When your state only has one national park, you’d better hope it’s a good one. Luckily for Cleveland hikers, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is well-worth the trip. The name is Mohawk for “crooked river,” and the park follows the winding river from Cleveland to Akron over a 51-square-mile area.The park itself is a hidden sanctuary for Cleveland’s natural history, encompassing a landscape and diversity that you wouldn’t expect so close to the city. Among other species, the endangered Indiana bat makes its home in the floodplains and forests of the Cuyahoga Valley. Other bats and birds also make their home within the park, which has been disturbed in recent times by a number of invasive plants. The National Park Service is currently working on combating these species, which can crowd out animals’ natural habitats and food.In addition to plants and animals, the Cuyahoga Valley has historically provided a resting place for Ohio settlers. During the 1870s, people traveled from the cities for carriage rides and boat trips in the canal, which led to the construction of the Valley Railroad in 1880. Prominent businessman Hayward Kendall donated 430 acres in the valley, which became the foundations of today’s nationally protected site.The major trail for hikers and bikers is the Towpath Trail, which follows the Ohio & Erie Canal. Visitors on the path can see crushed limestone remains from the construction, along with exhibits on the side of the trail pinpointing the area’s history. Hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is literally hiking backward in time, and further cements the park’s status as the best (and only) one in Ohio.
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