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Ohio Road Trip – The Hocking Hills, part 1.

December 1, 2012

Hocking Hills State Park

Old Man’s Cave

Last month there was another family road trip that I was a part of, this time to southeast Ohio to the Hocking Hills area. We booked a cabin there a little late, so we missed the peak of the autumn color season- the bookings fill up fast, so we’ll try to book earlier in the future!

Ohio may seem to be a state of flat farmland in popular imagination, and that is partially correct- the western half of the state (including where I live in central Ohio) is flat farmland.  But the eastern half of the state is hilly, and the southeastern area is actually a unique part of the Appalachian Mountain Plateau.  This area is very distinct with its own unique geologic features.  To briefly quote Wikipedia:

The Hocking Hills is a deeply dissected area of the Allegheny Plateau in Ohio, primarily in Hocking County, that features cliffs, gorges, rock shelters, and waterfalls. The relatively extreme topography in this area is due to the Blackhand Sandstone (so named because of Native American graphics on the formation near Newark, Ohio), a particular formation that is thick, hard and weather-resistant, and so forms high cliffs and narrow, deep gorges. 

Having grown up in the flat country of central Ohio, I was unfamiliar with such terrain that was a mere 90 minutes away by car.  This was a weekend I was looking forward to!

This is the first of 3 posts about that scenic weekend.  The weather was sunny and highs were in the low-to-mid 50 degree F. range, which is good for November in Ohio.

Being the shutterbug that I am, I couldn’t resist taking pictures on the drive there.


The drive started out a little misty




This odd photo has a story behind it! 🙂


The highway cut through steep hills



The backroads were even more interesting


We arrived at Hocking Hills State Park, in Hocking County.  There are two features that a traveler immediately notices about this very scenic area- steep rocky hills abound, and wild evergreen trees are far more common than in the western half of Ohio’s Oak-Hickory and Maple forest areas.  The area saw glacial activity in the last Ice Age, and lots of sandstone was carved out by the tremendous amounts of water that melted from the ice, leaving interesting rock formations.  Trees much more common in Canada (such as the Eastern Hemlock) were left behind by the retreating glaciers 15,000 years ago in the cool moist gorges where their descendents live today.  Some of the trees in steep remote areas are thought to be 400 to 500 years old.  The area has many sites of interest to see, and we managed to go to 3 major places this particular weekend.



Our cabin was pleasant, at the edge of a wooded ravine




Pine trees were prominent in the cabin area


This Tufted Titmouse paused to pose for the camera



Old Man’s Cave was not far away- it is a famous attraction in the park




Old Man’s Cave is truly like visiting another world…I’d not seen Ohio looking like this before




From the very start, the view was fascinating- but watch your step!





Ferns were prominent in the gorge- the humidity was noticeably higher



Trees were very tenacious at taking root in the stony soil



The trees were definitely older-growth



There were some tunnel-like passages through the sandstone


The rocky overhang was impressive










A closer look at the upper reaches of a Hemlock tree


The view from the ridge above







It was like visiting a lost world, and in certain ways, it was!

Two more posts are coming, stay tuned!

37 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2012 11:16 pm

    what a great road trip! Seems like we’re both on the same plane of thinking today – posting Part 1 of our respective road trips. Ahhh great minds 😉

  2. December 1, 2012 11:58 pm

    What a cool place!

  3. December 2, 2012 12:21 am

    A beautiful place to go hiking!

    • December 2, 2012 12:29 pm

      Beautiful for sure, Pat- there’s a lot of hills to go up and down, so you definitely get a workout.

  4. December 2, 2012 1:09 am

    Very interesting tour! That gorge is fascinating!

  5. December 2, 2012 3:41 am

    What a fascinating and impressive place! Love your photos – they give a real sense of the atmosphere.

  6. December 2, 2012 7:01 am

    Nice post and a very interesting place. We also enjoy hiking at Clear Creek Metro Park which has some of the same features and is a slightly shorter drive from the Columbus area.

  7. December 2, 2012 7:53 am

    Great trip and a great series of photos, Tracy.

  8. December 2, 2012 8:31 am

    Ah; that’s the Ohio I remember! Thank you!!!

  9. December 2, 2012 8:36 am

    That part of Ohio looks just like this part of New Hampshire. It’s fun to explore!

    • December 2, 2012 12:27 pm

      Southeastern Ohio is definitely different than much of the rest of the state- I felt I was on an out-of-state vacation!

  10. December 2, 2012 3:26 pm

    Just found another place I want to go. Thanks, Tracy!

  11. December 2, 2012 5:35 pm

    That part of Ohio reminds me so much of the Red River Gorge/ Natural Bridge area in Kentucky, but on a smaller scale. One of my favorites spots in Ohio.

  12. December 2, 2012 9:04 pm

    What a great trip–so many interesting sights!

  13. December 3, 2012 9:58 am

    Your photos are amazing. I hadn’t realized that Ohio had such places. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous journey. I look forward to the next parts. Wonderful! 🙂

  14. December 3, 2012 7:03 pm

    What a lovely trip! I had no idea Ohio looked like this, I’ve only seen the interstate route across the northern part of the state. You photos remind me of areas in southern W.Va.

  15. December 8, 2012 10:27 am

    A road trip…always a great idea…thanks for the trip…there are so many areas like that in this country…well, most of North America was covered by glaciers…so beautiful…thanks again for all this…Ohio, like many states…flat land farming and mountain and waterfalls…best of both right nearby…

    • December 19, 2012 4:20 pm

      Thank you, Jim! As someone used to flat farm country, I was especially impressed with all of the hollows and gorges!

  16. December 16, 2012 9:47 am

    Great photos, Tracy, what a beautiful place! It looks very much like western Pennsylvania, all part of the same Allegheny Plateau.

    • December 19, 2012 4:22 pm

      Very true, composer- my grandfather lived near the Allegheny Mountains, and the Hocking Hills did remind me somewhat of that area of Pennsylvania- particularly all of the evergreens.

  17. December 17, 2012 1:52 am

    Wonderful post! I may well add that stste park to the list of places that I would like to visit someday, after I retire.

    • December 19, 2012 4:23 pm

      You’ll love it, QSP! This is the steepest place I’ve been to in Ohio, the sheer number of gorges and water-carved stone was awesome 🙂


  1. Ohio Road Trip – The Hocking Hills, part 2 « Seasons Flow
  2. Ohio Road Trip – The Hocking Hills, part 3. « Seasons Flow
  3. Ohio Road Trip – The Hocking Hills, part 4. | Seasons Flow

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