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Brandywine Falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail


Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail
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"Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea." ~ Mikhail Lermontov

BRANDYWINE FALLS & BRANDYWINE GORGE TRAIL | CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK OHIO


Brandywine Falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Nestled in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Brandywine Falls and the Brandywine Gorge Trail offer a stunning escape into nature. During our visit, we were impressed by the breathtaking waterfall and the scenic trail.



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HISTORY OF BRANDYWINE FALLS

Brandywine Falls has a rich history dating back to the early 19th century. The falls were named after Brandywine Creek, which flows through the park. In the 1800s, the area surrounding the falls was a bustling community with mills and other industrial operations taking advantage of the waterpower.

 

In 1814, entrepreneur George Wallace built a sawmill that was powered by the rushing waters of Brandywine Falls. Over the next decade, Brandywine Village developed and flourished around the sawmill. There were grist mills woolen mills, as well as a small cluster of houses for mill workers and their families. These mills were vital to the local economy, providing essential services to the surrounding agricultural community and contributing significantly to the area's growth and development.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

 

What the Sign Says:

A bustling village once surrounded these falls. Taking advantage of the waterpower, George Wallace built a sawmill here in 1814. Over the next decade, the Village of Brandywine added a whiskey distillery, gristmill, woolen mill, and a dozen houses. In 1825, Wallace transferred his property to his sons, who then formed the Wallace Brothers Company. Business thrived for the next 30 years.

 

Eventually, Brandywine’s prosperity dried up. The Ohio & Erie Canal, and later the railroads, hipped goods to the cites of Akron and Cleveland, leaving towns like Brandywine behind. Except for the barn and house built by James Wallace in 1848 – now restored as the Inn at Brandywine Falls – only a few hidden foundations remain of the Village of Brandywine.

 

Brandywine Falls’ rock base (right) consists of alternating sandstone and easily eroded shales. In the Village of Brandywine (below) in the mid-1800s, a steel bridge carried Brandywine Road over Brandywine Creek, just before the falls next to the gristmill (to the left in photo). In the distance stands the Wallace Farm, now the Inn at Brandywine Falls.


INDUSTRIAL ERA AND DECLINE

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

As the industrial era progressed, the importance of water-powered mills declined. With the introduction of steam power and the expansion of the railroads, many of the mills around Brandywine Falls had ceased to operate. By the 19th century, the area began to return to its natural state. Today, remnants of this history can still be seen, including the foundation of the Champion Electric Company mill.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

What the Sign Says:

Champion Electric

In 1920, Willis Hale built the Champion Electric Company near the ruins of the old gristmill. Here he produced restaurant appliances until 1937, when his factory was destroyed by lightning. These cinder block ruins are from the last industry in Brandywine Village.



CONSERVATION EFFORTS

In the mid-20th century, efforts to preserve the natural beauty of the Cuyahoga Valley gained momentum.  leading to the establishment of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974. It later became Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 2000. These efforts ensured that Brandywine Falls and the surrounding areas would be protected for future generations to enjoy.



Timelapse video of Brandywine Falls and the Brandywine Gorge Trail.


BRANDYWINE FALLS WATERFALL

Brandywine Falls is undoubtedly the crown jewel of this trail. It seems as though most people just visit the falls area and do not take advantage of the Brandywine Gorge trail.

 

The 60-foot waterfall cascades over a rocky cliff, creating an exciting display of natural power and beauty. The viewing platforms are easily accessible from the parking area via a short wooden boardwalk.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

 

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers two distinct viewing platforms, each providing unique perspectives of the majestic waterfall. The upper platform is wheelchair accessible, making it an inclusive option for all visitors to enjoy the stunning scenery. While it provides a lovely view of the falls, the lower platform offers an even more breathtaking vantage point, allowing visitors to get closer to the cascading water. However, accessing the lower platform requires navigating a significant number of steps. Despite this, both platforms offer rewarding experiences, with the upper platform ensuring accessibility and the lower platform delivering an unparalleled view of the falls’ powerful descent.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail



 


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

What the Sign Says:

The rock layers of the 60-foot Brandywine Falls can be read like a book. Each chapter covers millions of years, as ancient seas left behind sediments that were compressed by added layers. The rocks here at the base of the falls were formed 300 to 400 million years ago.

 

Brandywine Creek and this “bridal veil” cascade began about then thousand years ago. After the last Ice Age. The falls have now exposed the harder, yellow-brown Berea sandstone which rests atop the softer, deep-*red Bedford shale. Since sandstone is more resistant to erosion, the shale below is frequently undercut. As these layers wear away, the story of the earth continues to be revealed.  

 

The rock layers of Brandywine Falls (below) reveal the geology of the Cuyahoga Valley. Brandywine Creek (left) flows for 10 miles from near Twinsburg to the Cuyahoga River, two miles downstream from here.

 

320 Million Years – Berea Sandstone

350 Million Years – Bedford Shale

350-400 Million Years – Cleveland Shale


THE BRANDYWINE GORGE TRAIL

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

The Brandywine Gorge Trail is a 1.5-mile loop that offers hikers a moderately challenging yet rewarding experience. The trail begins near the falls and takes you through a variety of landscapes. The trail is easy to see yet can be hard to navigate for some people due to the rocky terrain.

 

Most people start by heading right on the Standford trail. This takes you on the wooden boardwalk. Once you reach the stairs you can work your way down to the lower platform or continue on.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

If you continue on, you will pass the upper platform. The trail will make its way to a blacktop road. A short distance down you will come across several picnic tables.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

The entrance to the Brandywine Gorge Trail is a short distance past the tables, on the left.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Several points along the trail provide breathtaking views of the falls and the surrounding gorge. The Brandwine Falls trail is perfect for photography or simply enjoying the fresh air and natural beauty.

 

The trail features interesting geological formations, including large boulders and layered rock faces.

 


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The trail follows along Brandywine Creek for a portion of the hike, allowing hikers to enjoy the soothing sounds of flowing water. The creek is also home to various aquatic life, adding to the trail's biodiversity.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

 

Keep an eye out for deer, birds, and other wildlife that call this area home. The diverse habitats along the trail provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, especially in the early morning or late afternoon.

 

Trail Difficulty and Preparation

The Brandywine Gorge Trail is considered moderately challenging due to its uneven terrain and occasional steep sections. Hikers should wear sturdy footwear and bring plenty of water, especially during the warmer months.



SEASONAL CHANGES AND BEST TIMES TO VISIT

Brandywine Falls are beautiful all year long, each season offering its own unique charm. However, here is what to expect during the different times of the year.

 

Spring: The waterfall is at its most powerful following the spring rains. The surrounding foliage begins to bloom, creating a vibrant and lush landscape.

 

Summer: The warm weather and full foliage make for a pleasant hike. The falls are still flowing strongly, though the water levels may start to decrease later in the season.

 

Fall: The surrounding foliage turns vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, making for a picturesque backdrop. This is one of the most popular times to visit due to the stunning autumn colors.

 

Winter: The falls can sometimes freeze, creating a stunning ice sculpture effect. The snow-covered landscape adds a serene and peaceful atmosphere, though the trail can be icy and more challenging to navigate.

 

PARKING AND ACCESSIBILITY

Parking for Brandywine Falls and the Brandywine Gorge Trail is available at the Brandywine Falls parking lot, located off Stanford Road. The lot is small and can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and during peak seasons. There are accessible parking spaces and restrooms available.


BIRDING

Birding at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers a delightful experience for bird enthusiasts. The diverse habitats surrounding the falls, including forests, meadows, and wetlands, attract a variety of bird species throughout the year. Visitors can spot common birds such as cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers, as well as migratory species during the spring and fall seasons, making it a perfect spot for both novice and experienced birdwatchers.


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OUR THOUGHTS

Visiting Brandywine Falls and hiking the Brandywine Gorge Trail was a truly unforgettable experience. The combination of natural beauty, historical significance, and the serenity of the surroundings made for a perfect day. The trail offered a variety of landscapes and challenges that kept the hike interesting and engaging. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a peaceful escape, this trail is beautiful.




WHAT TO EXPECT AT BRANDYWINE FALLS

Please note that trail rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Brandywine Falls / Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio as of May 2024.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

There are bathrooms located in the parking area.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Bicycles are not permitted on the Gorge Loop Trail. However, there are areas where bikes are allowed.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

There is quite a bit of activity during migration.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

There are a couple bridges located along the trail.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Concealed carry is permitted.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Dogs are permitted.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Trail surfaces are blacktop, concrete, wood and natural.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

The parking lot is blacktop. There are approximately 90 parking spaces that fill up fast.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Picnic tables are located near the trailhead and on the loop near the Inn at Brandywine Falls.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

No playground.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

There are a couple of benches near the bathrooms. We only spotted one bench on the trail.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

A lot of shade.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

No shelter house.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Trail is easy to see.




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

No trashcans along the trail.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

Waterfall




Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio Brandywine falls & Brandywine Gorge Trail

There are 4 ADA parking spots. The upper platform is wheelchair accessible.






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