You’ll need your hiking boots (or at least some really comfortable shoes) for this month’s one-tank trip because we’re headed to Hocking Hills State Park.
Located less than three hours south in Logan, Ohio, Hocking Hills (thehockinghills.org) offers numerous trails, prehistoric caves, gorges and waterfalls, remarkable cliff-top views and some of the best scenery in the country. You can even zip line, kayak or ride horseback there if you want an alternative to walking.
Entrance to the park is free, and it closes at dark. There are a variety of cottages, lodges and cabins near the park if you want to make it a multiday trip (recommended).
Here are five sites that you should have on your itinerary:
1. Old Man’s Cave (thehockinghills.org/old_mans_cave.htm): It’s the most popular of all the Hocking areas and one of the most accessible. Visitors can expect to spend about an hour hiking through the mile-long recess cave, making it a great spot for people who aren’t used to a ton of hiking. Along the way, you’ll cross some awe-inspiring cave formations, waterfalls and tunnels that are sure to also keep the kids engaged.
Old Man’s Cave, which is open all year, is located at 19852 State Route 664, Logan.
2. Ash Cave (thehockinghills.org/ash_cave.htm): Located in the southernmost part of the park, Ash Cave, which is named for the large pile of ashes found by early settlers, is by far the most stunning feature at Hocking Hills. A half-mile, wheelchair accessible asphalt trail leads visitors along sandstone cliffs and through a beautiful gorge lined with towering hemlocks. A dramatic cascading waterfall is great for photo ops, and the valley floor gives you brilliant displays of wildflowers such as trillium, breeches and trout lily to name a few.
Ash Cave is located at 27291 State Route 56, South Bloomingville.
3. Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve (hockinghills.com/conkles_hollow.html): The rugged, rocky gorge, named for W.J. Conkle who carved his name and the date 1797 into the sandstone on the west wall of the gorge, is considered one of the deepest gorges in Ohio. For the best view of the stunning scenery, hike up to the rim trail at the top of the cliff and you’ll be standing at one of the highest points in the area.
Conkle’s Hollow is located off State Route 374 on Big Pine Road.
4. Cedar Falls (thehockinghills.org/cedarfalls.htm): With one of the largest waterfalls in the region, Cedar Falls offers a view of moss-covered cliffs, a rugged trail and the remnants of a grist mill that was built above the falls in the mid-1800s. The half-mile trail, which takes about 40 minutes to hike, is open year round, from dawn to dusk.
Cedar Falls is located at 21724 State Route 374 Scenic, Logan.
5. Rock House (hockinghills.com/rockhouse.htm): Considered the only true cave in the park, the Rock House is an opening in a cliff face with gothic-like windows. It has a ceiling 25 feet high while the main tunnel-like corridor is 200 feet long and 20-to-30 feet wide. You can explore its crevices that were used as baking ovens for Native Americans staying in the caves and see the troughs in the floor that were believed to be used to catch water. A hike around the half-mile trail takes roughly 30 minutes to traverse and requires a few maneuvers through the tight rocks. According to folklore, Rock House earned its reputation as a “Robbers Roost” because it was frequented by robbers, murderers and bootleggers.
Rock House is located at 16526 State Route 374, Laurelville.