Ohio is not often equated as one of the great destination spots offering adventure opportunities. Locals may visit Amish country in Lancaster, but I’m talking adventure like hiking trails, rocks, rivers, and waterfalls. A couple of years ago, I started seeing post on Facebook about Hocking Hills State Park and as I investigated further, decided it may be an adventure worthy destination. Many have never heard of it – surprisingly, those who have lived in Ohio are unaware, or never visited the area.
We rolled into Logan, Ohio and were able to find the visitors center for the park easily. We picked up an area map and decided to scope out what we planned to do during our time there. First we did a drive by of Logan Lake to see if it was worthy of using our new inflatable kayak. However, it was marked off the to-do list as Mark found it to be more for fisherman than for pleasure boats or kayaks. We headed into the park and found a campsite – one high enough to keep us dry during the endless rains. We were tent camping after all.
Hocking Hills is comprised of six distinctive, unique natural areas covering about 2000 acres. We hit the Old Man’s Cave area during our first afternoon there. It had rained hard earlier in the day and the gorge had a misty, moody look to it. As the largest natural area in the park, it features Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls, and Lower Gorge. Throughout the 1700’s, historical records indicate men actually lived under the rock overhangs throughout the century.
Day two was devoted entirely to hiking as we took in Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, Conkle’s Hollow and Rock House. Cedar Falls was misnamed by early settlers as there are actually no cedar trees in the gorge. It is filled with hemlock which has escaped attack by the beetles which have riddled other hemlock stands throughout the country. This falls offers the greatest volume of water of all the falls in the park.
Ash Cave is not a true cave, rather a vast rock overhang with a waterfall which accentuates its beauty. The Cave measures 700 feet from end to end, 100 feet deep from front to rear and is 90 feet in height. The falls is fed by the East Fork of Queer Creek. The recess was used by the native peoples and early pioneer travelers. Blackened walls and heaps of ashes give testament to its extensive use. Ash Cave is wheelchair accessible.
Conkle’s Hollow is one of the deepest gorges in Ohio. Its vertical cliffs rise over 200 feet and at the end of the hike, you are rewarded with a couple of picturesque water falls. Conkle’s Hollow is a state nature preserve and part of this trail is wheel chair accessible.
Rock House is the only true cave in the Hocking Hills which has a 25 foot high ceiling, 200 feet long and 20 to 30 feet wide. Back in the day, it was used as a hide out for robbers, murders, horse thieves and bootleggers and as such earned it the name “Robber’s Roost”.
Our last day in Logan found us exploring Cantwell Cliffs and outside of the park, the Rock Bridge. The Cantwell Cliffs may be one of the least visited areas of Hocking Hills as it the most remote, but the cliffs and rock formations are a must see. Rock Bridge was not as impressive as our Natural Bridge in Virginia.
Granted, we did not do the longer hikes, and we did not explore the famed Buckeye Trail or Grandma Gatewood Trail, so you could spend much more time exploring the park than we did. Spring would be a great time to see wildflowers, and fall is probably brilliant with color. We did not see much wildlife however.
Hocking Hills State Park has great beauty and ease of access but the size of the parking lot at each feature gives testament of the high foot traffic it receives. Sadly, it is showing signs of vast over use and abuse some of which we witnessed by visitors in the various areas. Adults as well as children showed little regard for rules put in place to preserve the integrity of the natural areas. If these areas are not protected, the natural beauty will soon be totally destroyed and unrecoverable. Outside of these facts, the area is rich in beauty and history and a wonderful travel destination.