Description - The natural history of this region is as fascinating as the caves are beautiful. Here, in these sandstones and shales, one can read Ohio's history from the rocks. The scenic features of the six areas of the Hocking Hills State Park complex are carved in the Blackhand sandstone. This bedrock was deposited more than 350 million years ago as a delta in the warm shallow sea which covered Ohio at that time. Subsequent millions of years of uplift and stream erosion created the awesome beauty seen today.
Copyright: Patty Elton - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Ash Cave, one of Ohio's most unique and toured geologic sights
The sandstone varies in composition and hardness from softer, loosely cemented middle zone to harder top and bottom layers. The recess caves at Ash Cave, Old Man's Cave and Cantwell Cliffs are all carved in the softer middle zone. Weathering and erosion widened cracks found in the middle layer of sandstone at the Rock House to create that unusual formation.
Although the glaciers never reached the park areas, their influence is still seen here in the form of the vegetation growing in the gorges. The glaciers changed the climate of all Ohio to a moist, cool environment. Upon their retreat, this condition persisted only in a few places such as the deep gorges of Hocking County. Therefore, the towering eastern hemlocks, the Canada yew and the yellow and black birch tell of a cool period 10,000 years ago.
The hollows and caves of the park complex have long attracted the peoples of Ohio. Evidence of the ancient Adena culture illustrates man first inhabited the recesses more than 7,000 years ago. Research indicates that during the mid 1700s, several Indian tribes traveled through or lived here including the Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee. After the Greenville Treaty of 1795, numerous white settlers moved into the region and Hocking County was organized in 1818. The area around the parks began to develop in 1835 when a powder mill was built near Rock House and a gristmill was constructed at Cedar Falls. The cave areas were well known as scenic attractions by 1870. In 1924, the first land purchase by the state was made to preserve the scenic features. This first parcel of 146 acres included Old Man's Cave. Subsequent purchases built acreage while the areas existed under the Department of Forestry as State Forest Parks. The Department of Natural Resources was created in 1949 and the new Division of Parks assumed control of the Hocking Hills State Parks complex that today includes the six park areas.
- Visitors to Hocking Hills State Park will not be disappointed. This is most likely one of Ohio's most popular parks and rightly so. It is absolutely beautiful while adorned with numerous hiking opportunities suitable for young and old, wiggly and feeble. Kids can romp and seniors can totter, each thoroughly enjoying the geological wonder found only minutes from U.S. Highway 33 in southeastern Ohio.
A word of caution! The trails are very diverse with many dangerously open to huge cliffs. Children should be watched at all times. However, several areas such as Ash Cave are level and not near the threat as some trails including the park's highlight, Old Man's Cave.
A picnic lunch is a splendid addition to a day at Hocking Hills State Park. There are many, many tables with grills, wide-open grass lawns, and tucked away tables beneath towering ancient hemlocks. There are even several reservable shelters, each with nearby restrooms and drinking water. The picnic shelters at Old Man's Cave and Ash Cave may be reserved; the shelters at Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs are first-come, first-served.
If a picnic lunch does not suit, the seasonal dining lodge has a wonderful buffet with extensive choices including hearty-style meals of pork and potatoes to lighter fare that include fresh garden salads. It is within this lodge that you will find park information, meeting space, TV lounge, game room and more. Outside, a lovely large swimming pool is a favorite attraction to visitors and nearby residents alike. The pool is free to cottage guests 11 AM to 6 PM daily, Memorial Day to Labor Day. Locals pay a small entrance fee.
Overnight accommodations at Hocking Hills include 40 all-season cottages, a family campground (featuring a separate pool) and primitive group area.
Rose Lake is a picturesque fishing lake with its own parking lot located off SR 374 via a 0.5-mile hiking trail which incidentally crosses one of the park's equestrian trails. A trip to Rose Lake is worth the short trek. Here you'll experience several habitats including a beautiful hemlock pocket amidst a hardwood hillside.
The list of man-made and natural features at this park goes on and on. Another favorite is the Old Man's Cave bookstore where one can get lost amid the rich pages of outdoor information and colorful photographs found in the extensive inventory. Trinkets and park brochures may be obtained as well.
If you enjoy rock climbing and rappelling, the adjacent state forest offers a small out-of-the-way location that appears to receive little usage. Even if you don't rock climb, a trip here is worth the visit. Here, you'll discover seldom-trudged green paths unlike the heavier beaten down dirt trails normally found at Hocking Hills. In summer, huge masses of impressive pink phlox and white manarda give way to clinging ferns lacing the moss-covered boulders strewn at the depths of towering emerald green cliffs. Other seasons bring forth equal woodland wonder including visible signs of an understory that reveals concavities where deer have bedded down. A quiet hush dominates the deep crevices; songbirds are barely audible and yet remarkably for Hocking Hills there are no human chuckles, no jet planes, and no traffic hum. It is truly a wonderful sliver of forest where one can sit quietly and contemplate the natural world.
Recreation - Sightseeing and hiking are probably the two most popular recreations at Hocking Hills State Park. Picnicking is also very popular amidst the diverse geological environment. Photography is another popular and rewarding pastime. There are also several horsebacking riding opportunities, pond fishing and pool swimming. Camping is also diverse with options that include cabins, group camp and individual sites with electric hookups. Rapelling is available at the adjoing state forest. Wildlife viewing and wildflower identification are natural occurrances.
Climate - This state has four distinct seasons and a brilliant fall foliage display in it southern woods during mid October. Winter lasts from December through February with average temperatures near 25 degrees F. Low temperatures dip to single digits, but do not often drop below zero. Northern regions of the state receive average snowfall amounts of 55 inches, while the central and southern regions of the state receive lesser amounts with averages near 30 inches. This difference is caused by lake-affect moisture patterns.
Spring temperatures begin to warm the landscapes of Ohio by mid March and are in full swing by April. Temperatures range from 40 through 70 degrees F through the spring months. This season often brings the most rainfall, before the drying heat of summer. Summer can be extremely hot and humid in the interior of Ohio. Temperatures reach above 90 degrees F frequently through July and August. Cooler fall temperatures don't reach the region until mid to late September. This is a pleasant time to visit as the air is crisp with low humidity levels. Ohio's annual precipitation usually reaches slightly above 50 inches.
The succession of unique natural areas is easily accessible from State Route 374 off U.S. Highway 33, southeast of Logan, Ohio.