HOCKING HILLS LOGAN OHIO
HEAD FOR THE HILLS
By Elaine Kish
Cascading waterfalls, breathtaking cliffs, deep recess caves and forestland as far as the eye can see – these are some of the phrases used to describe Hocking Hills State Park located in Logan, Ohio. Encompassing six main park areas, Hocking Hills is home to numerous wildlife including white tailed deer and wild turkey. Besides hikers, the area is a favorite for bird watchers and astronomy buffs.
The rock formations date back to more than 7,000 years ago when members of the Adena Culture visited the region. During the 1700’s the Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee Indian tribes traveled through or lived in the area. A powder mill and grist mill were built in the 1830’s and in the early 1900’s a hotel was in operation and the large rock near the entrance to Ash Cave was used by preachers as a pulpit to speak to church members.
In 1924 the first parcel of 146 acres was purchased by the State of Ohio. The land existed under the Department of Forestry until 1949 when the Department of Natural Resources created the Division of Parks which took control of the land.
The gritty, reddish stone located throughout the park is a type of sandstone called Blackhand Sandstone, left behind more than 200 million years ago when Ohio’s ancient ocean drained from the land. The movement of the earth deep beneath the surface, together with water and erosion, formed what is now known as Hocking Hills. The process took over a million years for the water to erode away the surface and form the deep pockets, cracks and grooves we see today. Local legend tells the story of Richard Rowe, a hermit who lived in Old Man’s Cave more than a hundred years ago when he accidentally shot himself with his own gun. The legend says Rowe is believed to be buried in one of the caves.
There are miles of hiking trails located throughout the park and adjacent state forest. Nine hiking trails in the park are all measured by length, difficulty and handicap accessibility. Ash Cave Gorge is 1/4 mile long and Conkles Hollow is 1 mile long, both easy trails and handicap accessible. Ash Cave Rim, Cedar Falls, and Rock House trails are all 1/2 mile long and rated moderate difficulty. Old Man’s Cave, Conkles Hollow Rim and Buckeye Trail are 1 mile, 2 1/2 miles and 6 miles respectively, and are all rated moderate. The only trail termed difficult is Cantwell Cliffs, which is 1 mile long. Although the trails are beautiful, they are potentially dangerous. Caution and common sense are recommended for all hikers. Young children must be supervised on the hiking trails and all park visitors are required to remain on the marked trails at all times.
Jessica Meleg first visited Hocking Hills years ago as a college student. She returned numerous times and eventually shared her adventures at Hocking Hills with Matt Stroia, who also came to love the area. On a weekend stay, they finished their trip with a final hike to Old Man’s Cave. As Meleg investigated the path ahead, she turned to see Stroia on bended knee, holding up a ring. Needless to say, the area has a special meaning for this couple. Meleg says, “Hocking Hills is a place where we can de-stress and renew our relationship. With the hustle and bustle of our lives, the natural beauty of all the parks can balance us out. I encourage anyone looking for an affordable family or couples vacation spot to seek out the splendor Hocking Hills has to offer.”
Along that line, Hocking Hills State Park offers several areas for weddings. One is under the protective covering of Ash Cave near a cascading waterfall, and another is by the Upper and Lower Falls at Old Man’s Cave. There is a nominal fee for weddings, forms to fill out, and rules and regulations that must be followed.
Five picnic areas with tables, grills, restrooms and drinking water are located within the park. There are also five shelters which can be reserved. The park has two mountain bike trails. Each 2 miles long, the Purple Trail Loop and Orange Trail Loop are respectively rated moderate and difficult.
Hocking Hills offers various lodging facilities. Hocking Hills State Park Campground has electric and non-electric sites which can accommodate units up to 50 feet in length. There is also a primitive family camping area and a primitive group camping area. The park has 40 cottages available which can sleep up to six persons. Each cottage has two bedrooms, a living room, a bath with a shower, a complete kitchen with microwave, dining area and screened porch. There are also several Bed and Breakfast facilities in the area. Serving all visitors, the Hocking Hills State Park Dining Lodge is a family-style restaurant offering sandwiches, salads, and platters, as well as a Sunday Brunch Buffet.
A swimming pool on the property is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It is available to the public for a small daily fee. Fishing is allowed at the 17-acre Rose Lake. Access is off State Route 374 via a 1/2-mile hiking trail. A valid Ohio fishing license is required. Under proper conditions, visitors can enjoy ice fishing in the winter. Hunting is allowed in designated areas in the adjacent Hocking State Forest. An archery range is open from daylight until dark year round.
Special events and nature programs are offered year round at Hocking Hills State Park. A Visitor Center at Old Man’s Cave houses displays and a gift shop. A rock climbing/rappelling area is available in the adjacent 9,238 acre Hocking State Forest. There is also a canoe livery, golf and horseback riding available in the area.
In January and February 2016 Hocking Hills will offer their Annual Comfort Food Cruise. Tickets are $18 and include one comfort food served at each of 13 restaurants, plus a bonus stop at the Welcome Center for homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee and a souvenir. Spanning three weekends, the Comfort Cruise will be the perfect way to warm up after a brisk hike past frozen waterfalls and through winter landscapes. For information about Hocking Hills State Park or to obtain tickets for the Comfort Cruise, visit their website www.ExploreHockingHills.com or call 1-800-Hocking (800-462-5464).