Two-Hour Trips: Hocking Hills offers outdoor activities
HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK — For families wanting to visit the great outdoors, Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio has plenty to offer.
This summer, two new trails have opened for visitors, Whispering Cave and Hemlock Bridge Trail. Whispering Cave, with its unusual acoustics, allows for one person whispering to be heard at the other end 275 feet away. Hemlock Bridge Trail connects Grandma Gatewood Trail and Cedar Falls. The trail features the park’s first swinging bridge over Old Man’s Creek and the confluence of Queer Creek.
The state’s most visited park, Hocking Hills offers six distinct sites, with forests and lakes. Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve, Lake Hope State Park, Lake Logan State Park, Rock House and Rockbridge State Nature Preserve are all areas to visit. Those interested in planning a hike there can visit the website, explorehockinghills.com/stateparks.
“Now that travelers can access both Whispering Cave and Hemlock Bridge Trail, they have two more beautiful reasons to visit the Hocking Hills,” said Hocking Hills Tourism Association Executive Director Karen Raymore. “Add these to the region’s many active experiences, such as rappelling, kayaking, canopy tours, eco tours, horseback riding, antiquing and other activities, and our visitors typically find they need to extend their stay in order to get it all in.”
Another of those new activities available is the Hocking Hills Sandbox in Laurelville. This is an opportunity for adults and kids age 14 and over to get to operate professional-grade construction equipment, such as excavators, bulldozers and track loaders and take a ride on a cherry picker to get a birds-eye view from 60 feet. There is also a section in which younger children can watch, and a gift shop to purchase toy vehicles.
In Nelsonville, visitors can ride the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. Operated by volunteers, this railway was once the Mineral Rail Road, meant to build a railroad from Columbus to Athens. Construction began in mid-1867, originally meant to transport salt and coal. Passengers started in 1869, with service ending in 1949. The train that now runs is made up of historic equipment ranging from 1917 to the 1960s, with both traditional enclosed coaches and open-air cars. Trains operate at noon and 2:30 Saturdays and Sundays through October. More information can be found at hvsry.org.
For those interested in high-flying experiences, there are aerial tours, canopy tours and zip-lining available. Hot air balloon rides can be found in Lancaster with reservations. More information, including rates, is available at georgianmanner.com/hot-air-balloons. Canopy tours, zip-lining, rappelling and more are available at the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours in Rockbridge. There are even special courses meant for kids.
Rates and more information can be found at hockinghillscanopytours.com.
For families that want more ground-based activities, there are canoeing, kayaking, rafting and go-carts available at Hocking Hills Adventures in Logan. More information about activity rates can be found at hockinghillscanoeing.com. There is also Hocking Hills Canoe Livery that offers canoe, kayak and raft rentals. Rates are at hockingriver.com.
There are two mini-golf courses in the area, Adventure Golf at Rempel’s Grove in Logan and Hocking Hills Mini-Golf in Rockbridge at the Hocking Hills Market. Rates can be found at hockingriver.com/mini-golf/ and hockinghillsmarket.com/golf.html. There are also several horseback riding stables in the area: Blue Moon Acres in Laurelville, Equestrian Ridge Farm in New Plymouth which also has a petting farm, Happy Trails Horseback Ridge in Rockbridge and Spotted Horse Ranch in Laurelville.
There is also Hocking Hills Escape Games in Logan, Hocking Hills Laser Tag in Logan that offer team games, as well as Hocking Hills Gem Mine in Logan that will give kids a chance to hunt for treasures. Also in Logan is R Adventure Park, which offers a ropes course and paintball. For little kids Aha! A Hands-on Adventure Children’s Museum in Lancaster offers interactive play exhibits for kids under the age of 8. Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center in Rockbridge is a 5-acre haven for butterflies. Tours are available everyday at 1 p.m.
Logan and Rockbridge also have plenty of small shops and restaurants to visit.
* Aug. 17: Hocking Hills Poker Run
* Aug. 25: Wood ‘N Knit Family Affair at Starbrick
* Aug.30-Sept. 1: Sam Jam Bluegrass Festival
* Sept.11-16: Hocking County Fair
* Sept. 15-17: 19th Annual Ohio PawPaw Festival
* Sept. 15: Hocking Hills Annual Indian Run
* Sept. 23-24: Annual Fall Arts and Crafts Show
* Sept. 29: Starbrck Clay National Salt and Pepper Shaker Show
* Sept. 30: Hocking River Clean Up
* Oct. 6-8: Beaver Oktoberfest
* Oct. 8-14: Fairfield County Fair
* Oct. 14: Grandma Gatewood’s Fall Colors Hike
* Oct. 15: Little Cities of Black Diamond Day
* Oct. 18-21: Circleville Pumpkin show
* Oct. 20-21: Ohio Smoked Meats and BBQ Festival
* Oct. 22: Tombstone Travels
* Oct. 27: Final Friday Special Edition, Fright Night Halloween Party
* Oct. 27: Hocking Halloween Campout
* Oct. 27: Victorian Tea Party/16 Year Anniversary Celebration at Starbrick
* Oct. 28: Halloween on the Hocking
* Oct. 28: R.O.A.R. Day