For some reason my boys have decided they are no longer interested in hiking, so I billed our recent trip to Hocking Hills as scenic walking.
And it wasn’t far from the truth. Much of Hocking Hills State Park and its breathtaking scenery can be viewed by merely strolling along wide, smooth paths. It’s easy to forget you’re still in Ohio as you walk alongside dramatic cliffs and the giant rocks that have tumbled off of them. Two of the trails — Ash Cave Gorge and Conkle’s Hollow — are handicapped accessible.
The paved paths make the park a draw for tourists of all ages. On the day we visited, we saw moms pushing infants in strollers and grandparents strolling hand-in-hand with grandchildren. Of the park’s nine trails, only two are rated difficult. The deep gorges and towering trees make the trails invitingly cool even on the hottest days.
At Ash Cave, the boys scampered over rocks and looked for fish and bugs in the pools of water that formed under the waterfall. The falls weren’t much more than a steady drip during our visit due to a lack of rain.
Although they had seen it before, the kids were still awed by Old Man’s Cave, the most popular hiking destination in the park. They liked hearing the story of Richard Rowe, a recluse who lived in the cave in the early 1800s. We had fun imagining what it would be like living among the rocky recesses of the cave.
They enjoyed answering the trivia questions at a display in the visitor center, which also features bathrooms with flush toilets, a gift shop and snack bar.
The various trails and attractions in the park are so close together, it’s possible to do several hikes in one day.
If you start early or stay late, you also can squeeze in some of the area’s other unique attractions.
The boys wanted to try their luck gem mining at the Hocking Hills KOA campground. We paid $33 for a bucket filled with sand and gems and headed over to the tank-fed sluice. They scooped mounds of the sand into special filters, dunked them in the flowing water and excitedly pulled out fool’s gold and colorful gems. They spent about 40 minutes sifting through sand and dirt and were delighted with their haul, which included two arrowheads.
We also made a quick stop at the Pencil Sharpener Museum on the grounds of the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. The free museum displays more than 3,400 pencil sharpeners shaped like food, super heroes, vehicles, animals and much more.
Other possible stops would be the factory tour at Columbus Washboard Co., in Logan or Valley Zipline in Lancaster. The new zip line attraction features some of the longest runs in the Hocking Hills area and a mini-course for children 5 and older.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the scenic region, which is less than 90 minutes from Downtown Columbus.