Wildlife Watching in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

On the outskirts of Cleveland is the impressive Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

I’ve visited this park a couple of times and with more than 125 miles of traisl to explore, it has no shortage of adventure options for hikers and bikers. Actually, biking is my favourite way to explore the park.

Eagle Nest

An Eagle Nest in Cuyahoga valley National Park


As the park is somewhat long and skinny, it’s a bit of a challenge to get around different parts of the park on foot, so the smooth and easy Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath trail is the way to go. This trail is easy and accessible to all, but don’t let it’s popularity and accessibility make you think you won’t see any wildlife.

I saw deer along here in the early morning, before having my camera ready, but I managed to see plenty of other creatures as well. By biking along the Towpath Trail, it gets you around the vast majority of the park, allowing you to lock up and hike on for further / more remote trails. Because the Towpath Trail snakes it’s way along the old canal system, it passes right beside a number of creeks, rivers and wetlands. The Cuyahoga River itself is the main attraction, luring in many birds, such as a good number of Great Blue Herons.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron – perched above the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Valley National Park


Be sure to keep an eye on the water surface as you hike or bike along as well. Slow down and look carefully, as turtles seem to pop up everywhere here! It is easy to miss them if you don’t pay attention, but just check any logs that are partially submerged and you’ll start to spot a lot of them.

Fish and frogs – food for those herons – are found along the river system as well. A couple of the more elusive animals that are here (which I wasn’t lucky to spot) are beavers and coyotes.

Cuyahoga Valley

River scenery in the Cuyahoga Valley


Since the park runs down Ohio, it goes through a number of small towns such as Peninsula. This makes it easy to stop in for a bite to eat or relax in between your hiking and biking adventures. Another bonus, if you do take the biking route, is that the Scenic Railway that goes through the park allows you to bring your bike aboard, so you can bike and hike through the park one way, then take a easy train ride back to where you started. Super convenient.

Tinkers Creek Gorge, Brandywine Falls and the Hale Farm & Village are all worthwhile stops along the way as you explore the trails in the park.

Turtle in CVNP

Turtle in Cuyahoga Valley National Park


While you can see a lot in a full day of hiking and biking, the best suggestion is the book an overnight Stanford House, near Brandywine Falls. It is at about the 1/2 way mark of the park and offers both camping and rooms. There are many other nearby places to stay, but that would be tops in my books.

With that said, the park is so close to Akron and Cleveland that if you don’t book an overnight in the park, you can always make it an easy return trip for multiple days of exploring.

Typical trail in Cuyahoga Valley

Typical trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park


About Red Hunt

A former journalist and business analyst that now works in the world of travel marketing. Based in Toronto, Red Hunt has travelled to more than 40 countries over the past 10 years. You can follow Red on Twitter @redhunttravel.