Hocking Hills is hidden about an hour from downtown Columbus, Ohio, on the northern edge of the Appalachian region. Logan, Ohio, is the center of the area, and the vast Hocking Hills State Park is the epicenter of outdoor adventure. On a recent press trip organized by Explore Hocking Hills, we were able to see activities throughout the year, such as zip-lining and fishing and kayaking rejection.
The state park has miles of trails, and the area is full of cottages and cabins to sit by a fire or enjoy a spa treatment. Even if you are not an outdoor enthusiast, I found that this beautiful region is full of festivals throughout the year, which are connected to interesting places to enjoy, including wine and moonlight, blowing glass and observing the stars.
1. Hocking Hills State Park
More than a single park, this natural land complex is surrounded by three state forests and one national forest. It makes the whole region a natural paradise for outdoor activities. Inside Hocking Hills State Park, you can walk over two dozen miles on 11 different trails.
There are picnic areas on most of these trails, and two of them - Ash Cave and Conkles Hollow - are designated as accessible and paved trails. The most famous route is to the Old Man’s Cave. This 2-mile route descends into an area flanked by a large open-air cave carved out of a rocky shelf on one side. There is a waterfall that falls from a few levels above the trail and flows into a wonderful pool just below the cave.
To descend and then ascend from this area, there are many stairs built into the route. Be careful in this humid environment as these steps can be slippery. No wonder this is a favorite hiking spot for all ages, thanks to its colorful history. Legend has it that an old hermit lived in a cave and died while trying to make a hole in the ice in the pond during the winter, accidentally unloading his rifle.
The beautiful rock formations and water features are a treat. There are other caves to see in the park and trails that allow you to go mountain biking or rappelling over the rock walls. Fishing and camping options are also available. Visit John Glenn Astronomical Park for a guided stargazing program, weather permitting.
There are plenty of outdoor adventure companies offering fun in and out of the park on their property. High Rock Adventures offers all the equipment, has expert guides and will guide you on a rappelling in a sandstone canyon.
2. Festivals throughout the year
If outdoor adventure is not your first choice, you will still find plenty to do in this hilly and wooded area. Logan is a small town that hosts many fun events throughout the year on its historic main street. Founded in 1816, this place is a piece of American cuisine with lots of restaurants, entertainment, antiques and walking access, from the Washboard Museum to the Honsky Hills Moonshine Distillery.
3. Urban Air Airstream Festival
Every May, nearly 100 Airstream trailers are parked on Main Street for the Urban Air Weekend in downtown Logan. As an Airstream owner and enthusiast, I really enjoyed visiting the organizers and participants. Trailer owners “camp” along Main Street and offer tours of the many vintage and new trailers they bring.
Airstream owners gather at events across the country, and this is one of the few urban venues where they gather. It’s like the bumper to the bumper and, when their awnings are unfolded, they put on their best decorations for the terrace and enjoy the fun of camping. We talked to beginners and those who enjoyed fun and games during the day, live music at night, and food truck vendors who offered a variety of delicacies.
On the first day of the rally, the local high school band came out and marched down Main Street to greet Airstream guests as they sang a variety of songs known to the majority of retirees. People who visit and live in the area went out to see these aluminum beauties and to participate in festivities. The Urban Air Festival raises money through donations and rally events for two charities in the city - the local food pantry and renovation efforts for the historic Logan Theater building in the city center.
This festival is a wonderful example of the spirit of the hometown that Logan offers. The historic buildings as well as the newly renovated town square preserve the past and offer a pleasant walking experience. Come back often to enjoy the other festivals and special events hosted in and around Logan.
4. Washboard Music Festival
This free festival is sponsored by the Columbus Washboard Company in Logan on Father’s Day. This is the last US washing company to operate. They make their plates by hand in all sizes and configurations. You can tour the factory and buy products on the spot.
5. Pumpkin Festival With Glass Pumpkins
Plan to attend this annual festival in October in Circleville. Although this is a fairly common theme in many places for an autumn festival, glass pumpkins are special. Glass-blown pumpkins are made at the nearby Jack Pine Studio. The studio makes a special edition of pumpkin every year and makes a lot of other pumpkin models in a variety of sizes.
Best of all, you can visit the studio to watch the glassware being produced and take a course to blow your own glass pumpkin. The studio is a must stop in Hocking Hills. Craftsmanship, craftsmanship and friendly staff will provide an afternoon of fun.
6. Moonshine Festival
Logan’s Hocking Hills Moonshine Distillery attends the annual Moonshine Festival on Memorial Day weekend in nearby New Straitsville. Come to music and moonlight, as well as family fun events on Saturday. There are trails in the area and you can visit Robinson’s Cave, where the miners first met to unionize in the late 1800’s. You can do tastings and a tour of the Logan distillery on any day except Sunday.
Once you’ve had fun outdoors or had fun at a festival, it’s time to relax. Hocking Hills is full of inns, cottages and great dining options, as well as nightly entertainment.
7. Inn & Spa At Cedar Falls
Although there are many accommodations in the area, the Inn and Spa in Cedar Falls offers a number of unique rooms. You can stay in a yurt or geodom. The geodomes are complete with a full bathroom, mini kitchen and air conditioning. The 14-foot-high glass geodom wall gives you an unobstructed view of the forest from the ground to the tops of the trees from the comfort of your king-size bed.
Enjoy the lush property, which is surrounded by the state park. They have recreational games on the main lawn or guests can sit on a swing and enjoy the tranquility of the forest on the roof porch. There are cottages on the other side of this heavily wooded property, each with a closed back porch, fireplaces and hot tubs.
The inn has a full-service spa and a rustic-themed dining room in the center of the property. Enjoy seasonal cuisine, including delicious toasted bread with wild mushrooms.
8. Glenlaurel Scottish Country Inn
Marked as one of the most authentic Scottish locations in North America, Glenlaurel is a 140-acre property that reproduces a Scottish village. There is a mansion with a pub, a dining room and a lounge decorated in a sumptuous castle style. There are individual mountain-style cottages in an area separate from the traditional Inn rooms in the main building.
You can go hiking to their private Camusfearna Gorge or enjoy the scenery like a mansion park and the inn’s outdoor terraces. Try your hand at playing eight holes on the authentic links-style golf course. Your round includes authentic Scottish clubs, jerseys and balls that will challenge even the most talented American golfer.
At dinner, you will be treated to an amazing six- or seven-course gourmet meal. On Saturday night, a bagpipe will take you from the pub or lounge to the dining room. During the year, they have several themed dinners, including a Robert Burns night with a poetry reading. The Glenlaurel experience is designed to pamper you, enjoy gourmet food and immerse yourself in Scottish culture. It is a formal meal on weekends and children are not allowed in the inn.
If you want simpler settings for your meals, try Feed in Logan. They serve cozy food with a twist of hillbilly. The menu highlights regional favorites, such as Hillbilly Hibachos - fried rice nachos, grilled and yum-yum-inspired sauce. The very comfortable surroundings allow you to fully enjoy these hearty meals.
End the evening at Hocking Hills Winery, which serves a wide range of locally grown wines from this family-run vineyard. They have a large covered terrace and outdoor seating with live music on weekends. It is a perfect place to enjoy a wine flight and relax from a busy day in Hocking Hills.
Tip: Being in the country, in the hills and shouting means that the cellular signal is weak to nonexistent until you reach a city. Some inns and cottages have Wi-Fi. Plan ahead with the GPS route, as winding roads can be confusing, but getting lost in a beautiful setting isn’t so bad.