For a long time, Hocking Hills, Ohio, had been on our radar of places we wanted to visit. From here, it would make a reasonable day trip, and we’d heard so many good things and seen so many inviting pictures that we wanted to see it for ourselves.
Although Hocking Hills State Park boasts six major hiking trails, we chose one: Old Man’s Cave, named after Richard Rowe, a hermit who actually lived in the cave of the gorge. As recreational hikers at best, we simply enjoy the opportunity to appreciate nature by walking on predetermined paths that will lead us to witness something fantastic.
We started at the top of the trail, The Upper Falls, where a bridge allowed us to look over water rolling over rocks and where a few people seemed to be standing at its base. A few steps later, we were in the spot of those people we’d just seen, and we were the ones looking up at the falls. We were also in a basin area that allowed us room to explore shallow waters, rock formations and small caves.
From there, we hiked the easy-to-follow path to the next feature, The Devil’s Bathtub. All the while, it was impossible not to appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings. The rocks, the flora, the trees, the roots lacing themselves around the rocks, the cliffs and the waterfalls.
Continuing down the path, we adhered to the rocks and trees, although there was a clear opening to our right. In the opening, rain began to fall, but the canopy which we were underneath was so thick that the rain did not hit us at all.
Throughout the trail, markers assist hikers with describing the evolution of the rock formations, which have been given nicknames such as a whale and a sphinx. They also encourage hikers to be creative and to choose their own names for what we see in the Black Hand Sandstone. Additionally, the markers help hikers with identifying the particular native flowers and trees, such as the eastern hemlock.
Old Man’s Cave Trail, which can be divided into the Upper Falls, the Upper Gorge, the Middle Falls, the Lower Falls and the Lower Gorge, stretches only about a half mile. However, it is connected to several other trails, so if you want to continue hiking after you finish in this area, you can easily do so. If not, then looping back to your starting point is possible through well-marked, natural-looking bridges, wooden stairs, ramps, observation decks and well-defined paths.
If Hocking Hills is a place you’ve been wanting to see, then go ahead and get there. If not, then add it to your list. It won’t disappoint.
(Note: Marjorie Appelman is an English, communications and journalism teacher at Mason County High School and co-founder of the travel blog, Tales from the Trip, which is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She can be reached at [email protected])