it wouldn’t take long at all as it’s about a 1.5 mile loop, but everyone should take time to explore and walk some of the off-shoot trails. This trail was pretty easy to hike and there weren’t many extreme elevation changes. It was interesting being down in the gorge because you would hit pockets of cool air trapped in the rocks, so if it’s a cooler day and you’re hiking, be prepared.
In the afternoon, we headed toward Brandywine Falls, but the weather had been calling for rain all day and when we learned how long the hike was for Brandywine, we decided to go somewhere else, so we didn’t get stuck 2 miles out in the rain. Bridal Veil Falls was suggested to us to go visit by one of the park rangers. It was about a 20 minute drive away from the Cuyahoga Visitor Center, and proved to be another fun falls to visit. Wear your sandals or bring a towel, because these are another set of falls you can wade in easily and splash around. It is also a short hike from the parking lot. There are also single-track trails in the area and lots of other trails to explore. This is a Cleveland Metropark, in the Bedford Reservation.
Tuesday we came back to see Brandywine Falls. There are two ways to access these falls, but the parking lot just above them is closed until the end of September for construction, so instead you start at Boston Mill Visitor Center and hike 2 miles in. This hike was definitely more strenuous! There is a lot of climbing on the way out to the falls, and we were glad we started mid-morning to beat some of the heat. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the falls. These are THE landmark of Cuyahoga, so this place and the trail can get very busy. We met up with a lot more people on our way back, but going mid-week and earlier helped avoid the majority of people. The falls are gorgeous, and it was wonderful to sit on the overlook and eat lunch while watching them. The hike back was way easier as you are going downhill most of the way.
After our hike, we decided to go relax at the public pool in Berea, and I met up with a local friend at Coe Lake. If you stay in Berea, I highly recommend checking out this park and the nice downtown area nearby. I wish we had had more time to explore more, but we’ll have to save it for a future visit! The park is peaceful and has easy walking trails. The lake is great for kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. There’s some restaurants, shopping, and even a bike store where you can rent e-bikes to explore the area.
Wednesday through Saturday we spent with friends in Cedarville exploring that area. If you have kids or friends going to Cedarville University, it’s worth it to take a couple of days to check out the area. Be sure to check out Clifton Gorge, Orion Coffee and Tea, and if you’re into planes….you have to drive over to the National Air Force Museum (which was one of my favorite things we did.) After a week away it was great to come home.
Both Cuyahoga and Hocking Hills are great stops for a weekend of hiking and exploring, but if I had to recommend one, it would be Hocking Hills. We left Cuyahoga feeling pretty satisfied with what we had seen between the Ledges Trail and Brandywine Falls, but Hocking Hills is a place I want to see more. The grandeur of Hocking Hills is incredible, but if you want the nature hikes while being close to a big city, check out Cuyahoga. Either way, you’ll have a great answer when people ask, “Why Ohio.” when you go explore this underestimated state.