Hocking Hills Scenic Byway
Rugged Cliffs and Waterfalls
|Mileage||32 miles (52 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||51 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|Roadways||Ohio Highways 374, 56, and 664, and US Highway 33|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, pharmacies, etc.||Lancaster, OH▼, Logan, OH▼, and Rockbridge, OH▼|
4.0 average from 34 votes
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Exploring Hocking Hills in Ohio reveals nature’s deft artistry. Sculptured rocky outcrops, carved gorges, recessed caves, and lush plants in a palette of more shades of green you ever dreamed possible await in this magical landscape. Add in misty waterfalls that tumble delicately into emerald pools and trails for every level and ability, Hocking Hills makes a spectacular year-round getaway. It is conveniently less than an hour southeast of Columbus.
Our drive begins in Rockbridge heading west on OH-374. The winding road is popular with motorcyclists and car clubs for it’s curves and stunning scenery. Thank the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) who in the 1930’s, planted many of the giant hemlock and pine trees that line the route.
There are six major areas to visit in Hocking Hills State Park. Each rewards with unique rock formations, luxurious forest, rugged cliffs, bluffs, and waterfalls. Choosing just one area will be difficult, so hopefully you have a few days to spend here. There are many cabin rentals, hotels, motels, and camping options, as well as restaurants and shops. A range of hikes for every level access the incredible geologic formations. Note that many trails can be rocky, and cliff edges abrupt. Keep back from the edges, stay on designated trails and maintain a watchful eye on kids and pets. Oh, and be sure you wear sturdy shoes — sandals or flip flops can be dangerous. The park is free to enter.
The first stop is Cantwell Cliffs (A1). Meticulously carved by Buck Run, two trails explore this area. The 1.5 mile Cantwell Cliffs Loop offers spectacular views and some steep inclines as it winds along the cliff rim. The half-mile rugged Gorge Trail heads down to the gorge floor, and requires that hikers pass the humorously-named narrow rock crevice, Fat Woman’s Squeeze. Spring delights with a show of wildflowers, and fall is rich with vibrant color. Abundant wildlife can be observed, including wild turkey, white-tailed deer and box turtle, and bird-watchers can look out for yellow-bellied sapsuckers, cerulean warblers, pileated woodpeckers and red-shouldered hawks.
The byway continues to Rock House (A3) the only true cave in the park. Rock House is approximately 200 feet long and 25 feet wide. Water has carved several window-like openings. You can walk through, and around the undulating outcrops of foliage-draped sandstone. The trail is short but has uneven stairs. Historically, the cave was used by Native American Indians, robbers, horse thieves and bootleggers.
The Hocking Hills region is home to many artists. Along the byway, studios and art galleries are open to visitors.
Turn left on Big Pine Road, to Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve (A6). The gorge that makes up this preserve is one of the deepest in Ohio. Blackhand sandstone cliffs rise almost 200-feet offering expansive views of dense forest. The West Rim and East Rim Trails combine to make a 2.5-mile loop, with many picture-worthy observation points. The paved 1-mile Lower Gorge Trail is accessible and leads to a waterfall. No pets are allowed in the preserve.
OH-374 ends and meets OH-664. From here the byway makes a loop and you can head in either direction. We describe the drive by turning left towards Old Man’s Cave.
Old Man’s Cave (A4) is the most popular area in Hocking Hills State Park. Near Upper Falls, orient yourself at the Hocking Hills State Park Welcome Center which offers information on hiking trails, camping, and cabin rentals, as well as guided tours and events. Every season is host to ranger-led events, such as the maple syrup festival in March where you can learn how maple syrup is produced and sample the sweet treat, wildflower and waterfall hikes in April, migratory bird weekends, night walks, and more. The 100-foot long Old Man’s Cave is actually a recessed rock formation. The one-mile Old Man’s Cave Trail links Upper Falls, Lower Falls and Old Man’s Cave. From here you can also continue on the Buckeye Trail (H6) to Cedar Falls which is another 2-miles away. Don’t worry, you can also drive there, as the next stop along the byway is Cedar Falls. Rose Lake is a nice spot for watching wading birds, and at the north end of the lake you’ll find a viewing blind and feeding station, perfect for observation and photography.
The byway continues to Cedar Falls (H3), named by early settlers for the surrounding trees, except they were mistaken as they are actually hemlock trees. But no mistake is the beauty of this area. The photogenic falls flow with a consistent volume of water throughout the year. From the parking area Cedar Falls is a half-mile trail through lush vegetation loved by butterflies.
Continue on OH-374 to Ash Cave. Along the way you’ll see the Ash Cave Fire Tower built in 1934. It is not open to visitors.
Ash Cave (A5) is the largest recessed cave east of the Mississippi. The horseshoe-shaped cave spans 700-feet and was named for the large piles of ash assumed to be remnants of Indian campfires. A thin waterfall gracefully cascades 90-feet over the cave rim. Ash Cave is easy to explore as the 1/4-mile Ash Cave Gorge Trail is paved and accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. The half-mile Ash Cave Rim Trail travels along the creek that feeds the waterfall over Ash Cave.
The road continues to South Bloomingville. In town you’ll find lodging options and restaurants. From here the byway heads back to Rockbridge. While in the area, we also recommend visiting these interesting stops off the byway.
In Rockbridge, visit Clear Creek Metro Park (H1). With over 5,300 acres of forest and Blackhand sandstone cliffs, this gem of a park is an urban oasis. There are over 20 miles of trails for hiking and biking open year round. Clear Creek runs through the park, perfect for relaxing on the shore or canoeing and kayaking. Or cast a line and fish at Lake Ramona. The park is home to the Allen F. Beck State Nature Preserve, Ohio’s largest nature preserve, offering opportunities to observe over 1200 plant species and 150 species of birds, including black vultures, veeries, wood thrush and many species of warblers. Park naturalists host nature programs and hikes.
Or head east on OH-33 to Logan and Lake Logan State Park (H2). Lake Logan is a popular fishing destination for bass, bluegill and crappie. A fishing license is required, except from May 2 — 3 which are Free Fishing Days. Walk the nature trails through forest, observing nesting eagles and waterfowl, and enjoy swimming at the beach. In town, don’t miss the Hocking Hills Farmers Market for local produce and homemade goodies on Wednesday at Worthington Park, or Saturday at Chieftain Drive and SR-664. Treasure-hunters will love the Logan Antique Mall (A2) which features over 100 dealers. Housed within the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center (I1) is the quirky, free, Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum (M1).
The 2,983-acre Lake Hope State Park (H5) is chock full of amenities. Enjoy a swimming beach, boat rentals, cottage rentals, camping, playground and more. There are eight challenging mountain biking trails for moderate to advanced riders, and seven hiking trails, including the 3.2-mile Hope Furnace Trail, which explores the industrial remnants once used in processing the iron ore that was extracted from the nearby sandstone bedrock.
Tar Hollow State Park (H4) is surrounded by the foothills of the Appalachian Plateau and offers phenomenal hiking trails through wooded trails, swimming, fishing, paddle boat and canoe rentals. Perfect for day use or a great base for camping in the region.