Hocking Hills is about 50 miles southeast of Columbus, off the Interstate, in a gorge-ous part of the state. The caves basically are recesses with overhangs, amazingly called recess caves, not deep, labyrinthine, underground caves. They’re still cool, though, Old Man Cave in particular. That one’s special because an Old Man actually lived there, hence the name. There’s a plaque in his honor and everything. Old Man Cave is a short hike from the Visitor Center, down along the side of the gorge.
From that point, there are a few trail options; I chose the loop around Lower Falls and back to the Visitor Center. The trail winds along the gorge passing little caves with drips that can’t really be called waterfalls, much as I’d like to. While Lower Falls itself is pretty, the best part is the aquamarine water (that looks doubly redundant even though it isn’t) in the pool at the falls’ base.
For me, the hike back up was the hardest part. The trail included a rickety staircase, the kind where you can see in between each step with a steep drop-off into the gorge just a couple of feet away. What can I say, I’m a really big baby. Fortunately, a nice woman reassured me on the “hike” and let me borrow her walking stick, that was greatly appreciated. Her dog didn't like the staircase either, just for the record.
After the hike around Old Man Cave, I visited the most famous and popular waterfall in the park: Cedar Falls.
The hike down was easy; the path winds along the gorge, shaded by trees, following the stream. The trail is a loop and the way back wasn’t quite so easy: it looked like a bridge had collapsed or washed out or something so the stream had to be forded. Luckily it was shallow though I think technically visitors aren’t supposed to go in the water at all. Oh, well. Also, one area included a very narrow but thankfully short passageway between massive rocks. Not exactly a claustrophobic’s dream but the rest of the trail was easy.
Hocking Hills more than kind of reminds me of the Woodruff Nature Center in New York, a place I wrote a little about once. Although my trips to both places were on hot days, the parks were shady and filled with running water, and felt relatively cool. Both places also have waterfalls and unusual caves and feel almost hidden from the rest of the world.
Ohio was one of the few states I passed through twice on my road trip; Hocking Hills was definitely the highlight of the state so totally worth a visit.
Next up: Cincinnati to Louisville
*This is not an actual book. As far as I know.