Blue Hen Falls and Buttermilk Falls
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Two waterfalls, a meandering stream, and a warm palette of brightly colored leaves awaited us on this 1.2 mile out and back autumn hike. The leaves were showing their peak colors when we set off to explore this trail, which is located in one of our newest national parks—Cuyahoga National Park. The hike begins by descending 30 feet to a lovely footbridge that spans Spring Creek, after crossing the bridge, the trail turns right and heads for a wooden bench set on a ridge overlooking Blue Hen Falls. Blue Hen Falls cascades 15 feet over the edge of a sandstone cliff, landing in a pool below, creating a dramatic scene that epitomizes the geological beauty of Ohio. Look carefully at the trail as it makes its way downhill from the bench, and you will notice a spur trail that leads to the base of the falls—tread carefully down this embankment and you will be rewarded with outstanding views of Blue Hen Falls, the surrounding shale cliffs, and the cascading waters of Spring Creek. For most hikers, Blue Hen Falls is the end of the trail, but if you happen to know that another falls lies less than a mile downstream, you are on of the lucky ones, as there are no signs or information posted at the trailhead—but that is what the Natural Born Hikers website is for, the inside scoop. So here is the scoop—Buttermilk Falls, a beautiful veil-like waterfall that flows 20 feet over a jagged shale cliff is just a short hike and three creek crossings away from Blue Hen Falls. As you make your way down into the ravine, the trail can sometimes be easy to loose—just stick as close to the stream as possible and you will eventually find your destination. Spring Creek is a picturesque, boulder strewn creek that winds its way through the thickly forested ravine towards Buttermilk Falls. Of particular beauty, is the striking turquoise color that emanates from the shale streambed, it is so surprising that it appears almost other worldly. The path between the two falls is often narrow and eroded in spots, and the occasional fallen log provides an added bit of exercise as you hop over and crawl under these obstacles. In addition, you will have to jump, splash, or wade your way across approximately three creek crossings, but don’t worry, the widest crossing was about 15 feet and the water was never more than five or six inches deep. As the trail approaches Buttermilk Falls, you will hear it before you see it, especially as you near the part of the trail that skirts the brink of the falls—you will know you are near this point when you come across the remnants of an old bridge. These concrete pylons lie just before the final creek crossing, and then after fording this last water obstacle, the trail makes a steep descent towards the base of Buttermilk Falls. At the bottom of the steep decline, make a sharp left and make your way along the stream to the falls—enjoy the magnificent view!