Hocking Hills in Ohio features an extreme topography of cliffs, gorges, and waterfalls that paint a spectacular backdrop for hikes around the region. The greater Hocking Hills area is speckled with forests, parks and nature preserves, most of which are under state ownership. The vacation rentals nearby Hocking Hills offer plenty of options for setting up base camp for you and your family explore the diversity of terrain Hocking Hills has to offer. Here are some of the top family-friendly trails to begin the adventure.
1. Ash Cave
Located in the southern portion of Hocking Hills State Park, Ashe Cave is the largest, most impressive recess cave not just within the park, but in the entire state. Kids will be impressed by the massive beech trees that line the narrow gorge to the cave, and they will marvel at the wildflowers that coat the valley floor during all the seasons. The gorge to the cave is only about one-fourth of a mile, giving way to a massive, horseshoe-shaped cave about 700 feet from end to end. Visitors will also find a beautiful little creek cascading from the rim of the cave into a plunge pool below if you’re looking for an unexpected surprise.
2. Cedar Falls
Known as the greatest waterfall in the area in terms of volume, Cedar Falls tumbles through one of the most austere regions of Hocking Hills State Park. If your kids appreciate wild, unbridled nature, take them on a trek through the remote chasm toward the falls. The steep rock walls and their accompanying grottos are stunning in their pristine state. The Democracy Steps, a serpentine walkway that leads to Cedar Falls, is a meticulously planned staircase created to provide a pleasant and relaxing descent to the falls. It’ll inspire budding architects and artists alike. While at the site, families may also enjoy a snack or lunch break in the picnic area above the falls.
3. Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve
Considered one of the deepest gorges in the state of Ohio, Conkles Hollow with the wilderness that is both profuse and verdant. Hikers will find a valley floor covered with ferns and wildflowers, while a plethora of trees towers overhead. The trail leading through the area is rather narrow, not the best choice for very young hikers, but the older set should have little trouble navigating the path.
4. Cantwell Cliffs
One of the most picturesque destinations the area, Cantwell Cliffs is located in the northern reaches of Hocking Hills State Park. Deep valleys, steep cliffs, and rock shelters line the winding trails, and hikers can choose to follow paths along the valley floor or the rim. Once you and your kids reach Lookout Point on the East Rim Trail, you’ll find a commanding view of the cliff and rock shelter.
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5. Rock House
Rock House is considered one of the only “true caves” inside the Hocking Hills State Park. Situated about halfway up a 150-foot cliff, Rock House is a tunnel-like corridor in the Blackhand sandstone. Even if you aren’t the greatest architecture buff, the arched “windows” and giant sandstone columns hewed out of the cliff are impressive. It’s easy to imagine the rock “house” used as a shelter in the past, and your kids can enjoy exploring the far-reaching crevices of the cave.
6. Old Man’s Cave Trail
Old Man’s Cave is a 6-mile course that connects three of the parks areas. If you want to see everything from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave to Cedar Falls, round up the gang to hike this popular trail. This trail is also a part of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail, the North County Scenic Trail, and America’s Discovery Trail, so by hiking the Old Man’s Cave Trail, you’ll also get to walk along some of the most iconic hiking paths in all of America.
7. Whispering Cave Trail
Whispering Cave is one of the newer trails within the park system. It’s only about 1.5 miles long and connects the cabin areas within the park to the Old Man’s Cave Gorge Trail. This hike is one of the more convenient paths you can take if staying in the lodge or cabins at the park. The scenic overlook and the huge recess cave are inspiring, but adventurers may find the first-eve swinging bridge in the park more intriguing.
8. Buckeye Trail
The Buckeye Trail is in no way likable in a day, or a week, for that matter. This long-distance trail is about 1,444 miles long, and loops around Ohio. It passes through scenic nature destinations such as the Hocking Hills region but also winds through many small towns in the state. As such, the trail provides opportunities for history lessons about the area, as well as the opportunity for wildlife excursions. Choose different sections of the Buckeye Trail for your hike, switching up the experience between a historic tour one day, a picnic in a valley, or a trek through the wooded forest on another.
9. North Country Trail
The North Country Trail, which coincides with the Buckeye Trail, isn’t bound by state lines. The 4,600-mile trail winds from eastern New York to central North Dakota, spanning seven states. It’s the longest of the eleven National Scenic Trails, and hiking even a portion of the trail should give you a sense of accomplishment. After all, when else will you and your family get to hike a trail that connects more than 160 public land units, including parks, forests, wildlife refuges and historic sites?
10. American Discovery Trail
The American Discovery Trail is the longest of trails on the list, one that connects the California Coast to the Atlantic Ocean. The Ohio part of the trail is about 524 miles long. The sheer magnitude of this trail is enough to awe any hiker, no matter how old or young. Take some time to explore the different national trails or parks along the American Discovery Trail, or see what makes the Hocking Hills area of the trail unique.
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