Cuyahoga Valley National Park Hike: Buckeye Trail, Jaite and Red Lock Trailhead to Boston Trailhead

Trail Guide: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 4th Edition, by Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council

Book Excerpt

From Trail Guide: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 4th Edition, by Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council


The Buckeye Trail in this section continues as a narrow footpath. From the Cuyahoga River valley, the trail climbs to the west rim, then, following a north-south course, it crosses several tributary valleys. These side valleys and intervening woodlands are typical of the rugged, forested terrain of the Cuyahoga Valley. Blue Hen Falls, toward the southern end of this section, is a good destination for lunch, additional exploring, or photography. You can return along the same trail, retracing your steps, or use the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail to make a loop hike of about eight miles.

This area is rich in local history. The northern trailhead is named after Lock 34 on the Ohio & Erie Canal, found next to the parking lot. More than one hundred years ago, the area would have been crowded and noisy, as farmers brought their products to a loading basin near here to be transported to markets via the canal. Just south of the lock, in the early 1900s, paper maker Charles Jaite built a mill along Brandywine Creek. In addition to the mill, he constructed a company town nearby to house workers and the company store. Most of the original buildings in the community of Jaite have survived through the years and have been faithfully restored to their original appearances, including their banana yellow color. They now house the Cuyahoga Valley National Park headquarters.

The Buckeye Trail also passes near the Coonrad Ranger Station, which is housed in a restored brick home built in the 1800s by Jonas Coonrad, one of the early prominent citizens of Brecksville. In addition to farming, Coonrad had a cheese-making business.

To access this section of the Buckeye Trail, park at the Red Lock Trailhead on Highland Road, half a mile east of park headquarters. From Red Lock, an access trail connects to the Buckeye Trail, less than a mile away. The parking at the south end is at the Boston Mill Visitor Center, located on the south side of Boston Mills Road. There are restrooms at Red Lock Trailhead, the Boston Store, and the visitor center. There are no facilities at Blue Hen Falls.

Directions: I-77 to SR 21 (Brecksville Road); north three-quarters of a mile to Snowville Road. East on Snowville Road to Riverview Road, then north on Riverview Road one quarter mile to Vaughn Road. East on Vaughn Road, across the Cuyahoga River, and left into the Red Lock Trailhead. Or on the east side of the park, take I-271 to the SR 8 exit. South on SR 8 one quarter mile to Highland Road. West on Highland, jogging right and left to go under I‑271 about two and a half miles to Red Lock Trailhead.

Map of Buckeye Trail, Jaite to Boston, from the book "Trail Guide: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 4th Edition," by Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council

Trail Description: Beginning from Red Lock Trailhead, take the access trail to the Buckeye Trail by following Highland Road west across the river. Cross over to the south side of the road, watching for the trail sign and path going away from the road. This connector trail follows the river, then swings west through fields. This part of the trail has been changed several times by floods and the river’s changing course, so watch carefully for the trail signs. Follow the trail under a power line, across the Valley Railway, then across Riverview Road. Go about 200 yards up Snowville Road, then turn left, cross the road, and enter the woods. Watch for the trail sign marking this turn. You are once again on the Buckeye Trail.

Follow the blue blazes through the woods until you come to a set of steps built into the steep hillside. These steps were built in 1990 and 1991 by volunteers taking part in American Hiking Society’s Volunteer Vacations. Imagine what the climb was like before the steps! This climb takes you about 140 feet above the valley floor.

At the top of the hill, turn to the right and follow an old farm road along the ridge. Massive oak trees line the trail, with beech trees on the slope off to the right. When the leaves are off the trees, there is a good view toward the south. There you can see the handsome, brick Coonrad house and its bright red barn. This historic house is home to CVNP’s Coonrad Ranger Station.

Just beyond a radio tower and block building, the trail comes out into the open, jogs left, then right. Watch for the blue blazes here when returning as it is easy to miss this jog.

This open area, created by utility corridors, is a couple hundred feet above the valley and is an especially good place for sighting hawks and turkey vultures soaring on thermals. Songbirds prefer the edge along the meadow and forest. It is worth it to have binoculars with you at this point. You can observe songbirds close by or enjoy the spectacular, long views.

After crossing the utility right-of-way, continue on an old one-lane road through the oaks and maples. Watch for the cutoff to the left, following the blue blazes. Beech trees become more prominent as you cross a small ravine, then a larger ravine, crossing a creek on stepping stones. Steps notched into the slope lead the way up the other side. The trail then widens again through fields and soon reaches Columbia Road. Cross Columbia Road. The trail now parallels Columbia Road for a short distance, just below the level of the road. A hemlock ravine slopes off to the right. Farther along, some foundation stones and large oak trees surrounding a clearing are all that remain of an old homestead.

Soon the trail begins to descend toward the ravine formed by Columbia Run. Thick, green moss and graceful, evergreen hemlocks framing a small clearing above Columbia Run make this an especially attractive spot. Hemlocks can be found in scattered locations throughout the state, but they need a moist, cool environment such as found here in this ravine.

Cross Columbia Run, then watch carefully for blue blazes pointing the way up out of the ravine. At the top, follow the ridge until you reach another utility right-of-way. Just after this right-of-way the trail drops down toward Spring Creek.

A side trail leads to Blue Hen Falls. These falls, like others in the valley, drop over Berea Sandstone to the less resistant Bedford Shale below, creating a much-photographed scene. Leaving Blue Hen Falls, and back on the Buckeye Trail, cross Spring Creek on a bridge. Follow the paved path uphill and continue down the driveway until the trail turns left before the road. The trail continues alongside the road and then crosses the road. Walk the road shoulder past the Summit County Engineer Facility and watch for the BT sign pointing back into the woods. The trail skirts the edge of the engineer’s property, then goes down a hill and across a creek. After the creek, there is a set of 154 steps to take you back up to the ridge. The trail comes off this ridge by switchbacks, ending the descent near the intersection of Boston Mills and Riverview roads. The Boston Mill Visitor Center is across the road.

Cross Riverview Road and follow NPS signs that guide you past the railroad crossing and restrooms. Continue across the pedestrian bridge over the Cuyahoga River. You reach the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail behind the Boston Store. From here the Buckeye Trail turns onto the Towpath Trail, continuing south. Return on the same route, or make a long loop hike by returning north on the level Towpath Trail. Via the Towpath Trail, it is less than two miles back to Red Lock Trailhead.

[Photo: National Park Service/Bob Trinnes]

From the book Trail Guide: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 4th Edition, © Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council. All rights reserved.

This excerpt may not be used in any form for commercial purposes without the written permission of Gray & Company, Publishers.