Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trail runs along creek to 65-foot waterfalls

Brandywine Falls
Trail map. Courtesy Cuyahoga Valley NPS.

Cuyahoga falls
400 million years
in the making

A 65-foot waterfall awaits visitors on the Brandywine Gorge Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Brandywine Falls ranks among the most popular of the park’s several waterfalls. The Brandywine Gorge Trail, with a combination of segments from the Stanford Road Metro Parks Bike and Hike Trail, loops 1.5 miles to the falls then back to the trailhead with several crossings of Brandywine Creek.

Autumn special
The area surrounding the falls is gorgeous in October beneath autumn leaves, but the trail can be hiked any season. It's shaded almost the entire way by red maples with eastern hemlocks and upon the ground green moss once closer to the falls.

To reach the trailhead, from Boston Heights, Ohio, head northwest on Brandywine Road. After driving under Interstate 271, turn west onto Stanford Road, which leads to the parking lot.

From the lot’s northwest corner, take the trail heading to the falls. Rather than go directly to the falls, turn left/west onto the Stanford Road walking path.

The trail parallels Brandywine Creek. Along the way, it steeply descends 160 feet via steps to the gorge floor.

Reaching the falls
The Brandywine Gorge Trail soon separates from the Stanford Road by going right/north. You’ll cross the creek over a high footbridge then follow it toward the falls.

Upon reaching the Metro Parks Bike and Hike Trail, go right/east onto it. As approaching Brandywine Road, the woods gives way to a grassy area. The trail then veers south, passing below the falls and crossing the creek.

Take an immediate right onto a trail that again crosses the creek and offers a close-up view of the falls. A spur boardwalk allows you to look at the falls from a vista point or with a walk down a stairs from its base. After taking in the views, the main trail can be continued back to the parking lot.

Notice that the top layer of exposed stone at the falls is dark; this is a hard cap rock that resists erosion. Below it, however, is softer sandstone and shale, set down some 350-400 million years ago when this part of the world lay under a sea. Because shale is thinly chunked, the water cascades down it, giving it the look of a bridal veil.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.