Exploring Cuyahoga Valley National Park by Bike

I have missed bike riding since full time RV travel. I used to ride occasionally back in California and always enjoyed it. We debated bringing my bike with us but decided it would be too difficult to carry on the RV, so into storage it went. But I hoped to rent bikes from time to time as we traveled. So here we were, 20 months into our journey and still no biking as a good opportunity hadn’t come our way ……. until we came to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As we passed through the small town of Peninsula on our way to check in to our KOA campground, I noticed a bike shop advertising rentals. It sat next to the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, a great location to do some biking. I spent two afternoons riding different sections of the trail, once going north, the other day south.

Exploring Cuyahoga by bike turned out to be my favorite way to visit this National Park, especially since some of the time the trail followed closely along the river, the best way to see it.

Biking beside the Cuyahoga River

It also offered opportunities for some history as there were multiple stops with canal ruins and sign boards. One sign told stories of canal boat crews getting into fights over who had the right of way. There were also traffic jams and boats getting stuck. Another sign talked about businesses that once flourished along the canal such as sawmills and quarries where their products could be easily shipped to urban areas.

I was distracted from riding by all the signboards along the trail

Below is a photo of Lock Number 28, at 17 feet the deepest lock on the Ohio & Erie Canal. While the railroads became a more efficient transportation source beginning in the 1850’s, the canals in Ohio remained in operation until the late 1800’s. In 1913, a flood damaged the canal making it too expensive to repair.

The scenery was beautiful on the trail and much of the time I had it to myself. I was very happy to see all the wildflowers by the path.

The 81 mile trail follows as closely as possible the original route of the canal with plans to eventually extend to 110 miles. One of the neat aspects of the trail is that it connects at several points with stations of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. For those that want to bike part of the trail and then ride the train back, it is only $5.00 to put your bike onboard. I didn’t try this option as I was biking on weekdays and the train at that time was only running on the weekends.

The towpath trail is beautifully shaded much of the way

I visited the Stanford House, a farmhouse built in 1843 that was a short jaunt off the trail. The Cuyahoga Valley has quite a farming history and the National Park System (NPS) has incorporated some of these historic farms into the Park. The NPS owns nine farms and is assisted by a Conservancy in managing them. Farmers are carefully selected and are granted long term leases of the farmsteads and fields to grow crops and raise animals. This house though is actually used for lodging with the whole house available for rental. There are nine bedrooms with 30 beds, living areas and a commercial kitchen. It would be an amazing place to have a group retreat or family reunion!

1843 Stanford House

I am crazy about old barns – this one is part of the Stanford House property.

My first day of riding on the trail I rode as far as the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge before turning back. I took this photo from a trestle bridge that is now part of the towpath trail. It was here that I read about the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969. It was not the first fire on the River as there have been at least ten dating back to the beginning of the 20th century due to years of industrial waste. This last fire was a wake up call for environmentalism and this year Cuyahoga Valley National Park is celebrating 50 years since the last fire on the River.

In 2012 there was a failed plot to blow up this bridge with five men arrested and later convicted!

It was great to be back biking again and the perfect place in the beautiful valley of the Cuyahoga River! As I write this I am excited because we have located another bike shop and biking trail that I plan to ride in the next few days. More on that to come!

4 thoughts on “Exploring Cuyahoga Valley National Park by Bike”

  1. Yeah, Beth! Back on the bike in a lovely area. Were the water levels high? We hike/biked in Afton State Park yesterday. It is a large park adjacent thr St Croix River which separates WI from MN. Very high water levels. Beach gone. Dock out. Lots of people. Fathers Day. A few mosquitoes. It was good to be out of the cities. Camping sites easy to find? Looking forward to next post. Ilona

    1. Hi Ilona! It was fun reading about your hike and biking trip. Yes, there was a good amount of water in the area when we visited, but nothing near flooding. For the most part, camping sites are not too hard to find although it will be a little trickier now that summer is here and more people are traveling. I don’t try to book at state parks as I figure they will be full in the summer and usually they don’t have full hookups. We had a little trouble finding a spot for the 4th of July week but did eventually find one.

    1. Hi Matt – I thought about the train but after reading reviews and getting your impression of it, thought it would be best to pass. But, we sure do like train trips! The biking worked out really well and I could see a lot of the park that way.

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