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 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.
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.
When 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
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.