The park's 160 total miles of trails lead hikers and horseback riders who bring their own mounts (there are no rental stables) to some dramatic natural formations. With its bridal-veil cascade, the 65-foot Brandywine Falls at the east-central side of the park endures as a signature attraction. Signs along a multilevel viewing platform explain how erosion accounts for the variety of colors in the rock beneath the flow, where yellow-brown sandstone mixes with reddish shale.
As its name suggests, the Inn at Brandywine Falls sits adjacent. Except for the spartan HI-Stanford Hostel, also known as the International Stanford House, the bed-and-breakfast inn offers the only lodging within the park, though plenty of chain hotels and motels along the surrounding highways lie just minutes away. The spare, but handsome, furnishings in the farmhouse inn reflect a spirit of elegant simplicity.
As the crow of a rooster heralds the morning, guests savor the inn's noted omelet of spinach and bacon with cheddar cheese.
A few miles southeast of the falls, the looped Ledges Trail near the Happy Days Visitor Center takes hikers past the natural formations of the sculpted sandstone Ritchie Ledges and Ice Box Cave where, as the name suggests, the temperature drops. Though guidebooks suggest allotting 90 minutes to hike the moderate-difficulty oval trail in either direction, you don't have to maintain a brisk pace to finish in half that time. It's worth planning for a few extra minutes, however, to sit down at one of the picnic tables near the scenic overlook for a prime view of the vibrant forest stretching to the limits of your vision.
Though such walks make the park a paradise for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, you also can appreciate the beauty from a comfortable seat inside the sleek silver cars of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
"We're a scenic railroad, so we don't want to go roaring through the park," conductor Al Green explains as the train sways along the tracks at 20 miles per hour. "Just look out the window and enjoy yourself."