See Some Of This Midwest State's Most Iconic Landmarks On This Quick, Scenic Road Trip

For those hoping to see the most beautiful nature Ohio offers, there's no better route than through Hocking Hills. The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway takes travelers through Hocking Hills State Park and Hocking State Forest. Those driving to budget-friendly Cincinnati, the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, or as part of a longer road trip, will be privy to spectacular nature views. They will witness the best waterfalls, forests, cliffs, caves, hollows, and wildlife that make Hocking Hills famous without taking too long of a detour. Though with so much to see, this destination is well worth the trip on its own!

Travelers wishing to go through Hocking Hills should turn off U.S. Route 33 onto Rt. 374 (N39º 34.598' W082º 31.348), following signs for America's Byways. Without ever leaving the road, you will see some of the most incredible lush forest views in the Midwest outside your window. If you're looking to stretch your legs, however, this route offers many places to stop and enjoy fantastic hiking at spots like Conkle's Hollow, where you can walk through the deep, shady gorge or traverse the high cliff ledges and admire the forest from above.

Hike to caves, cliffs, and waterfalls

One of the first stops in Hocking Hills is a huge rock formation that resembles a stone bridge stretching more than 100 feet across. It's only about 1 mile from the Rockbridge State Nature Preserve parking lot, so if you're brave enough to walk across the 50-foot tall arch, this spot is a must. For those up for more of a hiking challenge, Cantwell Cliffs will not disappoint. This journey into the woods is nearly 1 mile, but it can be tricky, featuring some unexpectedly steep areas and steps that require some climbing. For experienced hikers, however, the cliff views are worth the extra effort, and because it's harder than most of the other trails, you're more likely to have parts of the hike to yourself.

The Old Man's Cave trail is 6 miles, but it will take you to some of the area's most breathtaking spots. One of these is Ash Cave, a 700-foot recess cave named for the ash left behind by those who lived in the cave centuries ago. In the lower gorge is the jaw-dropping Cedar Falls, where the water from multiple creeks rushes down the steep rock walls.

The wildlife of Hocking Hills

While the landscape is certainly the draw for most visitors to Hocking Hills, if you keep a lookout while hiking the trails, you may be lucky enough to spot some of its inhabitants. You're likely to see white-tailed deer, coyotes, and wild turkeys, but if you go quietly through the woods or set up camp for the night, there's a chance that you might glimpse barn owls, bobcats, and the black bears that make their home amongst Ohio's most beautiful landmarks.

Another stop nature lovers won't want to miss on their road trip is the Butterfly Ridge Conservation Center, which is working to build a habitat ideal for the many winged beauties of this region. In the warm weather, visitors can walk along a 1-mile hiking trail optimized for butterflies, giving you the best shot of seeing many different types. When it is open, the center offers daily guided tours, so you have the opportunity to learn all about the butterflies living in Hocking Hills.