This past weekend, three of us were able to get away to Hocking Hills for the day. Living only about an hour away from Hocking Hills has been so wonderful – we try to make it to the park at least a couple times each year. My favorite time to be in the woods is Fall with all the beautiful colors, followed closely by Winter when everything in white and frozen. It is still very much Summer, but we have to go when we have the time. I’m hoping for another trip this Fall, but we will have to wait and see.
We started out at Old Man’s Cave. The new Welcome Center has been standing for a few years now, but with COVID restrictions, it was never open when we were there. So, we were excited to check it out before hiking. We did not wander the whole place, but we did enjoy the upstairs space, and I am sure we will be back to check out the gift shop soon. It is a really beautiful building and I love the enormous map on the wall by the help desk.
We have been to Old Man’s Cave recently, but we’ve stuck to the upper falls area for the past several years. So, we decided the time had come to return to the lower part of the area. It was super crowded and there were so many people on the trail until it split – most people went to the actual cave part of the trail, so we decided very quickly to take the other way. We continued on down to the lower falls where it was actually not too hard to get photos without people for a change. It might be because it was a bit cooler (although still really humid), so no one was swimming under the falls. I know that I sound like an old “keep those kids off my lawn” stick in the mud, but I believe in following trail signs. If it says no wading or swimming, I stay out of the water. If it says stop, no hiking beyond this point, I stop. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, but I also want these parks to be open to the public for everyone’s enjoyment for a long time to come.
After we had that hike under our belts, we headed to a completely new-to-us area of the park – the Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area. It is very near to Conkle’s Hollow – one of my favorite parts of the Hocking Hills Area. The area is not well marked, especially if you are coming from inside – the signs all point the other direction, so we ended up having to turn around and back track. Once we parked in the gravel lot, we did not cross the street to get to the actual Rock Climbing and Rappelling area, we instead followed the bridle trail located at the far end the parking lot. Being that it was a bridle trail, we had to constantly be watching where we stepped – the horses in Hocking Hills are apparently very well fed. Keith and Charlotte wished they had put on bug spray, but I did not have any problems. We did encounter A LOT of mud, and we had to do some creek crossings, so waterproof hiking boots are a must if you choose to do this hike. I did not take photos of the worst parts of the trail, but here are a few photos of the not so bad parts.
We followed the orange blazes and then the white blazes. Pretty soon, we saw a sign that said “No horses beyond this point.” I took that as a sign that we were supposed to take the trail up, but it turned out that it was a more difficult and roundabout way that would have led to a double waterfall if there was more water in the creeks. Keith has pretty much told me he will not hike this again (he hates mud and mess), so we will not be seeing the Twin Falls near Chapel Cave. We did eventually come to the cave, though. When we arrived there was a group of people on horseback in the cave, so we communicated with them about where we should be to make their horses feel safe. This cave is also called 21 Horse Cave because you could supposedly fit 21 horses in it, so it was kind of cool to get to see horses here.
After we explored the inside of the cave, it was time to head back. On the way back, we accidentally took a different path through one of the really, really muddy parts and Charlotte ended up stuck in pretty deep mud – not quite over her boots. I found a path around to help pull her out, and thankfully her boots stayed on her feet. She waded in the water a bit to clean off the mud, but then her socks and boots were pretty wet. So, we headed for the car as quick as we could to get her cleaned off a bit. Thankful for wet wipes and napkins and a stash of plastic bags in the back of the car! Obviously this put an end to our hiking for the day, but we were all pretty ready to go home and shower anyway.
Our reviews of this one were a little mixed. I loved the hike because it was challenging. Keith hated the mud and bugs. Charlotte loved the adventure and was happy until the wet boots at the end. I am going to give it an 8/10 just because I can see how it is not the perfect hike for everyone.
Have you ever been to Hocking Hills? What is your favorite area of the park? Have you been to Chapel Falls? Let us know in the comments! 🙂