Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Pittsburgh - Niagara Falls

This was a 4 day trip during the July 4th long weekend. Just over 3 hours from Ann Arbor, Cuyahoga Valley national park (CVNP) has a lot to offer for a biking enthusiast. The meandering cuyahoga river on one side, the remnants of the Ohio-Erie canal on the other, and greenery all around makes it perfect for a biking trip during a cool summer day.

We started off on Thursday July 3rd from Ann Arbor around 9 AM and reached the Peninsula Depot Visitor Center. After a quick lunch, we rented out bikes at the Century Cycles, visible from the visitor center. Bike rental costs about $9/hour, so we decided to bike for 3 hours. After packing our bags we headed north from Peninsula depot on the towpath trail.

Towpath Trail - CVNP

Remains of a Lock - used to raise or lower boats in the canal

Cuyahoga River
Lilies and black eyed susan flowers along the towpath trail
After biking for about 7 miles, we decided to head back. CVNP has a scenic railroad. For $3 we can ride the train along with our bikes. We boarded the train at Brecksville station, returned our bikes and decided to explore the rest of the national park by hiking.
CVNP scenic railroad
We drove to Ira trail head and hiked the towpath trail towards the beaver marsh and Indigo lake. Unfortunately we couldn't spot any beavers or otters but we did hear the bullfrogs call and spotted a few wood ducks.
Beaver Marsh - CVNP
V Relaxing at Indigo Lake - CVNP
After this, we drove to our hotel and called it a night.

Second day morning of this trip, after checking out of the hotel, we drove to Bedford reservation to see the Bridal veil falls. On our way, we stopped at an accessible overlook to get a view of Tinker's creek gorge.

Tinker's Creek Gorge as seen from scenic overlook
Bridal Veil Falls - Bedford reservation
We hiked around on the bedford reservation. The area surrounding the Bridal veil falls is full of lush greenery. Then we drove to see Brandywine falls. Unfortunately we couldn't get very close since there was a marriage happening in front of the falls! Nevertheless, we were able to see the falls quite well. We also hiked the Brandywine gorge trail and then drove to Kendall lake.
Brandywine Falls - CVNP
After a picnic lunch at Kendall lake, we drove to Ledges area and hiked the ledges trail. The ledges area is full of amazing landscapes. The Ice box cave however, was closed due to an epidemic threatening the bat population.

V unpacking lunch at Kendall lake picnic area
Ledges Trail - Virginia Kendall Park
With this we bid adieu to CVNP and left for Pittsburgh. We wanted to catch the 4th of July fireworks from the Point State Park. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find parking since the park is located in a very busy area of downtown! We had to settle for glimpses of fireworks as I searched around the block for parking :(.
4th of July fireworks in Pittsburgh
We checked into our hotel for the night and that was the end of second day.

Our third day started off with a visit to the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Pittsburgh. Built in traditional Hindu style, it is one of the oldest temples in the United States.
Sri Venkateswara Temple, Pittsburgh - view of the Vimanam and Raja gopuram
We spent nearly half a day at the temple and also finished our lunch there. Then we drove to the zoo and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring. The $2 hop-on and off trolley was very convenient to go around the zoo. There were lot of animals on display and we felt it was one of the best zoos we have been to in the US. The best part were their polar bear and shark tanks. They have a passage way beneath these swim tanks that allow people to see them swim over head. We unfortunately missed the polar bear swim (they apparently spend less than 10% of their day swimming!)

Residents of the Pittsburgh Zoo
After the zoo, we left for Niagara. It was a long 4.5 hours drive. Fireworks over falls happens only on Fridays and Sundays. This being a saturday, we were able to see just the illumination.
Niagara Falls Illumination as seen from Prospect Point (American Side)
After a late dinner (some restaurants in Niagara are open late into the night), we checked in to our hotel for the night.

On the Final day of our trip, we got the discovery pass. This being our first trip to Niagara, doing everything on the discovery pass seemed like a good start. We started off with the cave of the winds trip. Followed by the maid of the mist, the discovery center and the aquarium. The cave of the winds and the maid of the mist were breathtaking. No words and pictures can do justice to the sheer magnitude of the falls. Even though the discovery center and aquarium hold a lot of potentially interesting activities and exhibits, we felt that it dwarfs in comparison to the overwhelming experience of the falls.

Cave of the winds tour
Rainbow over the cave of the winds
Horseshoe Falls, view in front of Top of the falls restaurant 
Horseshoe falls from Maid of the mist boat tour
Birds eye view of the Falls, from the observation tower
With this, our trip came to an end and we drove back to Ann Arbor while watching a spectacular sunset over lake erie and reached late sunday night.

So long until our next trip!

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