Are you interested in some of the most amazing natural beauty in the US? Do you think you have to go to someplace like Colorado or Utah to see it? OK, Colorado and Utah are pretty cool… but Ohio’s Hocking Hills is pretty cool too! We’ve been to Hocking Hills a couple of times and keep going back… it really is that great. Though most times of the year are great for a Hocking Hills trip, the fall is spectacular… great weather for hiking, beautiful fall leaves, and easy access makes it a great quick trip for families during the school year!
Hocking Hills is located about an hour south of Columbus in southern Ohio. From Northern Ohio, we follow I-71 south for a couple hours until it junctions SR-33 south. SR-33 south leads to the heart of Hocking Hills. The drive from our house in Amherst, OH, is about 3 hours.
“Hocking Hills” is often used to reference a fairly large area that includes a few small towns and the Hocking Hills State Park. When arranging lodging it’s really important to understand the location, because some of the lodging that’s advertised in the Hocking Hills area can be as far as 30 miles away from the state park and the most impressive trails and natural beauty.
In the last 2 years we’ve been to Hocking Hills 2 times. Both times we stayed in cottages. There are some hotels, but the majority of the lodging is cottages and camping. It is very easy to find cottage rentals online… a great place to start is the lodging section of HockingHills.com.
On our first trip we stayed at Cabins in Hocking’s “Cottage At The Falls”. It is located in a beautiful secluded area about 8 miles from most of the state parks and about 10 miles from Logan, the nearest town to the state parks. The cabin was pretty basic and a little worn, but worked fine for us. (We stayed there about 1.5 years ago, so it may have been updated since then.)
When planning our second visit to Hocking Hills, we wanted to be closer to the state parks and Logan and stayed at Old Man’s Cave Chalets. Old Man’s Cave Chalets is in a beautiful area just a few minutes from Old Man’s Cave and about 10 minutes from Logan. The separate chalets include a bedroom, loft with a bed, living room, kitchenette, and hot tub on the back deck. There are also a larger buildings for larger groups available. Old Man’s Cave Chalets also has a playground on the property. We had a great experience at Old Man’s Cave Chalets!
There is a ton to do in the Hocking Hills area… there are opportunities to zip line, ride ATVs, horseback ride, hunt, and canoe. We love to hike and spent most of our time on the trails. There are 6 parks in the Hocking Hills state park system: Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Conkle’s Hallow, Rock House, and Cantwell Cliffs. All are beautiful and offer different types of experiences.
Old Man’s Cave is perhaps the most well-known and includes lots of beautiful views both from the cliff above and from down in the valley and cave. There are multiple trails through and around Old Man’s Cave. There is also a trail that connects to Ash Cave and Cedar Falls.
Ash Cave is a natural wonder… a huge cave in a cliff and the ground is all ash. In wet times of the year there’s a waterfall that Daniel loves to play in. There are trails through the cave and up to the ledge overlooking the cave. The trails to Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls connect on the trail overlooking the cave. The trail to and through Ash Cave is also wheelchair accessible.
Cedar Falls is one of Todd’s favorite photography spots. There’s a main fall where everyone hangs out, but just around the corner is a little fall that’s tucked away… it’s so beautiful and reminds me of a scene from a fairy book forest.
The trail around Conkle’s Hallow overlooks a huge gorge. We found it especially beautiful in the fall because the trail follows a ridge and we could look out across the ridge at seas of colorful leaves.
The Rock House is really unique and interesting. The trail leads down to a valley where the “Rock House” is located… a natural house of rocks. There’s a trail through the valley and then back up to the ridge.
We didn’t visit Cantwell Cliffs…
A few general comments about the trails. Daniel was as young as 6 on the trails and they were all appropriate for him. There is a lot of up and down on some of the trails, so they may be challenging for some hikers. On the weekends the trails were very crowded in the afternoon. There weren’t many people in the early-mid morning.
The nearest town to the Hocking Hills state parks is Logan, where you can find some restaurants, fast food places (including Subway), local businesses, and a Wallmart. It takes 10 – 15 minutes to get to Logan from the Old Man’s Cave area.
There aren’t a lot of dining choices, but what’s available is good… Pizza Crossing has good pizza and salads. Though there is a dining room, we carried out. Millstone BBQ has really good BBQ and a great atmosphere. Both times we went to Millstone BBQ we had to wait, but it was worth it.
One of Daniel’s favorite restaurants anywhere in the world is M & M’s Diner… it is an experience. The first time we walked in we weren’t sure what to think! There are decorations all over the place in different themes… OSU Buckeyes, coffee mugs with different sayings, family pictures, etc. As soon as we sat down we knew we were on the right track. M & M’s Diner has an awesome vibe and Michelle, the owner, is super friendly and makes everyone feel at home. There’s even a bin of toys for kids to play with.
Michelle and the staff make it clear that M & M’s Diner isn’t a fast food joint and all of the food is made from scratch and with love. M & M’s Diner has all the old time favorites… my grandmother would have loved it… comfort food like slow cooked roast beef sandwiches and peach pie. We’ve had various menu items including omlettes, open faced roast beef, and hot dogs, and loved all of them. M & M’s Diner is an absolute must do during a trip to Hocking Hills!
How about moonshine? Neither Todd or I regularly drink whiskey or moonshine, but on our second trip to Hocking Hills we visited Hocking Hills Moonshine for a publication Todd was taking some pictures for. We had no idea what to expect and were super impressed with the owners, their history, the why behind what they’re doing, and their passion. If you are interested in picking up some moonshine or are interested in the history of moonshine and small distilleries in Ohio, Hocking Hills Moonshine in Logan is awesome!
One last item to note about the Hocking Hills area… there is no cell coverage in the state park area. This is a pretty large area and includes a lot of area outside of the actual parks and trails. The cell coverage in Logan is fine. Some of the cottages offer internet, but some don’t.
We love Hocking Hills and will be back many times!