Unless you are from the state of Ohio (and even that isn't a guarantee), then you probably haven't heard of the Hocking Hills.
Located in southeastern Ohio near the town of Logan, “the Hocking Hills” generally refers to Hocking Hills State Park and Hocking Hills State Forest and all the caves, waterfalls, and hiking trails that are contained within them.
Yes, Hocking Hills is an outdoor-lover's paradise.
Even though I've lived in Ohio my entire life (and HAD heard of the place), I didn't visit Hocking Hills until I was nearly 30. Shame on me, I know. Once I finally got there, I realized what all the hype was about – and knew that I definitely needed to share this corner of Ohio.
My partner Elliot and I went down to the Hocking Hills for a long weekend in May. The weather was already warm (actually it was hot and humid already in southern Ohio!), but it was before the summer holidays kicked in, meaning we didn't have to deal with tons of people. (Because, even though many people outside of Ohio don't know about the Hocking Hills, it's actually the most-visited state park in Ohio!)
We spent the weekend doing all the “must-dos” in Hocking Hills, which included hiking, zip lining, relaxing in a hot tub, and more.
If you're planning your own trip to the Hocking Hills, here are some things you should definitely do there:
Go for a hike
Hiking is definitely the main draw of Hocking Hills thanks to the unique rock formations, caves, and forests that can be found throughout the park. The park has six main hiking areas, with most of them centered around natural sandstone rock formations. Elliot and I weren't up for any long hikes, but thankfully the most popular sites are easy to reach without hours of trekking.
Our favorite short hikes included:
Old Man's Cave
This is probably my favorite area of the Hocking Hills because of the scenery: forests, a gorge, caves, and even waterfalls. What more could you want?
There are a few different trail options in this area depending on where you start. We stopped at the visitor's center first and then headed for the Upper Falls for some photos.
From there, we headed back the way we'd come and continued down to the gorge and Old Man's Cave itself. This huge recess cave got its name from a hermit named Richard Rowe who lived in the cave here back in the early 1800s.
Past the Lower Gorge beyond Old Man's Cave, you'll find the Queer Creek Valley. And here, tumbling down a sandstone chute, is Cedar Falls. The falls are at their peak in the spring, and it's not uncommon to find people swimming or soaking their feet here when it's warm.
(I'm fairly certain this isn't actually allowed within state parks, though, so swim at your own risk!)
The most popular hike in Hocking Hills is to Ash Cave, a giant recess cave with a small waterfall tumbling over it. The hike to Ash Cave is only about half a mile long and is along a paved trail, making it accessible for nearly everyone.
To get to the cave from the main parking lot, you walk through a narrow gorge filled with hemlock and beech trees that suddenly opens up into the cave – it's quite impressive!
Ash Cave itself is shaped a bit like a horseshoe and measures 700 feet wide and about 90 feet high.
Other popular hiking areas in the park include Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, and Rock Bridge, which is the largest natural bridge in Ohio.
If you want to make a day of hiking, there's a 6-mile trail that starts at Upper Falls in the Old Man's Cave area and then continues on to Cedar Falls and then Ash Cave. The trail is called the Grandma Gatewood Trail, and it's actually part of the much longer Buckeye Trail.
Have fun zip lining
Because of the Hocking Hills' natural topography, it's actually kind of perfect for zip lining – which is probably why there are now multiple companies offering the activity in the area!
Elliot and I went zip lining with Hocking Hills Canopy Tours and did their SuperZip tour, which has you flying Superman-style through the forest at about 50 mph. We also checked out some of their other zip lines, including one (on the “X” Tour) that has you zipping INTO a cave!!
Hocking Hills Canopy Tours also offers an off-road Segway adventure, which is an insanely fun way to explore the park and surrounding forest.
Taste some local wine
After all that outdoor adventure, you may need to add in a more relaxing activity in order to balance things out. I recommend checking out the Hocking Hills Winery, which just opened in 2015. They've already started serving their own locally-grown and crafted wines, along with others that they make with grape juice from around the world.
The coolest thing about this winery is that since they don't serve food beyond appetizers, they welcome patrons to order meals from local restaurants, or to bring their own food and use the grills on the outdoor patio. How cool is that??
Stay in a cabin
(Note: There are affiliate links in this section.)
There are a variety of campsites in Hocking Hills State Park, and many visitors choose to pitch a tent or bring a camper van for the weekend. But for the true Hocking Hills experience, you'll need to rent a cabin in the woods.
Cabin rentals can be found throughout the county, many within a few miles' drive from the best hiking trails. Most will come fully equipped with a kitchen and barbecue or fire pit, and the good ones will have a hot tub out on the back porch so you can properly unwind and enjoy the nature.
Elliot and I stayed in a cabin at Cedar Grove Lodging, which has beautiful wooden cabins near the Old Man's Cave trailhead. Our cabin had a full kitchen and a hot tub on the back porch and made for the perfect romantic getaway with a heavy dose of nature.
Other accommodation options worth checking out include:
- Old Man's Cave Chalets – The top-rated cabins in Hocking Hills.
- The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls – A great luxury option in the park.
- Glenlaurel – A Scottish-style manor house along with cottages that makes for a great couples retreat.
- Ravenwood Castle – For when you want to sleep in a castle!
And this of course is not an exhaustive list of everything you can do in the Hocking Hills! You can also rent canoes on Lake Logan and Lake Hope, go horseback riding through the park, or even go antique shopping in nearby Logan.
Check out this site for even more info on visiting the Hocking Hills.
Have you ever been to the Hocking Hills? If not, is it somewhere you'd like to go now?
*Note: This post contains a few affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase/booking after clicking on a link, I may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you, of course!).