Named after a shortened version of the Hockhocking River, Hocking Hills is a spectacular outdoors experience. The State Park is located in Southern Ohio near Logan (in between Chillicothe and Athens). The park consists of five primary areas Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Rockhouse, and Cantwell Cliffs, as well as Conkle’s Hollow, a Nature Preserve. The trails are extremely well-kept, well-marked, and well-traveled. There is parking near each area and the main attractions can all be viewed with just a short hike. These trails can be completed by those of any skill level. For hikers looking for more of a challenge, many of the trails can be linked together to form longer, loop hikes.
Posing with my hiking dog
I spent three days hiking all of the major trails in Hocking Hills. Sure, it could have been done in much less time, but I enjoyed taking in the sites, taking long breaks on the trail, and soaking up the sun on some of the nicest days so far this year. It was a leisurely vacation in which we stayed in a modern cabin rather than a tent.
Some people may consider Hocking Hills to be “touristy,” but to skip this adventure because of that would be a mistake. Hocking Hills has something to offer everyone. It can be a great family adventure for the young and old. Because the trails are shorter and well-kept, it’s easily accessible to almost everyone. The Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve and a couple other areas of the park are even wheel chair accessible. Venturing down the path in the gorge, you may feel as if you have walked into another world (Middle Earth maybe?)
A trip to Middle Earth?
I carried a small day pack (loaded with far more gear, water, and snacks than necessary, per my usual style). The trails are typically not strenuous although there can be a lot of elevation change, roots, and rocks along the way. We had quite a bit of rain in the weeks leading up to the trip which made the paths pretty muddy, but it also made the creeks and waterfalls spectacular. My dog, Ruby, absolutely loved the trails. She can typically be somewhat prissy with water, but was so excited on the trail that she happily charged right through the mud puddles and creeks. I’m convinced she walked twice as many miles as I did, because she kept going on ahead and then coming back to see what was taking me so long; essentially walking each segment of the trail twice.
On the trail with my faithful companion
My favorite hike of the trip was a 6.2 mile loop that we did. We started at Old Man’s Cave then headed down into the gorge and followed the path to Cedar Falls. From there, we climbed stairs out of the gorge and crossed a suspension bridge (that Ruby was not fond of at all) to a rim trail above the gorge. This trail winds around the gorge until it comes to Rose Lake, a beautiful lake with boating, fishing, and additional hiking trails. It then returns to the visitor center at Old Man’s Cave.
I had a wonderful trip and was blessed with amazing weather. There is no other way to say it, if you have never been to Hocking Hills, you need to go. It is a great experience and some of the most beautiful scenery that Ohio has to offer. It’s close enough for a day trip from most places in Ohio. If you do plan to stay, there are plenty of great accommodations whether you prefer a lodge, a cabin, or camping. So get out and have your own adventure!