Post Summary: A Photography Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, best locations and best seasons to visit.
What’s the number one place to photograph on your bucket list?
Berty and I are constantly on the search for new places to take pictures! However, big dreams often come with big price tags to get there – something that doesn’t quite come quickly!
What if we told you that you didn’t have to travel far to take pictures of beautiful places?
Right in the heart of our dear United States, a protected river valley in Ohio provides some of the most gorgeous scenery we’ve ever seen! Just south of the city of Cleveland, Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has waterfalls, trails, overlooks, and historic structures to explore around every corner.
Berty and I spent the entire day exploring this amazing national park. In this post, we wanted to put together the best places for photos around the park.
We’ll show you how to capture amazing pictures right here in the US, without traveling across the world! We hope you enjoy our photography guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and discover a beautiful gem right here in our own backyard.
The Complete Photography Guide To Cuyahoga Valley National Park
This post is in partnership with Destination Cleveland! All thoughts, writing, and photos are completely owned by us.
We only had one day to visit, so we created a photography guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park for people who had a short trip like us! This is one of the most popular national parks in Ohio, and the most visited! (There are other smaller national monuments and historic sites in the state too.)
We learned from locals that this national park is a common stopover place for visitors ultimately going somewhere else. Because of the many freeways and highways surrounding the park, it’s accessible for many to make a quick trip in and out.
We wanted to shed light on the highlights, but also encourage people to travel deeper into the park for a unique experience as well!
Therefore, to please the photographers among us with only a day to spare, we’ve put together the best locations for photos, and tips on how to make the most of your trip to this beautiful national park in Ohio!
The Best Time To Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Each season has unique features to highlight in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Summertime (when we visited) shades the park with its greenery and blankets the meadows with its wildflowers.
Berty and I came in the mid-summer season when beautiful wildflowers were blooming and the trees were full of rich, green leaves. It was incredibly scenic, and our only regret was not packing a picnic!
We’ve heard it said that some of the most brilliant forest colors come out during the autumn season. Unlike our home in the Pacific Northwest, Ohio is full of deciduous trees that shed their leaves annually. This means that the park is covered in brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows from September to late November.
For the sake of our own experience, we’re talking about a photography guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the summer season.
Photography Guide To Cuyahoga Valley National Park: The Essentials
First of all, let’s talk about what kind of gear you’ll need to capture pictures of this amazing national park in Ohio. (Click here to see the full lineup of what photography gear we take while traveling!) As a reminder too, our job is to take pictures, so we have invested in our gear over many years.
No matter what camera you have, you have the ability to capture great memories and photos – even with just a smartphone! You don’t need expensive equipment to be a good photographer.
- Cameras: Berty and I are Canon lovers. We have used the 5D Mark III and Mark IV for years, and love
- Camera Lenses: We suggest bringing a wide-angle lens to capture the full landscape. We currently use a Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L II, which easily takes in the entire scene. We also have a versatile 24-70mm f4, and a 35mm f1.4 for the closer, more detailed photographs.
- Smartphone: We used our smartphones to record short videos for Instagram, capture quick moments, and research locations before creating our photography guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park!
Photography Guide To Cuyahoga Valley National Park: The Highlights
One of the most popular attractions in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Brandywine Falls. This 65-foot waterfall can be viewed from the established boardwalks that surround the falls.
Walk along the paths and down a series of stairs to get a unique perspective of this historic waterfall. It was once used to be a source of power when a woolen mill sat atop Brandywine Falls.
If you wish to explore deeper into the falls, take Brandywine Gorge Trail that takes you beyond the falls, and eventually down to the creek level for a new view of the waterfall.
The water flow is most powerful after a storm or in the early springtime. However, the “bridal veil” effect of the falls is most pronounced when there is less water flowing and it will fan out for a soft and ethereal look!
The falls and viewing boardwalks are open from dawn till dusk. To get the most out of your visit, we suggest coming on a weekday in the early morning and/or late evening to avoid the peak crowd times.
Blue Hen Falls
This out-and-back trail leads you to one of the most beautiful spots in the park – Blue Hen Falls! This location is a perfect addition to any photography guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The 0.5-mile trail is actually a very old access road, with a slight decline until reaching a bridge and river crossing. After the crossing, keep right along the trail to reach it shortly after the bridge.
There are plenty of benches for viewing the fifteen-foot falls from above. There are also some visitor-created trails down to the falls for a closer look, but use caution with these paths as they are not recommended by the national park.
This trail is a perfect choice for people with limited time, who have small children or wish to capture the falls with a slow-shutter camera for a dreamy effect.
Boston Store Visitors Center
The Boston Store Visitors Center is located in the central area of the park and is a hub of information on all things Cuyahoga Valley. Here, you can chat with the park rangers about goings-on in the park, get maps for easy travel, and buy gifts and snacks.
The Boston Store used to be just that, and place to store tools, food, and supplies for building the nearby canals. The second floor was also a boarding room for the workers. Now, it’s been fully converted into the national park’s visitors center and you can see pictures from its history inside the building.
Spend some time wandering around the area to capture the beautiful wrap around porch of the Boston Store, the old gas station, and other historic buildings nearby. You can also spot Highway 271 running right through the park!
The Ledges Area
The Ledges Trail and Ledges Overlook are some of the most popular areas in the park. You can access the overlook just 200 yards from the parking lot, but if you have the time and energy, we suggest taking the entire 2.2-mile loop for an incredible experience.
Part of the loop trail takes you along the edges of these tall sandstone structures. You’ll feel dwarfed among these towering rocks!
We recommend coming to the Ledges Overlook and visiting the Ledges Loop Trail during the middle of the day. While high noon isn’t exactly a desirable time for photographs, we noticed that we could capture the sun rays in between the tree leaves.
This created an ethereal effect and were some of our most favorite photos of the day!
Once a junkyard for old cars and random parts (yes, a true story!) this area of Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a restoration success story.
During the building of the Ohio and Erie Canal, the wetlands were unfortunately drained and the wildlife left the area.
In 1984, the Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club organized a site-wide cleanup and removed trash, machine parts, and everything in between.
Shortly after the cleanup, beavers began to return to the area, build dams surrounding the marsh, and eventually flooded the area to its original environment.
This brought dormant seeds back to life and plants returned to become a habitat for several species of wildlife!
This is an incredible place to take photos of wildlife because of its numerous possibilities! You can discover the local herons, buzzing bees and frogs/toads going about their day.
We suggest bringing a zoom lens (we own this one) and sitting patiently to catch some animals in action!
Everett Road Covered Bridge
Once a working, functioning road to aid in the transportation of farming products, the Everett Road Covered Bridge is now a piece of preserved history.
Any good photography guide of Cuyahoga Valley National Park should have this amazing structure listed because it is an important piece of Ohio history! Everett Road Covered Bridge was one of 2,000 in Ohio and is currently the only remaining covered bridge in Summit County, Ohio.
The best time to visit is on an autumn morning or evening. Not many people are around during this time, and you can capture the red bridge surrounded by beautiful colored leaves for a classic fall photograph.
Is That All There Is To Photograph in Cuyahoga Valley National Park?
No way! There are so many hidden waterfalls, beautiful trails, and quaint farms to visit and explore in this Ohio national park!
Berty and only had a day to spend here, so we made the most of our time and tried to visit as many highlights as possible.
We encourage visitors to check out the highlights we listed here, but to also venture deeper into the park and discover other lesser-known trails and sights.
Did we miss anything on our photography guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park? Share some of your favorite spots with us in the comment section below!
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