The Hocking Hills: The Prettiest Part of Ohio You’ve Never Heard Of

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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.

Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park

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.

Bridge in Hocking Hills

Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park

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

Upper Gorge at Hocking Hills State Park

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?

Old Man's Cave at Hocking Hills State Park

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.

Upper Falls at Hocking Hills State Park

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.

Old Man's Cave at Hocking Hills State Park

Hiking at Hocking Hills State Park

Cedar Falls

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.

Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills State Park

(I'm fairly certain this isn't actually allowed within state parks, though, so swim at your own risk!)

Ash Cave

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!

Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

Ash Cave itself is shaped a bit like a horseshoe and measures 700 feet wide and about 90 feet high.

Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park

Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park
Can you spot the teeny tiny person in this photo? Gives you an idea of how huge this cave really is!

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.

Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

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!!

Zip lining in the Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills Canopy Tours also offers an off-road Segway adventure, which is an insanely fun way to explore the park and surrounding forest.

Off-road Segway tour in the Hocking Hills
These off-road Segways are FUN!

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.

Wine tasting in the Hocking Hills

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.

Hocking Hills State Park

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:

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?

 

Things to do in the Hocking Hills

 

*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!).

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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41 Comments on “The Hocking Hills: The Prettiest Part of Ohio You’ve Never Heard Of

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  1. This place is gorgeous! I love dramatic landscapes and had no idea this existed in Ohio. I also had no idea off-road Segways were a thing…

      Ohio is full of surprises! 😉 And I had no idea that off-road Segways were a thing, either, until we tried them! Super fun (though kind of terrifying when you’re going downhill!).

      Awesome post! In case you missed it, there’s an app that can help you get around the area as well with hiking trails and driving directions and such. I even believe it has discounts to local businesses – I just searched “Hocking Hills” on the app store to find it!

        Great tip! I’ll have to check that out next time I’m down there.

    I live in Cincinnati and this place is great for a day trip so beautiful especially at different times of year.

      I would love to go again in the fall – I imagine the colors must be insane!

    Hocking Hills is a great place — so beautiful!

    The Grandma Gatewood Trail was named after Emma Gatewood — the Ohioan who was the first woman to solo thru-hike the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail in 1955 after raising 11 children and surviving domestic abuse! She also helped start the Buckeye Trail and she loved that area in Hocking Hills. You can find out more about her at http://edenvalleyenterprises.org/progdesc/gatewood/gtwdinf.htm

      Thanks for the extra info – what an inspiring lady!

    What a beautiful place! These pictures are fantastic, the one of the mossy stone bridge looks like something right out of one of Tolkien’s novels! America’s natural beauty never ceases to amaze me, the diversity of each state is marvellous, to say the least! It seems like the Hocking Hills are a great place for a fun adventure.

      Even just Ohio is incredibly diverse! Lots of beautiful spots right in my home state.

    wow ! really interesting places to see in Ohio, what a dramatic landscape thanks for sharing hidden secrets and pictures.

      Happy to introduce others to my state!

    Hocking Hills and Mohican weren’t on my radar at all until I moved to Columbus (from another Ohio city but I was only 21 then). I looove Old Man’s Cave! I’ve stayed at the Chalets – but it’s been awhile. Sadly, I’ve never stayed at Ravenwood Castle. I’ve visited it and it’s awesome. It’s really cool to read about cool stuff in my own state. I haven’t been there in awhile and I didn’t know about the Grandma Gatewood trail.

    I remember the first time I went to Old Man’s Cave, it was really icy. We still scrambled along the trail to see the frozen water falls. It was totally worth it. Sometimes, I forget that Ohio is a pretty awesome place!

      Ohio IS a pretty awesome place! And Hocking Hills in the winter sounds awesome – the photos of frozen waterfalls always look so cool!

    I keep thinking how lucky you guys are in the US when it comes to nature and wildlife. All the more reason for me to return to the US one day. I would love to visit all those beautiful spots and NPs.

      We are indeed quite lucky with all the awesome nature we have right on our doorsteps!

    That’s a pretty cool place! I could totally pretend I’m in the Lord of the Rings, there!! :p The zip-lining seems like a fun things, too!

      I certainly could be a place for elves or hobbits! 😉

    I’m hoping to take my husband here for his birthday this year. It’s only a 4.5 hour drive from where I live. Do you know anything about tent camping in Hocking Hills State Park?

    Amanda! I’ve heard of it!!! I have a friend living in Ohio trying to convince me to come out there and hike and camp and Hocking Hills was one. Looks stunning, I want to go soon!

      You would love it! This part of Ohio is made for the outdoor-lover!

    America is such a big country, there are just so many hidden places most people have no idea exist. If I ever randomly make it to southeast Ohio I’ll definitely check this place out! This is a place for the future RV-across-the-country dream trip 😀

      The Hocking Hills would make a great stop on a cross-country RV trip!

    I have heard of Hocking Hills, but had no idea how beautiful it is! I may have to add this to my “Best of the Midwest” tour this summer before I move away!

      I think it should definitely qualify as a “Best in the Midwest” spot! It’s a gorgeous part of Ohio, and there’s so many cool things to see.

    This is gorgeous! I was so surprised to see photos like these from Ohio that I asked my husband who grew up near Dayton about Hocking Hills. He’s been there and agrees that it’s awesome. So now I’ve demanded that he take me there sometime! 🙂

      Sounds like a very good demand to me! 🙂

    It looks like such a charming place, we love all the lush green surroundings! It’s just insane when we realize that we visited more places – including national parks – in foreign countries than in our own home country. And then when we do some trips we feel just as you wrote: “shame on us, how could have we not been to this place earlier…” 😀

      I know, it’s crazy! I do make it a point to take at least one or two big trips in the US each year for this very reason, though – I want to make sure I see just as much of my own country as other ones!

    Living in Pittsburgh, Hocking Hills is definitely on my domestic bucket list! I’ve also had my eye on staying at the Glenlaurel Inn for eons now 🙂

    I’m most intrigued by Ash Cave, your photos are terrific. I never stand to be amazed by such incredible natural wonders!

      You definitely should go! It makes for a great weekend trip.

    Amazing photos! My husband’s family is from Ohio and we didn’t know anything about this! We’ll have to visit next time we’re out there!

      Absolutely! It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

    I went to the Hocking Hills for a wedding a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. What a stunning, often overlooked part of the country that is, for sure!

      That’s awesome that you’ve been there! It really is a really special corner of Ohio.

    Hi, Thanks for this. I’m a Hong Konger living in the UK, but we’re planning a trip to the US next year! We’ve been looking for some real off the beaten track destinations, Hocking Hills seems to tick all the boxes! Just trying to work out how we can fit it into our schedule (that’s the tricky bit)!

      Ohio in general is such an underrated state! New York and California (and Florida) are usually the go-tos for international visitors, but I could argue for days about how awesome Ohio is, too!

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