Hocking Hills State Park: Paradise in Ohio

Hocking Hills State Park: Paradise in Ohio

In December of 2016 we took a trip to Ohio that forever changed our perception of the Buckeye state. Normally to us, Ohio was just the dull agricultural land south of our beloved mitten state, full of typical mid-American suburbs, malls, smokestacks, and an over-crowded amusement park on the southern edge of Lake Erie.

In our younger years, we had been to the Toledo Zoo, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the National Museum of the US Air Force, and Cedar Point. But as Michiganders, Ohio mainly meant the first state to pass through on the long and tedious stretch south to Florida, with not much to look at, and full of childhood memories struggling to stay alive from the death-grip of pure boredom, usually by listening to anything on our iPods that would grant us a reasonable lapse from the dreary fate of toiling through the gainsboro grey scenery of flatland America.

Yes, we really had a “thing” against Ohio, and it wasn’t even related to football rivalries.

We decided to head to Hocking Hills State Park for Heather’s birthday. She pretty much researched the entire trip and presented me with a bulk of information about what we could look forward to there, and where we could stay. 

The way she put it to me, as far as I can recall, was that a rumored magical area of Ohio existed, and that we could spend a few days hiking in and out of these wonderful megalithic sandstone rock shelters, gorges, and cliffs on well-maintained foot trails. Oh, and that there would be waterfalls…lots of them.

Cedar Falls - Hocking Hills
Cedar Falls

Maybe a vacation to Ohio in the middle of December isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but for us that made it so much better. See, at the time, Heather and I had been on a Skyrim binge. For those unfamiliar, Skyrim is essentially a video game that takes place in snowy and rugged terrain. So when we saw photos of what this place could potentially look like in the winter, we were hooked.

Many people seem to head to Hocking Hills in the summer when the water is a little more tolerable to swim in, or when the fall leaves start to transition into solemn scarlets and ambers. I’m sure these times of year are just as beautiful in their own unique way. After all, it’s the landscape that’s truly the most remarkable.

However, if you’ve been thinking about a winter getaway, and you’re the adventurous type that loves to go hiking with a bit of a nip at your nose, you should definitely consider booking a trip to Hocking Hills before booking that ticket to the Bahamas.

Ash Cave - Hocking Hills
Ash Cave

It’s hard to determine whether it was just one thing that made our Hocking Hills trip so incredibly memorable.

Perhaps it was the fat snowflakes falling from the sky and dotting the landscape, big enough to catch on the tongue and feel a hint of hydration.

Or even the gentle, yet beguiling sandstone walls, cast by years of erosion and securing thousands of icy spires against their rocky visage.

Maybe it was the fact that we hardly saw another soul as we hiked through the frozen landscape, making it feel like we had the entire state park to ourselves.

I’ve even gone so far as to consider that I’m still just not completely convinced that something of the sort could conceivably exist in Ohio. The whole thing felt too good to be true. We were smitten for nearly every second of the entire trip.

The state park features seven separate sections: Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Conkle’s Hollow, Old Man’s Cave, Rock House and Whispering Cave. Each of these sites present their own one-of-a-kind combination of astounding features.

Six of the seven sites contain a waterfall or two. There’s also plenty of opportunity to scope out a great camera angle for taking all kinds of photographs of the natural scenery surrounding the area. Most of sections can be hiked internally from site to site, but there are a few locations that require a short drive to experience. The trails are notably well-maintained, but be prepared for encountering a lot of steps in some areas.

Lower Falls - Hocking Hills
Steps from the Lower Falls

Really, this place is just an absolute marvel of a state park. There was something exciting to be seen around every corner. The gargantuan sandstone walls, along with the dusting of snow made Hocking Hills feel other-worldly. At the same time, there was also something entirely mid-western about the whole park.

Hocking Hills is definitely a hidden gem tucked in the vast expanses of flatland Ohio.

If you do plan on going in the spring, summer or fall, be sure to look into some of the many campgrounds available in the area. You’ll be able to find one within the state park itself, and a number of other campgrounds just outside the park, some featuring canoe liveries, horse camps, rustic tipi camping, and full on RV hookups.

When Heather and I made the trip, we decided to stay in a tiny rustic cabin with a queen sized bed, miniature kitchen, and a balcony overlooking the snowy woods behind us. Did I mention the hot tub on the balcony, as well? That was probably the greatest part, as we spent our evenings drinking wine and soaking in toasty warm water. Then, in the morning, before our hikes, we would spend at least a half an hour just lounging in the hot tub and watching the snow fall around the balcony.

The “fully equipped” rustic cabin we stayed at was through the private rental company Lazy Lane Cabins. We couldn’t recommend booking through them enough. They have over thirty different styles of lodging to stay in, and, if you intend on staying for a few weekdays, rates are much cheaper than on the weekends. Our particular cabin was located in Jack Pine Hollow.  

Eventually, we would like to visit Hocking Hills again. Perhaps this time in the summer, just to see how varied the scenery can become. Whenever we can make it back, we’d like to check out some of the rock climbing in the area, or one of the numerous canopy zipline tours that we constantly saw billboards for over the winter.

As you should have already figured out, the pictures don’t come close to giving the sensation of what it’s like to be surrounded on all sides by waterfalls, sandstone cliffs and sky-scraping trees. These pictures are simply a window into what Hocking Hills State Park is like. However, if you’d like to see some more of the sights that we captured, check out the gallery below.

I strongly encourage checking the Hocking Hills area out. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have any questions about Hocking Hills or our time spent there, please feel free to comment below. We also love hearing stories from others who have enjoyed the same locations that we have been to. 

As always, thank you for reading.

Shane

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