This past weekend, Brad and I took advantage of the kids’ weekend with their grandparents and snuck out for a quick couple of days in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Although we are frequent day hikers in the park, we have lived for 7 years in Northeast Ohio and have never spent the night there. We resolved to do more local camping this year – so in February we’d made our reservations and had been looking forward to this for months!
Camping: There are a number of campgrounds near CVNP, but the only walk in campsites are on the grounds of the Stanford House, which operates as a hotel/event location as well. Backcountry camping is forbidden in CVNP. Luckily for us, the walk in campsites are beautiful and offer great accessibility to the towpath and the park. We reserved our spot online and got our confirmation within a day or two. The Stanford House does not offer overnight parking to campers, but you can pull up in the parking lot behind the barn to unload your gear – a benefit if you are camping heavily, as we were. The five sites are close to the house yet quiet. Two sites are in a large grassy field, and three are tucked back in a few trees on the other side of the trail. All sites are level, large, and comfortably grassy. Each site has a picnic table, a hanging hook for backpacks or food bags, and the five sites share a fire ring close to the house. Abundant, free firewood is provided. A large tank of drinkable water and a port a potty make this the most luxurious backpacking experience I’ve had.
We were at site 5, a grassy site that we’d worried would be too hot and exposed. The clouds kept us cool, however, and our location was perfect to watch the orioles swoop around in the field. A deer meandered by in the afternoon, and in the morning I spent a lot of time watching monarch butterflies flutter here and there.
Your car should spend the night at the Boston Mills store parking lot, about half a mile away. Take the Towpath trail past historic locks back to the campsite. Try to resist the Mitchell’s ice cream at Trail Mix every time you pass.
Hiking: We did a couple of iconic CVNP hikes while we were in. We started Saturday morning with a hike to Brandywine Falls and did the loop around the falls past the Brandywine Inn, where a very handsome young goat greeted us. Then we hiked back to our car and drove over to the Ledges loop, a perennial favorite. We stopped for lunch at the Overlook and then finished the loop and headed back.
It was delightful to see the Towpath and trails getting so much use! We ran into two groups who had lost their way around the Brandywine Falls loop – if you are hiking in this area, don’t forget your map. It makes getting back to your car the shorter way much easier.