By Cortney Fries
Ohio’s Hocking Hills region is an hour southeast of Columbus. It offers tumbling hills, towering Black Hand sandstone cliffs, trickling waterfalls, recess caves and ample hiking opportunities. Stunning in every season, Hocking Hills bursts with blossoms in the spring and waterfalls freeze to form a magical wonderland in winter.
Hocking Hills boasts nine state parks and nature preserves, three state forests and one national forest. It’s ideal for hiking, camping, kayaking and horseback riding. Unplug and forest bathe, then rest and relax in accommodations ranging from kitschy glamping to comfortable cabins.
Hocking Hills State Park has seven major hiking areas, which now all feature one-way trail loops for social distancing. Old Man’s Cave is the most visited attraction in the Hocking Hills area. Gorgeous waterfalls and stone bridges bring hikers past Sphinx Head rock formations and the Devil’s Bathtub to a cave a hermit used to inhibit hundreds of years ago.
Ash Cave offers a short hike to a massive, horseshoe-shaped cavern with a trickling seasonal waterfall. For a longer, more strenuous hike, try Conkle’s Hollow, which showcases one of the deepest, rocky gorges in Ohio. Trek the rim trail to circle the top of the gorge taking in spectacular views or go for the gorge trail down in the hollow amongst ferns and wildflowers. Stop by Cedar Falls for its serene ambiance surrounding an impressive waterfall. Hold hands and hop over the rocks with children or those that are kids at heart.
All kinds of eco adventures await in Hocking Hills. One of my family’s favorites was our tour with High Rock Adventures. Get a natural high hiking up a giant rock, squeezing through tight rock formations, and testing your courage crossing narrow bridges.
A first for the Midwest, High Rock Adventures now offers Night Flight Rappelling at sunset — hike up hills then rappel down 60 and 90-foot cliffs under the light of the moon. Hocking Hills Canopy Tours offer awesome adventures, including the Moonshine Night Tours, where you zip off into the darkness.
Shake up the way you stay by trying all sorts of overnight options. Train lovers will want to toot their own horns after spending the night in the Hocking Hills Caboose. This bright red 1950s caboose is parked in a private wooded valley and features five sleeping births (two in the cupola). There’s a bathroom with shower and a deck for dining and stargazing. Moonlit campfires in the middle of the woods will definitely stir up your soul.
Give the tiny house trend a try with Hocking Hills Tiny Houses parked in the heart of Hocking Hills. Large windows provide views of the forest while each miniature abode is equipped with many comforts of home.
The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls offers cozy cabins, yurts, geodomes, log cabins and lodges, all at a 10 percent discount for AAA Members. Yurts are 20-foot diameter dome tents with beds, showers, heating and air conditioning, fridges and stoves. Enjoy the natural light and ability to stargaze from your bed. The geodomes at the Inn & Spa are the first in the United States to offer indoor plumbing, heating and air conditioning and electricity. Immerse yourself in nature with this cool contemporary glamping experience.
My family stayed at Lookout Lodge a wonderful retreat for large families. With room for 12, this gorgeous cabin atop a hill offers space to spread out and serenity by a small pond. Relax in the hot tub, play pool in the basement or dine with your crew on the sting-lit porch.
Hocking Hills provides many casual dining options and some stand-out fine dining establishments. Local chef Tristan Roley runs The Feed in Logan, offering fine dining for pick up. Menus are posted on Facebook each Saturday. Preorder dishes like wild mushroom lasagna with garlic knots or crawfish and shrimp etouffee over white rice with asparagus. Kindred Spirits, located at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, offers fresh, local chef-driven cuisine in an 1840s log cabin. You’ll be treated to delicious seasonal dishes and exquisite desserts.
Feel your creativity come alive in the woods of Hocking Hills. Pottery, quilts, wind chimes and sculptures are offered at in the various shops that pepper the area. Peruse gorgeous glass-blown ornaments and hummingbird feeders at Jack Pine Studio. Watch free live demos throughout the day and purchase one of Jack’s signature glass pumpkins.
Schedule a visit at the Columbus Washboard Company in Logan. Their vintage American washboards can be used for decor, a musical jam session or to wash the laundry like Grandma used to.