04/22/2012 09:39 am ET

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Offers Caves, Woods, Adventure (PHOTOS)

Spring brings new growth and dreams of summer, and, for many metro Detroiters, road trips "up North" to enjoy the mitten's natural beauty. But have you considered departing from the usual great times in the Great Lakes and looking for natual beauty "down South?"

In just a three hours' drive, you could be bird-watching, hiking and caving in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located midway between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio.

Many of those activities are available closer to home, of course, but Cuyahoga offers a real National Park experience and lessons in local conservation.

According to MapQuest:

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is among the smallest and the newest parks in the system, but don’t let its diminutive size or recently elevated status fool you. Cuyahoga Valley is a testament to local conservation, a living example of the benefits of habitat restoration, and a site of significant cultural history and preservation.

Michigan's Isle Royale National Park is our only in-state national park, but floating way off the top of the UP, it's much farther away from the Detroit area than Cuyahoga Valley.

Cuyahoga offers activities for the outdoorsy and water-loving, including fishing, kayaking and canoeing. If you're more into winter sports: Who knew you could go downhill skiing in Ohio?

And there's plenty of animal life: Birders will appreciate the Great Blue Herons, bald eagles and peregrine falcons, and mammal-lovers can spot bears and bats.

Check out some photos of gorgeous Cuyahoga Valley National Park below and see MapQuest for a full guide to this Ohio gem, Michigan's Isle Royale and national parks around the county.

Cuyahoga Valley