Note: The photographer is never in the photos. We will improve on this in future posts.
Visited October 3rd, 2016.
Our first destination as full time RV’ing Newbies was to the very cool Hocking State Forest of south eastern, Ohio. The 240 mile drive from our home town in Michigan to the Hocking Hills State Park is flat as flat can be. Great for fuel economy, but pretty darn boring. When you get within about 30 miles of the Hocking Hills region, the beautiful, rolling foothills of the Appalachian mountain chain begin.
There are some fairly steep hills on the back roads to the Hocking Hills State Park. This would be the first, but not the last time I would wonder, if maybe I should have bought a diesel. I’ll update that later when we hit some mountains out west.
One of the best things our Government ever did for the public was to set aside park lands for everyone to enjoy the beauty of our country. We love visiting State and National Forest lands. The parks are typically located in incredible geological areas that offer opportunities to experience nature through biking, hiking, canoeing, fishing or what ever the outdoor activity of choice may be. If a boondocking location is not feasible, the campground facilities are usually way more than we need and are a great value for those on a budget like us. The Hocking Hills State Park and the Wayne National Forest are great examples.
The Hocking Hills region is very popular as it lies less than an hour away from Columbus. You will need to plan ahead for summer camping as well as weekends in the fall. I would imagine the weekend crowds are way more than I would ever want to see. I expect the crowds die out when the last of the autumn leaves have fallen. The park was fairly empty on Monday, but gradually began to fill up as the week went on. We had to leave on Friday as the mobs were going to be arriving and the campground was sold out for the weekend.
One of the great things about the Hocking Hills State Park campground is there are plenty of great hiking trails to rock shelters, caves, water falls and bluffs that have feeder trails right from the campground.
Our first hike was to Cedar Falls. The area was experiencing a drought, so Cedar Falls was more of a drip than a falls. Despite the lack of water flow, the hike and the views are still spectacular.
There are a few ways to reach the falls, but we absolutely don’t recommend the one where you get in a car and drive to the parking lot and hike 200 feet. Most of the hikes to the different areas have a ridge trail and a gorge trail. We hiked along the ridge on the way out to the falls and came back through the gorge. The ridge trail meanders through a nice pine forest before crossing a suspension bridge and dropping down into the gorge.
I’m always amazed how a couple hundred feet and a wetter environment can completely change the experience. I prefer to hike ridges. I love the dry air and open feel. Walking inside the gorge, along the river bend, always feels dark, damp and closed in. Cool to see, but put me on a ridge any day.
Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs
The next day we decided to hike to the Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs. These hikes are within the Hocking State Forest, but are about an 8 mile drive from the campground. Well worth the drive, but go early when everyone else is figuring out how to wake up.
We were both feeling today’s hike. After months of downsizing and preparing, we let our fitness slip. The hiking has been a little more difficult than I felt it should have been.
The Rock House is a fairly open, large cave, but you may need a flashlight in the morning hours as there are areas that are difficult to see the footing. The flashlight might also help you be a little less startled when the pigeons jump out.
I’m glad we went early in the morning, we had to whole place to ourselves.
Cantwell Cliffs is another area with cliffs, bluffs and a gorge. The trails through the area are laid out such that you descend into the gorge from various spots, allowing for an excellent work out as you descend and ascend the Cantwell Cliffs multiple times.
The 3rd day in the park we decided to go long. Taking off from the campground, we hiked back out to Cedar Falls, then took the Grandma Gatewood Trail to Ash Cave. This is a beautiful hike, that took us over the peak of a hill where we ran into an old fire tower. At the top, you are treated with a 360 deg view of the region. As a bonus, our cell service worked at the top, so I took care of a little business.
Ash Cave was my favorite destination in the park. This cave is massive. It is a great place to relax and take in the incredible natural structures before starting the long journey back to home base.
Old Man’s Cave
Our last morning in the park, we hiked down to the Old Man’s cave area. This is a very short, 400 yard, hike that was directly behind our campsite. An incredible area to visit first thing in the morning before the crowds. A perfect way to end a great stay in the Hocking Hills State Park.