There’s no doubt that Old Man’s Cave and the areas that make up Hocking Hills State Park are beautiful and worth the visit. However, if you’ve ever visited the parks on a weekend you know how crowded it can be. Many hiking opportunities exist in the Hocking Hills that will get you away from the crowds; I thought I would cover a few of them here.
First, did you know the entire Hocking State Forest is opened to hiking? During daylight hours visitors are free to walk forestlands, but be wary of the many cliffs throughout the area. Maps and info can be found here: http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/hocking
Within the state forest, off of Big Pine Road and a couple of miles past Conkle’s Hollow, you’ll find the State Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area. Here you’ll find many trails leading to high cliffs and waterfalls. If you’re lucky you’ll catch some climbers in action. The Buckeye Trail also cuts through this area as well. One of our favorite hikes is to scramble up Big Spring Hollow (no ropes required) to the top of a 150′ waterfall and then follow the Buckeye Trail along the cliff tops back down to the parking area. Along the way you’ll pass a balanced rock formation, which is pictured here.
Another crowd free hike in this area takes off from the rock climbing and rappelling parking lot. Instead of crossing Big Pine Road into the rock climbing area, head out the back of the parking lot into a valley, which is named Long Hollow. You can either follow the horse trail or walk the streambed if it’s dry. We prefer to walk the streambed. In about ¾ of a mile this hollow terminates in a box canyon at the base of 150′ cliffs and a wet weather waterfall. A couple of side hollows also offer some fun exploring.
Several miles of the Buckeye Trail traverse the Hocking Hills and are an option for hiking. Although much of the BT follows existing roads, one lightly traveled stretch of the BT just off of Kreashbaum Road travels through the scenic Rocky Hollow. This is a nice out and back hike that you can do in an hour or so. Be sure to look for the blue blazes marking the BT.
A couple of other parks in the area you may wish to visit that don’t draw the huge crowds are Clear Creek Metro Park and Rock Stalls.
Clear Creek is a Columbus Metro Park and contains several miles of crowd free hiking within its 5200-acre extent. This park lies in the narrow, secluded valley of Clear Creek and is worth driving through even if you don’t stop. Clear Creek Metro is located west of US 33 a few miles north of Logan on Clear Creek Road. A park map and info can be found here:
Rock Stalls is a smaller park in northern Hocking County with no improvements other than a 2 mile trail leading to a secluded valley with rock formations, caves and waterfalls. You won’t find the cliffs here as high as the ones in the state parks, but this spot is scenic and worthy of a visit. The park is owned by a nearby church camp and was still open to the public during our last visit. Follow SR 664 North out of Logan to Logan-Horns Mill Rd. and turn left, turn right on Rock Stull Road and go about ½ mile to a gravel parking area on the right.
I’ll cover some additional crowd free hiking spots in a future blog entry.