Outdoor Enthusiasts Will Love The Variety Of Hikes At This US State Park

If you're a nature lover searching for epic hiking in a beautiful natural setting, consider adding Hocking Hills State Park to your bucket list. Located in Southeastern Ohio, it can be reached from the state capital, Columbus, in just under an hour. It's an accessible option if you're looking for a great day trip, but to experience all the park offers, consider staying for a long weekend.

Hocking Hills State Park is often listed among the most spectacular state parks in the United States, and in the past few years, its popularity has skyrocketed, attracting more than 3 million visitors a year. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to explore the unique landscape which formed over 100,000 years ago. American Indian tribes were the first to appreciate the area's natural beauty. They settled there throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. By the 1900s, the iconic rock formations had begun to attract tourists, and Hocking Hills State Park was officially established in 1924.

On a trip to Hocking Hills State Park, you can explore seven different hiking areas with features like caves, waterfalls, cliffs, forests, and overhangs. With more than 10,000 acres of preservation and miles upon miles of hiking trails, there's always something new to experience. Whether you're looking for a leisurely stroll through breathtaking scenery or a heart-pumping hike, the endless options make this US state park the perfect place to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. 

Caves, cliffs, waterfalls, and woodland

The landscape of Hocking Hills State Park features rugged rocks formed by millions of years of erosion, resulting in breathtaking scenery. The moist microclimate created by melting glaciers allowed a variety of northern plants to thrive, creating lush forests of hemlocks, ferns, and other species that don't grow elsewhere in Ohio.

Old Man's Cave is perhaps the most famous of the hikes within the park. The 1.5-mile loop trail takes you through a rugged gorge to an incredible recess cave. In the late 1700s, a man named Richard Rowe made his home within the cave and was eventually buried there. The hike is moderately strenuous and involves some steep inclines along the way. You can complete the loop trail in about an hour.

Ash Cave is another popular route to wander through a magnificent hemlock grove to a large overhang. The one-way hike is about a half-mile of flat terrain, making it one of the best wheelchair-accessible trails in Hocking Hills. A trickling waterfall pours off the cliff above the recess cave. This easy hike takes about 40 minutes each way. From there, you can choose to return along the easy path or venture along the rim trail leading to Cedar Falls, which can also be accessed from a separate parking area and a half-mile trail. The beautiful waterfalls plummet off of the sandstone cliffs into a pristine pool. Other hikes include Whispering Cave, Conkle's Hollow, Cantwell Cliffs, and Rock House.

Year-round recreation and unique accommodations

Hocking Hills is an incredible destination, regardless of the season. During the spring and summer, the forests come alive with colorful displays of wildflowers, and the autumn months offer some of the best opportunities to see the fall colors in Ohio. During the winter, the park's many waterfalls freeze over, appearing as gorgeous natural ice sculptures.

The park remains open for hiking throughout the year, seven days a week, including holidays. Opening hours are from dawn until dusk. During the summer, you can enjoy additional outdoor recreation opportunities like kayaking and canoeing on the Hocking River. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also ride horseback, rock climb, and rappel during your trip.

Camping is another popular pastime in the warmer months. Hocking Hills Campground offers primitive riverfront sites where you can sleep peacefully under the stars and electric RV sites where you can glamp in style. Make sure to book your campsite well in advance, as sites fill up fast. As the weather grows cooler, opt for private cabin rental where you can get cozy after a day of hiking and adventure. Options range from luxurious multi-bedroom cabins with private hot tubs to unique tree houses and yurts. Hocking Hills Lodge and Conference Center offers comfortable rooms steps away from some of the best hiking in the park. Prices start at around $169 per night.