Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the only national park in Ohio, but this national park offers something a littl unusual – there’s a historic railway that runs through it, offering visitors a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Visitors can take in the area’s gorgeous scenic views, feel a connectedness to nature and see the topography many Native American Indians and settlers once roamed.
In 1880 the first steam railroad took a trip down the Valley Railway and in those days it delivered coal from Canton to Cleveland, as well as other goods such as farm produce. The historic rails are now owned by the National Park Service and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad bills itself as one of the oldest, longest and most scenic tourist excursion railways in America. The Cuyahoga National Park itself is 33,000 acres of land and you can take the train ride through historic sites and feel like you’re riding back to a simpler time, as you see fox, deer, beavers and owls. This can be a great way to take in Ohio’s fall foliage with the family at just $15 a ticket for the whole day.
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad also offers Bike Aboard! It’s a program for those who want to “Ride the Rail, Bike the Trail.” Cyclists can bike through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail in one direction and take the train back in another. The Towpath Trail is one of Ohio’s longest bikeways at about 80 miles. For just $3, bicyclists can flag the train down at boarding stations from June through the end of October. For more info: www.cvsr.com
Bike rentals and tours on the Towpath Trail
You can support the local economy by renting a bike from local bike shops such as Blimp City Bike and Hike, which offers complimentary helmets with a rental bike which costs $8/hour. This bike shop also offers tandem bikes for $12/hour. For more info: www.blimpcitybikeandhike.com
Century Cycles offers bike rentals for $8/hour at its Peninsula store, located on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. The store also has a detailed area on its website with advice, parking and directions for cyclists on the trail. Century Cycles also offers Night Rides on the Towpath, which includes the upcoming rides on Oct 1 and Oct. 15. For more info: centurycycles.com
The Great Lakes Touring Company not only rents bikes for the Towpath Trail, they can deliver rental bikes to customers as well as offer guided tours of the trail. They rent bikes for $20 (up to 4 hours) and $30 (up to 8 hours) to any location on the Towpath. Guided tours on the Towpath are $25 and can take between one to two hours, depending on your pace. It will include lunch from a local caterer (which this shop likes to support) and owner Anne Smith loves being a tour guide for this beautiful trail.
Smith says this bike ride through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is one of the most popular tours at her bike shop. She opened her shop last year because she wanted to offer more tourism options in Cleveland. “This is our first year that we’re doing this and there’s nothing like this,” she says ebulliently. “The Towpath starts up in an urban area in Cleveland and heads down south through Akron. We didn’t realize Towpath was going to be this exciting for people to do.”
She likens biking on this trail to a vacation or a nice getaway for those living 20 minutes away in Cleveland, and it’s also fun to take advantage of Bike Aboard! “It is getting out of the city, getting to experience something that a lot of people don’t know is there,” Smith says. “The train conductor comes down and sees you. You can see more of the Towpath in a day on bike and train, doing them together. It’s only $3 to throw your bike on the train and you see this amazing park system that we have.” Her bike shop’s season ends in December and starts again in April. For more info: www.bikecle.com