One of the closest National Park from Chicago. Scenic train ride is a rare experience and highly recommended for all ages. Lot of scenic places close by (waterfall, rock formations etc. ) which need moderate hiking. Near Cleveland so plenty of dwelling options.
How to Plan your visit?
- For accommodation, I would recommend an independent house with Airbnb or Homeaway if you are planning with few families, a lot more fun for the kids when they stay together. We stayed here.
- Reserve scenic train ride here.
- Carry bikes if you can, Towpath Trail is one of the iconic bike trails at offer, an 87 mile trail around Ohio and Erie Canalway. The trail is an easy one, even my 6 year old could bike around 5 miles.
- Plan your itinerary around following:
- Scenic train ride.
- Brandywine falls.
- The Ledges.
- Beaver Marsh
- Biking – we would recommend doing it from Beaver Marsh to Boston Mills Visitor Center.
- Other areas of interest in the Cuyahoga National Park. NPS inventory is here.
Our Trip Details from Naperville
June 14-16, 2019
Naperville to Cuyahoga National Park.
380 miles, Google ETA: 5.75 hours. Actual ETA: 6.5 hours with few breaks and inclement weather during the overnight journey.
2990 E Overlook Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
$694 for 3 days.
What we loved
The Ledges. Why? See below for what’s on offer:
Scenic Train Ride
Started from Naperville around afternoon and reached Cleveland Heights in the evening with one break.
Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad, Brandywine falls, Beaver Marsh.
The Ledges. Return trip: Left at 3:30 PM EST and reached around 9:45 PM CST with one break.
- Please have printouts for train tickets, for some special events e-tickets on the phone will not suffice.
- Rather than doing the train journey back and forth in one shot, plan to carry bikes and take a break in between the train journey, it gets monotonous otherwise.
The Road trip
Left at 1 pm from Naperville and had to face a huge rush at I294/I80, almost an hour of traffic tail. Highly recommended to leave early morning or at night. Had a pit stop below after about 3.5 hours of driving:
Greenfield Township, IN
Reached Cleveland Heights at around 10 PM EST. Got the necessities from nearby Walmart and dinner from:
Richie Chan’s Chinese Restaurant
13181 Cedar Rd, Cleveland, OH 44118
The food was nothing great but all we needed was a quick pick up to knock off the dinner ‘task’, so no complaints.
The house was peculiar to say the least. It was a recently renovated 99 year old house with some highly creepy spots like the basement. It also had a well mannered cat with deadly looks as the permanent housemate. The kids and some of the adults freaked out initially with the cat’s stone cold eyes but slowly warmed up to ‘Kitten’ and by the time we were leaving, we kind of started to miss her when she wasn’t around.
Kids found extremely difficult to go to bed because of the excitement of the sleepover and the activities ahead but had to be calmed down and put to sleep considering early AM start tomorrow.
We planned to do train ride on Sunday but tickets were accidentally booked for Saturday which meant early morning start after a really long travel day.
Cuyahoga Scenic Train Ride
Morning was a mad rush as we all scrambled to leave on time to catch the 9 AM train and after some last minute ticket printout related snafus, made it to the train.
We boarded the train from the Rockside station at 9 AM and came back around 12:30 PM from the Akron side.
The ride had such a calming influence to our sleep deprived bodies that bunch of us took a power nap once the initial euphoria of the ride faded. The views were very picturesque and true to the rave reviews of the ride.
Doing the train to-and-fro in one shot was little overwhelming and at the end, kids resorted to ‘Are we there yet’ punchline on a loop.
Finally, when we got our freedom from train, we headed over to nearby Burger King for lunch before our hiking and biking activities.
There was a nice boardwalk to the falls and the views were great. The only negative is that you can’t really go close to the falls. After putting our phone cameras and the selfie stick (which worked great sometimes) to extensive use, we were able to hike back in an hour.
Bike ride to the Beaver Marsh from Brandywine
This was supposed to be most adventurous activity for us as it had a moderate level biking for about 8 miles. The first couple of miles we had to go on a connecting hiking to reach Boston Visitor Center and then about 6 miles on the very famous Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath trail.
The connecting track to Towpath trail proved arduous to us with extremely steep declines and young kids with us unable to control bike speeds. After couple of failed attempts, we decided to go ahead no matter what and kids reluctantly agreed. Towards the end, the road was flooded and people were turning back. We couldn’t possibly go back and we had just done many horrendously steep declines and the thought of climbing them was unnerving. After failed attempt by yours truly to cross the flooded road with a flourish, Rajeev came through and crossed the hurdle like a superhero and gave all kids the courage to repeat his daredevilry.
After reaching Boston Visitor Center, the bike track is mostly easy. We had a ton of rain on the way though so after a while the kids lost the enthu and just wanted to be done with it.
We went back to the cottage and didn’t cover much of Beaver Marsh as most of us were drenched by then. We had dinner at Pho Rice: couple of chicken and rice entrées.
After watching India vs Pakistan cricket world cup clash, we headed over to the last leg of the trip:
This place is a treasure trove for nature enthusiasts, whether it is about the enormous variety of rock formations or the fauna. Several places were really dark and foggy in the afternoon which gave it a horror movie setup kind of feeling.
The hike is moderate and kids loved climbing the rocks – small and big alike.
Had a break at below Travel Plaza and then zoomed back to home sweet home.
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