Disclaimer: I haven't been everywhere or seen everything. This is my top ten, which is almost certainly incomplete and debatable. Please leave a comment at the bottom if you agree, disagree, or have other suggestions!
Map tips: click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
One more thing before we get to the list - please follow the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace when in nature: plan ahead and prepare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly; leave what you find; minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife; and be considerate of other visitors.
10: Bridal Veil Falls, Bedford
This is the only waterfall on this list that I probably won’t visit again. It can be completely dry and there isn’t much of a “fall” to begin with. However, it’s a very short walk and only takes 10-15 minutes total so it’s worth a stop if you’re seeing the nearby Tinkers Creek Falls (more info below) in the Bedford Reservation. I’d love to hear what else should take its place in a comment below!
9: Falls of the Black River, Elyria
This is a 2-for-1 because a 3-minute drive is all that separates the parking lots for East Falls and West Falls of the Black River in Cascade Park, Elyria. West Falls is more picturesque with (usually) 3 separate falls beneath a bridge, but I don’t have a good picture of it because when we were there it was essentially flooded and all the good viewpoints were inaccessible. Above is a picture of the East Falls, which has a set of stairs and short walkway right beside the Elyria Police Station. From there, you can take a very short drive to the Cascade Park playground and do a one-mile loop to see West Falls.
8: Affelder Falls, Novelty
Very pleasant is how I would describe Affelder Falls. After parking at the Lewis and Ruth Affelder House, a 0.25 mile trail takes you to the falls. You can cross over the water on a small footbridge, then curl around for the best view that you see in the picture above. This is another one that can be dry so it’s best to go after a decent rain. Fall is the best time as the short walk, which can be extended, winds through the woods.
7: Mill Creek Falls, Cleveland
Touted as Cuyahoga County’s highest at a whopping 48 feet, Mill Creek Falls is a man-made waterfall in the Garfield Reservation. The first glimpse is about 1-2 minutes from the parking lot on a viewing platform, but you’re looking across the waterfall. For what I think is the best view, continue down the paved path for another minute or so and you get the straight-on view above. You’ll probably need to zoom in a little on your phone or camera for a decent picture because it is a bit far and the waterfall is a small piece of the view. Mill Creek Falls is almost always flowing, which makes this a great destination year-round.
6: Chagrin Falls, umm, Chagrin Falls
As the name implies, this waterfall is in the heart of Chagrin Falls where Main Street crosses the Chagrin River. Chagrin Falls has been known to land on lists of the best small towns in the country (example here). There are several free parking lots nearby so you can leave your car, walk along the shops and restaurants downtown, and admire the falls.
5: Great Falls of Tinker’s Creek, Bedford
Less than a 10-minute drive from Bridalveil Falls is the parking lot at Viaduct Park in the Bedford Reservation. A 5-minute walk down a paved trail leads to several overlooks of the Great Falls of Tinker’s Creek. There are several short trails leading off the paved one that get you to to the river’s edge to explore, which is great for families.
4: Brandywine Falls, Sagamore Hills
Brandywine Falls is the most well-known waterfall in and around Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I think there’s an argument to be made for it being the best in the area, but I have several others above it for a couple of reasons: it’s right by a road (you can see it when looking at the falls) and it’s pretty much always crowded. However, the wooden boardwalk and stairs from the parking lot lead to multiple nice views of the falls and there’s a very nice 1.5 mile loop trail that goes down to water level. While they’ve made some major renovations to the parking lot and facilities, you may not find a spot during peak times so go early.
3: Blue Hen Falls, Peninsula
This is so close to being my favorite hike in the area. It has some decent elevation gain and loss (especially for the region) and the waterfall is beautiful, but points are deducted since a decent part of the trail runs along Route 271 and another part is along Boston Mills Road. It really takes away from the solitude when there’s highway traffic noise and cars right beside you at times. However, it’s worth doing at least once because the falls themselves are great. Parking is at the Boston Mill Visitors Center and it’s a 3-mile RT hike to and from the falls. The falls are best viewed after a decent rain and you’ll likely see people at the top and bottom of the falls.
2: Linda Falls, Walton Hills
Linda Falls is along the Sagamore Creek Loop Trail and is only present after a good rainfall. Parking is at the Alexander Road Trailhead and you’ll see a signed trail for Linda Falls on your right after starting down the paved trail from the lot. It’s somewhere around a mile to the falls, and depending on how much water there is, you might get your feet wet as there are multiple stream crossings. This is a flat, enjoyable walk through the woods and there usually aren’t many people. If there’s a LOT of water, you’ll be treated to a double waterfall!
1: Twin Sisters Falls, Brecksville
This is the best waterfall in the area, but it is not without controversy. There is no official trail to it and the National Park Service has asked people not to hike to the falls in the past. However, the official rule for off-trail hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is that it’s allowed unless otherwise posted. If at any point there is a sign indicating Twin Sisters Falls is inaccessible, please abide by it. As of this writing, Twin Sisters Falls has been acknowledged by the NPS and 50 meters upstream and 50 meters downstream are closed. Please respect the rules so people can continue to responsibly see it.
To get there, park at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Brecksville Station lot. Take the trail that goes north, cross the Station Road Bridge, and take a left on the Towpath Trail. You’ll soon see the “Mudcatcher” on your right, which is a concrete structure that produces a small waterfall of its own. Follow that stream of water to Twin Sisters Falls. The easiest way is to walk in the water and you’ll almost certainly get wet and/or muddy. The falls can be completely dry so it’s best to go after a heavy rain.
Bonus falls: Lanterman’s Mill, Youngstown
Lanterman’s Mill is about an hour from Cleveland, so I didn’t want to include it on the list but also didn’t want to omit it completely. In addition to the mill and waterfall, there’s a covered bridge and easy hiking trails that make for a very pleasant day (especially for families).
Know of other good waterfalls in the area? Leave a comment below!
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