Guide: Winter Waterfalls

I don’t know about you, but when I hear someone mention Cuyahoga Valley, waterfalls are one of the first things that pop into my head. CVNP has an endless number of waterfalls scattered throughout the park ranging from large, loud falls like Brandywine Falls to small trickles of water that only appear after a heavy rain. If you’re from the area, I’m sure you’ve visited a handful of the waterfalls on a warm summer afternoon- but have you thought about visiting in the winter?

Winter transforms the park into a pristine frozen wonderland and creates a certain peaceful atmosphere you just can’t experience in the summer. Although it’s been painfully cold the last couple of weeks, the sub zero temps created the perfect conditions for some gorgeous frozen waterfalls- I couldn’t stay away.

Winter Waterfalls in The Valley
Bridal Veil FallsSnow Covered Bridal Veil Falls

The first set of falls I visited were Bridal Veil Falls up in the northernmost section of the park. These falls have less of a dramatic drop and gently flow down a steep shale slide. In the summertime, the falls flow into a V resembling- you guessed it- a bride’s wedding veil.

In the winter, the veil shape is nearly gone and the falls are often covered in snow. Thankfully, when my friend and I hiked to Bridal Veil Falls, we could still make out the slight resemblance of the veil. The river was frozen solid, so he and I decided walked above and below the falls and discovered small waterfall-esque icicles hanging from the rocks in the riverbed.

Icicles hang from a rock at Bridal Veil Falls
Blue Hen Falls

This waterfall is super accessible and practically within spitting distance of the parking lot. Blue Hen Falls is located in Boston Mills- you can actually hike to the Boston Mills Ski Resort from the falls overlook! In the summer, Blue Hen Falls is a thin trickle of water that drops from a rock slab overhang above the river, but in the winter, it’s a pile of frozen water nearly twice the size of the summer flow.

Blue Hen Falls in the WinterWhen I went to see these falls, my friend and I hiked down to the pool and stood right next to the ice mound as the creek was rock solid. We were able to admire the falls from a totally different view that you can’t really experience in the summer- I loved looking at the cave that formed behind the waterfall from years of erosion.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed my winter waterfall hikes and would encourage everyone to make a point to visit CVNP before spring. It’s a completely different experience and well worth the chattering teeth! If you’re thinking of taking on the park this winter, here’s a couple tips I have from my chilly hikes.

What to Wear

Haley stands in front of a frozen Blue Hen Falls

If you’re going to hike in and around the waterfalls, I’d highly recommend wearing waterproof boots. While the river may seem frozen, there’s always a chance you could step through and into a little bit of ice water. Another piece that’s a must is warm, wool socks inside your shoes. Nothing is worse than cold toes, trust me, I’ve been there.

Aside from your shoes, I’d also suggest wearing layers you can easily add or take off. Even though it might feel chilly at the start of your hike, once you get moving, your body will warm up and if you have too much on, you’ll start to sweat. There’s nothing more dangerous than sweating in the winter. If you’re out for an extended period of time, you could develop signs of hypothermia, so be sure to wear layers and actively take them on and off as your body warms and cools.

What to Bring

When it’s cold outside, it’s hard to tell when you’re thirsty and dehydrated. I always have a water bottle waiting for me in the car after a hike, regardless of the weather that day. As an added bonus in the winter, I’ll also make myself a post hike thermos with hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate. There’s nothing better than warming up with a hot drink! Be sure to put it in an insulated thermos too- I like to use Klean Kanteen’s 12oz insulated mug, it keeps your drink hot for up to 8 hours.

Another must is a box of tissues! I don’t know about you, but my nose is like a faucet when I’m out in the cold, so I couldn’t imagine a drive home without some relief.

Guide: Szalay’s Farm & Market

Fall. The one season with a mile long list of things to do and only a couple weeks to do them all. Between fall festivals, Oktoberfest celebrations, Halloween parties and the BEST weather of the entire year, it’s no wonder I have a jam packed schedule. Weekends during this time are precious, and I’d argue the best place to go for a worthwhile fall experience is Szalay’s Farm & Market in Peninsula. I truly love Szalay’s and here’s why: it seriously has something for everyone.

A creek runs through the Perkins Bridle Trail in CNVP

For the Outdoors-Person:

What really sets Szalay’s apart from other seasonal businesses is its location. Szalay’s is situated in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, making it perfect for the outdoorsy people of the world. If you’re a biker, you can ride down the Towpath Trail and arrive for a pit stop. If you’re out on a hike, you can swing by Szalay’s on your drive home- it’s just around the corner from some quality trails. My family and I hiked on the Perkins Bridle Trail, which was a short five-minute drive from Szalay’s.

For the Family:

Szalay’s has been a family owned market for four generations and offers fun activities for any age. Families can pick out pumpkins, take photos next to a giant hay bale spider, walk into “The Spinning Barn,” play mini games like ball tosses and target practice and meander through a corn maze. Even as adults, my family and I loved playing at the farm. Watch us discover one of eight hidden pumpkins in the corn maze in the GoPro video below!

For the photographer:

Szalay’s is a beautiful place with fantastic photo opps everywhere. You can see it for yourself when you search Szalay’s location on Instagram! It was funny to check the feed when we got home because almost everyone I saw there posted a photo of themselves at Szalay’s… including myself! From magazine worthy pumpkins to perfectly assembled ice cream cones, Szalay’s is a photographer’s paradise.

A stack of Pumpkins at Szalay's Farm & Market

For the Foodie:

It’s in the name: Szalay’s Farm & Market is a market full of delicious, locally grown food for you to enjoy there or take home! The market also has cozy rocking tables where you can sit, swing and eat a tasty snack. Order a hot lunch from one of their four food stands! I highly recommend the deli dog and lemonade.

For the Local:

In addition to the hot food stands, Szalay’s also has an extravagant market filled with seasonal produce, flowers and homemade products. If you’re looking for a new place to pick up your groceries for the week, Szalay’s has everything you’ll needto make a meal and at a competitive price.

For the Visitor:

If you’re from out of town, Szalay’s is hands down the perfect place to go for a genuine taste of Ohio. It shows a glimpse of the beauty Ohio has to offer both in the landscape and the people who live here.

Haley & Janine stand next to a hay bale spider
What to Wear

Ready to make your trip to Szalay’s? Don’t forget to pack a pair of sunglasses and wear older shoes. The farm and market can easily become muddy from heavy foot traffic.

What to Bring

Do NOT forget to bring cash to Szalay’s! Most of the family activities cost a couple bucks and unfortunately they don’t take credit or debit. However, if you do forget your cash, no big deal. There’s an ATM in the market area for guests to use. I’d also highly suggest bringing a camera- this place is too unique to not snap a couple photos.

Guide: Gorge Metro Park

The abnormally warm weather we experienced in Ohio called for a spontaneous hike last weekend, so my roommates and I packed into my Jeep for an day hike at Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls.

The Gorge Metro Park has three trails: the Glens Trial, the Highbridge Trail and the Gorge Trail. We chose to hike the Gorge Trial, which takes you to Mary Campbell Cave, above the Cuyahoga River, through stunning ledges and past a small, drippy waterfall. It’s a 1.8 mile hike roundtrip, perfect for our afternoon adventure.

The Gorge Trail is the yellow blazes

It’s been a while since I went on a good hike, and I was reminded of a handful of hiking do’s and don’ts. Here are just a couple lessons learned at Gorge Metro Park.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Gorge Metro Park
DON’T wear Chacos

It’s February. It was 60+ degrees outside. The trail was exceptionally muddy. By the end of our hike, my feet were pretty gnarly. Enough said.

DO bring a nice camera

As I mentioned before, my roommates joined me on this hike and two of them were photography minors! All the photos in this post are from Ally and Emma. You should check out their Instagram accounts for more wonderful pictures: AD Productions and Emma Chu Photography. Needless to say,we have a lovely collection of pictures from our hike, including this one of me looking just like “the Snoop Dogg dog.”

Haley makes a funny face that looks like Snoop Dogg

 

DON’T forget to bring snacks

We left a little after lunch and hiked into the evening, so we were very hungry ladies! I almost always bring a granola bar or small snack but totally forgot to pack something for us that day. We were all a little hangry on our drive home.

DO have a good grip on your phone

This was probably the hardest lesson learned. The Gorge is full of beautiful rocks and ledges and although they’re made of soft sandstone, phones don’t stand a chance. I took out my iPhone 6 to snap a picture and proceeded to drop it on an exposed rock, shattering the screen. One week and $107 later I have a new screen, with a shatter resistant screen protector.

DON’T climb the rocks if you can’t easily get back down

If it’s hard to get up, it’ll be even harder getting back down. I climbed up into a cave which was super cool to see, but I definitely struggled with getting back down again. Thankfully I had my tall roommate as my spotter. Think before you climb!

Haley climbing into a cave Haley sitting in a cave

What to Wear

If you’re going on a spring hike like we did, I highly recommend wearing clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty. We climbed all over everything so I was covered in sandstone, mud and moss when we left. As always, proper footwear is the most important part of a good hike. Tennis shoes, hiking boots and Chacos are all good choices to me. You’ll want something with extra traction for this hike, especially if you plan on exploring the ledges!

Dara, Ally and Haley's shoes

What to Bring

SNACKS. Like I said, we forgot to bring a trail treat which was a sad mistake. I also suggest bringing a water bottle, camera and phone, with a phone case and screen protector of course. Maybe bring a couple baby wipes too if you plan to play. My hands were very brown when we left.

Guide: Brandywine Ski Resort

Winter has officially begun, which opens up a whole new world of outdoor play. Northeast Ohio has it all when it comes to winter activities including a surprising number of ski resorts. My favorite? Hands down: Brandywine Ski Resort in Peninsula.

Brandywine is located in the heart of CVNP, next to it’s companion hill, Boston Mills, just off Riverview Road. The park does a great job directing you to the slopes- I drive by at least three signs on my way in. Parking is free, but lift ticket and rental rates vary depending on your age, time of arrival and whether or not you bring your own gear. Brandywine also hosts special events throughout the season that could affect the price. If you’re a college student like myself, the best time to go is college ID night as lift tickets and rentals are only $35!

My favorite part about Brandywine, aside from their College Late Night deals, is that this resort is perfect for all types of skiers (and snowboarders!). On the trail map below, you’ll see Brandywine has three green trails, three blue trails and three black diamond trails. The resort also has two terrain parks and a snow tubing area, making it ideal for extreme thrill seekers, 8-year-olds and everyone in between.

A map of Brandywine's trails, reposted from bmbw.com
*Shared from bmbw.com
My Top Two Trails

I started skiing in 4th grade when I joined my elementary school’s ski club. However, I didn’t stick with it like some kids do and became more of a casual skier rather than a die-hard winter sports gal. I’m an intermediate skier- I nailed the french fries pizza pie rule but no flips or jumps for me- so naturally, my favorites are the blue trails.

Outer Limits

This trail sits toward the back of the hill and is the longest trail at Brandywine. The trail has some huge rollers on it, making Outer Limits a long, fun trip down the hill. It’s also a little more private and secluded than the other hills so the trail feels less “commercial” than the others at the resort. And of course, the longer ski lift is a nice break from skiing and offers a pretty view of CVNP.

 Downdraft

Downdraft is a step-up from Outer Limits and has some exciting features to it like a sharp left turn and trees lining both sides of the trail. It’s also steeper than Outer Limits and gets your adrenaline pumping on your way down. I usually hit this trail last after warming up on a couple green and blue trials. It leaves a great taste in my mouth, making me want to come back for more!

What to Wear

Haley and her two friends at BrandywineFirst, make sure you check the weather. Ohio winters bring both sub zero temps and 40+ degree days. That being said, I almost always dress in slightly less clothing than I normally would for a winter day. Remember that skiing and snowboarding is exercise, and there’s nothing worse, or more dangerous, than sweating in cold weather.

When I dress for a night on the slopes, I try my best not to wear any cotton. Cotton holds moisture like sweat and melted snow, which makes for a long, cold uncomfortable night of skiing. I start with a base layer of non-cotton leggings, Cuddl Duds long sleeve software shirt and wool socks. Then, depending on the weather, I’ll add another long sleeve and a pullover. For my outer layer, I slide on a pair of snow pants and either my down winter coat or light rain jacket. Last but not least are gloves and a knit ear warmer.

For shoes, I actually wear boat shoes. Brandywine’s equipment rental includes ski and snowboard boots, so I wear my boat shoes because they’re comfortable to drive in and easy to slip on and off. Regular snow boots work fine as well, but mine are way too bulky for me to wear for a short amount of time.

What to Bring

Money, chapstick, tissues and your college ID, if you go for College Late Night. For whatever reason, my nose always runs when I ski, so tissues are a must. Brandywine also has a lodge with snacks and drinks, so bring a little extra cash in case you get the munchies. I’d also suggest bringing a water bottle to drink for the drive home.

Arial view of Brandywine
*Shared from Boston Mills Brandywine Instagram account, @bmbv_av

Guide: Virginia Kendall Ledges

The ledges trail is a moderate, 2.2 mile hike that takes about an hour and a half to complete. I don’t think I’ve ever finished it in that short of a time because I love to explore and meander while on this hike. I’m typically here for 2 to 2 and a half hours. Check out the National Parks Service trail map to see what the loop looks like.

As with almost all parks, the address can be a little tricky. The trailhead is at the Virginia Kendall Ledges Shelter off Kendall Park Rd. The tricky part is that if you’re coming from the West, the street is called Kendall Park Rd but if you’re coming from the East, it’s Truxell Rd. Free parking is available at the shelter. You can use an interactive Google map at the end of this post for some extra help.

The Ledges: Best Kept Secrets
Haley stands in the ice box caveThe Ice Box Cave

The ledges trail is littered with nooks and crannies between the rocks, but this cave takes the cake. The Ice Box Cave gets its name for the frigid cold air that rushes out from the 50 ft. deep crack. The cave is around the halfway point of trail, offering a perfect spot for a break on a hot summer day. When I was in high school, my friend and I were able to crawl back in it, but now the park closed it off to protect the bat population that lives in there. Here’s a taste of high-school Haley, circa 2011. You’re welcome.

The Scenic Overlook

Along with a great hike, the ledges also offer a beautiful overlook for visitors to enjoy. It stretches for miles and on a clear day, you can see a water tower way off in the distance. But the greatness doesn’t stop there- the overlook faces west, so cuddle up on a cozy blanket or tie your hammock between two trees to watch a gorgeous sunset.

Rock Carvings

Here’s a fun fact: before the ledges were part of the national park, a farmer, William Ritchie, owned them. Sometime in the late 1800s and early 1900s, someone went back into the ledges and carved petroglyphs (rock carvings) in the sides of the sandstone. Rumor has it that the artist chiseled headstones for a living. No one knows for sure who did it- it could have been Ritchie, one of his relatives or someone else entirely. See if you can find the two silhouettes and horse the anonymous artist carved! Be sure to share your pictures with me on Instagram or Twitter with #CelebrateCVNP.

a petroglyph of two silhouettes

 What to Wear

The right shoes are essential for a great hike. I’m prone to twisted ankles and this trail is pretty rocky, so I wear hiking boots or Chacos, both of which are supportive and protective. Tennis shoes will do as well, but definitely avoid flimsy flip flops! As far as your clothes go, any sort of athletic wear is great; I wore athletic shorts and a cotton tee for my most recent hike. I say wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and allows a little flexibility.

What to Bring

A water bottle, camera and maybe a snack is all you need for this calm hike. A hammock would be fun too if you want to find a spot to relax between two trees.