With gorgeous waterfalls, astonishing gorges, and lush vegetation, the Hocking Hills region of Ohio is one of the most scenic parts of the state. Centered around Hocking Hills State Park, this area attracts visitors from all over the Midwest and beyond. Hocking Hills State Park’s unusual non-contiguous shape means that there are plenty of areas with vacation rentals right next to the park. Here are some of the best places to look.

1. Logan

inside the cave
Source: Flickr / Matt Chan

Known for the nearby gorges and caverns, Logan is one of the major jumpings off points for most Hocking Hills vacations. There is a visitor center with helpful staff available seven days a week to assist in vacation planning, making it a great stop if you’re unfamiliar with the region. The town itself has an old-fashioned feel, with numerous historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are plenty of local restaurants to choose from as well, ranging from pizza joints to Mexican cafes.

2. Laurelville

old wood cottage

This small town has a distinctly rural feel, so it’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for a slower, more relaxed vacation. In addition to Hocking Hills State Park, it’s also surrounded by Hocking State Forest, so there are plenty of small, secluded cabins where you can start your hike right from the backyard of your vacation rental. Closer to town, expect to find a mix of newer ranch-style homes and older bungalows and brick houses that still have large yards and a sense of privacy.

3. Carbondale

green trees

Another great place to find a quiet, rustic vacation rental is the unincorporated community of Carbondale. Although it began as a coal mining town, it quickly turned into a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts after the mines closed down. It is bordered on all sides by the Zaleski State Forest, which connects with Hocking Hills State Park. Don’t expect to do much shopping in Carbondale, but it’s a great place to relax and watch for wildlife from the deck of your vacation rental.

4. New Plymouth

house with fence

If you enjoy the rustic, small-town feel but like a place that’s a little more equipped for visitors, consider booking a vacation rental in New Plymouth. Houses in this community tend to have large, spacious yards and thick woods, so you still feel like you’re in the middle of the wilderness. However, there are several restaurants, outdoor outfitters and other shops in town.

5. Creola

concrete bridge
Source: Flickr / Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Once a rustic farming community, Creola has become a bit of an artist’ colony without losing its rural charm. It’s a fairly spread-out, unincorporated community, so you may have to search a bit to find the various galleries nestled in the trees, but you may wind up finding a hidden gem. It’s only a short drive from McArthur and New Plymouth, so there’s easy access to even more dining and shopping nearby.

6. Haydenville

log cabin in the woods

This quirky little town began its life as a company town for the local mine. Unlike most small, semi-rural towns in the area, Haydenville was planned and built like a larger city. There are brick rowhouses that wouldn’t look out of place in Cincinnati or New York, although there are also both new and old cabins with larger yards and more privacy built up around the edges of the town. This town is a must-visit for history buffs since an astonishing 121 of its buildings and sites are on the National Register of Historic Places and the surrounding area is full of hidden ruins.

7. Athens

community junction
Source: Flickr / Ron Bailey

For a more bustling, big-city vacation, head down to Athens, which is located about 45 minutes away from the state park. This historic city is centered around Ohio University, which has helped it develop thriving art, music and culture scene. There are countless restaurants, including many owned by members of Athens’ large international community, and frequent public festivals.

8. Murray City

home inside the forest

Nestled in the heart of Hocking Hills State Park lies the small town of Murray City. Home to about 450 residents, this community is characterized by neat, old-fashioned homes and a relaxed atmosphere. Its convenient location in the middle of the park makes it a great option if you’re planning to focus on hiking, biking or climbing during your trip. Look for a vacation rental on the outskirts of town for a more remote feel, or stay closer in to soak up the small town charm.

9. Rockbridge

nature preserve
Source: Flickr / jinjian liang

Named for a stunning natural sandstone bridge that stretches across a tributary of the Hocking River near town, this community provides convenient access to several parks in the area, including Clear Creek Metro Park and Rockbridge State Nature Preserve. The town itself is small, with only about 2,500 residents, but it has plenty of businesses that cater to the many visitors who pass through the area.

10. Nelsonville

cyclists on the road

With unusual brick sidewalks and beautifully preserved historic buildings, Nelsonville exudes old-fashioned charm. Conveniently located off of US Highway 33 and surrounded by Hocking Hills State Park, this small town has become a bit of a tourist destination in its own right. The old brick buildings now house galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. One major attraction is the Hockocking Adena Bikeway, a 21-mile scenic trail that runs between Nelsonville and Athens.

11. Shawnee

green forest

Shawnee is another small, semi-rural town with a unique, rustic character. It is built into a steep, hilly area, which creates some amazing views. Despite its small size, it is home to a restaurant and a general store, as well as a public library where you can learn more about the area. Shawnee is surrounded on all sides by the state park, so there’s plenty of room to hike and explore.