After we had visited three National Parks (Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, Voyageurs), I was able to sell the idea that our family should visit ALL 59 of them (58 at the time). Our pace thus far had only been one a year, over the week of Independence Day in July. It doesn’t take a lot of math to figure out that it will take a long time at that rate. We had to step it up to get them done before we all kicked it.
After we got back from paddling Voyageurs, we decided to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This trip was pretty close to home and the park isn’t that big. Our grand plan was to bring my nephew, 2 years old at the time, on his first trip. It would also be the first trip his mom was able to make. Having a little one can really curb your ability to take off on adventures.
Cuyahoga Valley is an excellent park for a family bike ride. The park’s history is centered around the Ohio and Erie Canal. Today, many people visit to use the Towpath trail that runs alongside the old canal, enjoyed by runners, bikers and walkers.
We all met at the Peninsula Depot Station, roughly the center of the park, on a Saturday at the end of September in 2012. Since we aren’t really a family of cyclists, we had to rent bikes. It would have been excellent to rent from Century Cycles in Peninsula. They wouldn’t allow us to rent overnight, however, so it really didn’t work with our plan. Instead, we had a Cleveland cycling tour company deliver us some bikes and a bike trailer! They were brought to us by Great Lakes Touring Company; they’ve renamed to Cleveland Bike Tours. It was really nice since their prices were similar, they allowed overnight rentals, and dropped off and picked up the bikes right in the parking lot we were at!
We quickly got our stuff together, and my nephew, Carter, was ready to go!
In addition to the bikes from Cleveland Bike Tours, we did bring a couple of our own. One had a child seat and the other was fitted with a touring bike trailer that we had borrowed from a friend. This gave us plenty of space for gear and the flexibility to put Carter in either the child trailer or bike seat.
The other great thing about Cuyahoga Valley is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. It runs the length of the park and offers a great program called “Bike Aboard!”. For a very small fee, they’ll pick you up and drop you at any of their stops. We rode it to the north side of the park at Rockside Station. From here, we actually started some peddling.
We stopped and visited many of the places set up along the Towpath. Everything seemed geared towards families and was great fun. We biked around 11 miles to reach Stanford House. This is the only place to actually camp in the park. They were fair sites. The size was enough for our 3 tents and the picnic table they provided. They were in the middle of a nice meadow.
We wanted to go see Brandywine falls, which was more than a mile hike from the campsite. Carter was a real trooper. He hiked there and back with us! We got to the falls and it surpassed my expectations. There was a nice boardwalk and stairs built to a viewing area.
By time we got back from the falls, we were all rightly starving. Our homemade backpacker’s pasta had been such a hit on our Voyageurs trip that we made it again. It did not disappoint!
Sleeping could have been a bit smoother. My nephew was a little overly tired. We made it through the night ok though.
On the next day we continued biking south. We stopped at the various attractions again. The park has it set up so that you can go down into one of the locks to get a sense of how big they really were. Of course, when they were work they were full of water!
We biked the rest of the way to Botzum station (~10 miles for the day) and waited for the train. It was a welcome sight, but marked the end of our journey. After getting back to the cars and having the bikes picked up, was packed up and drove home.
Another wonderful family adventure!