At the end of my last post, my mom and I were wading in Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Day 4 of our cross-country excursion, however, was the one I was most excited for. Our destination: Niagara Falls!
We left Indiana early in the morning, continuing across the northern edge of the state and crossing into Ohio. By lunch, we were just outside of Cleveland. Coincidentally, earlier that morning my mom and I had been discussing national parks and the fact that there aren’t any in Ohio. She grew up there so I didn’t have any reason to doubt her. However, when I pulled out the map to find us a suitable picnic location, I spotted the small green area labeled Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland.
And so our picnic spot was chosen.
Cuyahoga Valley is a relatively new national park, which is why my mom hadn’t heard of it. It was first established as a National Recreation Area in 1974, before being upgraded to a National Park in 2000. The park encompasses a large portion of the Cuyahoga River Valley. As with the rest of our road trip, though, our time here was limited and we weren’t able to see much of the park. We ate lunch at a picnic area, toured the Boston Store Visitor Center (which, unlike the typical NPS visitor centers, is housed in a warehouse built in 1863), and had just enough time for a short hike.
I don’t typically associate Ohio with waterfalls, but Brandywine Falls proved me wrong. It’s a beautiful 65 foot (20 m) waterfall in the middle of a lush forest. Getting there was quick and easy; a nice post-lunch walk before hopping back in the car and continuing our journey.
Our next stop was a rest area off I-90 in Pennsylvania. Neither of us had visited the state before so we had to at least put our feet on the ground. If nothing else, at least I can say I used the bathroom and did a cartwheel in Pennsylvania. That’s something, right?
From here, we were on the home stretch to Niagara Falls. Or so we thought. Road construction made this last section of the drive take about twice as long as it should have, but we eventually made it.
Niagara Falls is actually 3 waterfalls, all of which are located on the Niagara River as it flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest in the United States and encompasses 2.5 of the 3 waterfalls (the Niagara River forms the border between New York and Ontario, Canada; the other half waterfall belongs to Canada).
From the parking area of Niagara Falls State Park (which is $10 per car to enter), trails lead to viewpoints of each waterfall as well as around the perimeter of Goat Island, which is in the middle of the river between the waterfalls. After a picnic dinner, we walked the entire trail around the island.
The trail loops out to Terrapin Point at the brink of Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three waterfalls. We continued along the edge of the Niagara Gorge to viewpoints overlooking the mighty American Falls and the smaller Bridal Veil Falls. The two are separated by Luna Island. There’s a footbridge leading out to Luna Island and I highly recommend taking it. It’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by waterfalls on both sides.
There’s also a pedestrian bridge leading back to the mainland. This is where the Niagara Falls Visitor Center and Prospect Point Park Observation Tower are located. From the tower, all 3 waterfalls are visible and after dark they are illuminated in a variety of colors by giant spotlights. We watched this from the observation tower, and I think this was probably the best vantage point.
After oohing and aahing over the pretty colors, it was time to call it a night. Prior to leaving Montana, my mom had obtained her first ever passport so we could cross over to the Ontario side of Niagara Falls. She’d also decided that since she went to all the trouble to get a passport, we might as well spend the night in Canada too. And so we did.
Rainbow Bridge crosses the Niagara River, connecting the towns of Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario. It’s $3.25 to cross, plus you have to clear customs. Thankfully, despite our car full of stuff customs was a simple process. So we entered Ontario for the first time and made our way up the road to our hotel.
Before heading back into the US the next morning, we took in the view of Niagara Falls from Ontario. And I have to say – as impressive as the falls are from the US side, the view from the Canadian side is much better.
Alright, well that concludes part 2 of our cross-country road trip. One more post to go!