4 Reasons - Hocking Hills State Park
By Matt Bayman
LOGAN - Each fall, people from all 50 states and many foreign countries visit Hocking Hills State Park to see its world-renowned foliage.
During the peak of this season, campgrounds, cabins and the state park lodge fill to capacity and there's heavier-than-usual traffic on area roads. But since the fall beauty is so spectacular, most people don't seem to mind the congestion.
And while fall certainly is a great time to visit Hocking Hills, it should not be the end-all-time for travelers to visit, especially for those of us living less than two hours away!
One of the best times to visit Hocking Hills is in the winter.
For starters, during the colder months, hikers pretty much have the trails to themselves (especially on the weekdays). This makes the scenery on any given hike that much more special. A mix of frozen waterfalls, giant icicles, blankets of snow and glistening rock formations stick out like sculptures in the barren forests. Throw in peace and quiet and the experience is priceless.
Highlights of a winter trip should include hikes through the gorges of Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls and Cantwell Cliffs.
At Cedar Falls, turquoise-colored streams flow next to evergreen trees. The water turns this color because of the cold weather and is fleeting.
At Old Man's Cave, condensation on the edges and walls of the gorge freeze in place, creating cascades of ice formations. (Pictured top right)
Cantwell Cliffs is probably the best kept secret in the region and is often overlooked by visitors, especially in winter. The same ice that makes Old Man's Cave so picturesque in colder months works its same magic on the deep cliffs of Cantwell.
Another bonus to visiting Hocking Hills in the winter is the cost of cabin rentals. Fallen Leaf Cabins, for instance, goes for $99 per night in the winter - down from $160 per night in the summer and fall. These cabins come with everything needed to stay warm, too, including outdoor hot tubs, fireplaces and big, warm beds to bundle up in at night, plus full kitchens and multiple bedrooms.
From the top - Old Man's Cave in the winter. A view from the Conkle's Hollow Rim Trail in the fall. The view from inside of Rock House in the summer. R Adventure Park's "World's Largest Family Rope Course." (Photos by Matt Bayman)
Any fall visit to Hocking Hills should be centered around a 2.5 mile hike of the Conkle's Hollow Rim Trail (pictured second from the top). Conkle's Hollow is one of - if not the - deepest gorges in Ohio and the views of distant patches of orange, yellow and purple treetops in the fall (mixed in with glowing green and blue pine trees) is second to none.
SPRING & SUMMER
Camping is popular throughout the late spring and fall in Hocking Hills. Visitors can choose to stay at Hocking Hills State Park Campground (which has its own pool - perfect in the summer) or one of the privately owned campgrounds located in the region, including the KOA.
While the Hocking Hills KOA (www.hockinghillskoa.com) is a little more expensive than the state park campground (about $40 per night), it is all-inclusive. It has its own pizza shop (with delivery to your campsite), a swimming pool that will stay open later in the season if weather permits, a great playground, warm and clean showers and restrooms and very nice campsites.
The KOA is also close to all of the action, including some of the better places to eat, which includes the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge.
With giant windows that overlook the forest - and very reasonable prices - the lodge dining room is an attraction unto itself. Those staying at the lodge can also take advantage of a new pool area, complete with slides and views of nature.
Of course, spring and summer are great times to visit - and camp at - Hocking Hills.
The good thing about visiting in late spring and summer is the added entertainment that you won't be able to enjoy in the winter and late fall.
For instance, a great family attraction is R Adventure Park (www.radventurepark.com), which boasts the "World's Largest Family Rope Course," as well as paintball games, ATV rentals and ziplining. The course and ziplines are closed in the winter, so this adds to the benefits of a spring/summer visit.
To plan a visit to Hocking Hills, the best website that contains everything you need to know is www.hockinghills.com.
Whether you enjoy snow and ice, wildflowers, lush greenery or the rainbow of colors in the fall, the truth is, Hocking Hills is a great place to visit any time of year.