By Lavanya Sunkara
Waterfalls cascade from sandstone walls of recessed caves and cliffs, towering hemlock and spruce trees reach for the skies, and miles of hiking trails offer stunning vistas in the wilderness of Hocking Hills.
Spring brings spectacular wildflowers, while autumn puts on a golden-auburn show. Located 50 miles from Columbus, the area is popular among city-dwellers and outdoor adventures. Try ziplining and rappelling, sipping moonshine, playing music on a washboard, or chilling by a fire at the lodge. Here are eight great reasons to visit the outdoor gem of Southeastern Ohio.
- Hike to the Waterfalls
The waterfalls in Hocking Hills look like they’re straight out of a desktop wallpaper or calendar. Serene streams spill into aqua-green pools surrounded by sandstone cliffs adorned with trees. In Hocking Hills State Park, the North Country, Buckeye, and American Discovery Trails join to form a six mile pathway that connects geological wonders: Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave. Old Man’s Cave, named after Richard Rowe — a hermit who dwelled with his dogs in the large cave — features upper and lower falls. Down the gorge, the trail opens up to Cedar Falls, a lush wilderness of hemlock trees, which were once mistaken for cedars. At Ash Cave, admire the state’s largest recess cave and its majestic 90-foot waterfall.
2. Hocking Hills Canopy Tours
Have you ever dreamed about being Superman/girl? At Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, one of the first ziplining tours in the Midwest, get your thrills flying through the air on the Superzip. Choose from a variety of different adventures for the entire family, including Original Canopy, Kids Zip Line, and Moonshine (night) tours. Adventurers can try the X-Tour, where you cruise above the rolling hills, into a hidden recessed cave, and across the scenic Hocking River.
3. High Rock Adventures
Get your adrenaline pumping as you descend a 75-foot cliff surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Join High Rock Adventures, where experienced guides will calm your nerves and make your dreams come true. Choose from rappelling off flat walls, canyons, overhangs or rock cracks 35 to 90+ feet high. On their ecotours, squeeze between cliffs and admire mammoth rock formations while learning about the flora and fauna. Try the night flight rappel, where your heightened senses provide an even more thrilling experience!
4. Washboard Factory
Before laundromats and washing machines, the washboard was a staple in every household in America. It still holds a special place in the hearts of many, which is why the only remaining washboard company in America is producing at least 300 boards a day. The original metal, and the new glass, washboards are handmade, crafted from local materials, and shipped worldwide at the Columbus Washboard Company. Take a tour of the facility, located in Logan in Hocking County, learn the history, play the board as an instrument, and take a piece of the history with you. The minis are perfect for traveling.
5. John Glenn Astronomy
The renowned astronomer and Senator from Ohio, John Glenn, is honored at the forthcoming John Glenn Astronomy Center, set to open in Spring 2018. Located in the secluded hills with no light pollution, the center’s observatory opens up to an ocean of stars above. Children and adults alike can admire the night sky and learn about constellations from the comfort of four walls with a retractable roof. The center also includes a 80-foot solar plaza encircled by a wall with notches that offer framed views of the sun during all four equinoxes.
6. Drink Moonshine
At the family-owned Hocking Hills Moonshine Distillery, get a taste of smooth corn shine, just like the kind imbibed during Prohibition. Beginners can try the 90 proof, or a blackberry, peach tea, or raspberry flavored shine. If you’re feeling a bit more daring, sip the Buckeye (120 proof) or Buckeye Thunder (151 proof), and chase it down with some pickle juice, and you won’t soon forget your experience. Don’t leave without taking an Instagram-worthy shot in front of the several original copper pot stills and other museum pieces on display.
7. Appalachian Listening Room
Located behind a piano repair shop in downtown Logan awaits the Appalachian Listening Room, where locals and visitors gather to enjoy live music from resident and traveling musicians. Guitars hang from the walls, coffee and cookies are placed in the front, and the cozy room provides comfy couches and chairs for easy listening. Catch acts performed by talented Blues, Country, and Jazz artists in this truly one-of-a-kind musical space.
8. Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls
iJust a short distance from the iconic falls is the charming Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, which has been hosting visitors for decades. After a day outdoors, there’s no better place to relax than by the fireplace in your own cottage. The inn offers various accommodations from cottages to the modern yurts (with fireplace and bathrooms) with contemporary furnishings sprinkled with a touch of rustic charm. The onsite restaurant has a log cabin feel with an open kitchen and offers seasonally-inspired fine dining, with unique dishes such as Spiced Socca, Chicken Paprikash, and Pistachio Crusted Scallops. After a weekend of exploring Hocking Hills, take advantage of the onsite spa for a massage. You deserve it!
Whether you like to relax by the fireplace drinking moonshine or get your thrills outdoors, you’re sure to make wonderful memories, just like the author ziplining in the pic above!
Lavanya Sunkara is a writer based in New York. Her love of adventure has taken her all over the world from Australia to Zanzibar. As a journalist, she has contributed to outlets such as New York Times, NBC, and Forbes among others. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking with her dogs and planning her next getaway. Follow her on Instagram and read her articles at nature-traveler.com.