Hocking Hills is home to a ton of outdoor adventures that can be done any time of year. With just a relatively short drive from Cleveland (approximately 3 hours depending on where you are), you can be immersed in Hocking Hills State Park which is consistently deemed one of the most scenic parks in Ohio. You can find rigorous hikes, easy hikes, waterfalls, caves, gorges, cliffs, & so much more here.
Instead of diving into every single thing that Hocking Hills has to offer, I’m going to share what we did which is a pretty nice itinerary if you go for just a few days (all you really need there unless you’re looking to have a rigorous getaway filled with various activities when in season.)
The last time we visited Hocking Hills was 2010 when it was just my husband & I. We went to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. We’ve vowed to come back but for one reason or another, it always took the backburner when planning trips. Hocking Hills can be super busy (our first time, we went in October which I would avoid at all costs) so we decided to make a winter trip out of it right before Christmas as a family gift to ourselves.
Since we recently got an annual membership to the Great Lakes Science Center, I found out that they are part of the reciprocity program to many other science centers across the country including COSI in Columbus which is on the way to Hocking Hills. They currently have the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit so we decided to carve out some time to stop there before getting to our cabin. Admission to COSI is free if you have a GLSC membership but if you want to do the Marvel exhibit, it’s $15 per person. Children under 2 get in free to the museum + the Marvel exhibit.
I would recommend the Marvel exhibit if you or someone in your family are big fans. It’s more informational rather than interactive so there’s lots of reading & just looking at items from the movies, etc. We saw lots of strollers but it’s worth knowing that it’s rather narrow & small along the path of the exhibit so I would personally not bring in small children but of course use your own discretion.
We spent about an hour in the exhibit alone which was mostly due to the line. It’s a one way path that you sort of follow through with a couple of stops along the way. You will need to select a time slot when you get your tickets as advance registration is required for all of COSI even with the free reciprocity admission. Besides the Marvel exhibit, COSI is just a super massive science center. I was determined to make the most of it & see it all. We spent around 3+ hours there. I see us returning soon, my son really loved it. Before we left Columbus we also swung by North Market which is basically a much fancier version of the West Side Market in Cleveland.
Back to Hocking Hills.
Since we spent our first day in Columbus, all we did was head to our cabin & just relax the first night there. Our cabin had a hot tub that we couldn’t get enough of & a wood burning fireplace. We knew the next day would be busy so we made sure to rest up.
The first thing we did was the ever so popular Old Man’s Cave which is where you’ll find the Hocking Hills Visitor Center. Right at the beginning of the Old Man’s Cave trail, you’ll come across the Upper Falls which is absolutely stunning (the first pic at the start of this post.) It’s not much of a walk at all to just see these falls which in my opinion is the best part of the Old Man’s Cave trail. You’ll also pass by Devil’s Bathtub which I referred to as a toilet before finding out what it was called 😂.) Old Man’s Cave itself is a recess cave & if I’m being honest, not worth the hype. I personally prefer Ash Cave but I’m sure this varies by individual taste.
It’s not surprising that we headed to Ash Cave next. I wanted to make sure we got our caves covered. This one had an accessible walkway to the massive cave. One of the benefits to visiting in December on a weekday? We had it all to ourselves. I usually see pics here with tons of people. It’s so amazing being there with not another soul in sight, highly recommend. We spent some time admiring all that it was before venturing out. All of Hocking Hills trails are supposed to be one way traffic. There’s a sign that says if you have limited mobility, you can go back on the walkway to the parking lot but you are supposed to follow the trail out of the cave. It honestly takes longer to leave Ash Cave than to get there so I can understand why people just go back on the walkway.
Next stop on our Hocking Hills adventure was Cedar Falls. This was more of a strenuous hike compared to the other two but the falls were worth it.
I had a list of places to visit ordered from priority levels & these three spots were at the top of our list. I would plan to *not* plan on seeing every little thing about the area. Once you see the main sites, you’ve basically seen it all. Know your (& your kids) limits & if you go in the winter, pay attention to the weather. I can imagine every single location we visited being pretty dangerous if it had just rained or snowed so be mindful of that.
Here are some other things we did outside of the state park & a few dining options:
- Pencil Sharpener Museum – this is a tiny little museum (more like a shed) at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. It’s free & more of a roadside attraction than anything. This was a huge hit for my son so I’d say it’s worth a stop if your kids are easily entertained.
- Jack Pine Studio – while this is mostly a studio where you can buy glass blown decor items, you can watch the employees blow glass; however, many of them do not stay anywhere near the viewing area. Not sure if it was just the day we chose but I wouldn’t count on this being super entertaining but still worth a mention.
- Millstone BBQ – I’ve read mixed reviews on this one that it may depend on the day you go for what type of experience you’ll have but we must have went on a good day because we had no complaints here. Delicious food & a warm atmosphere.
- Pizza Crossing – This is supposed to be one of the best pizza places in Ohio but we honestly weren’t blown away by it. It was still a good place to have dinner (there’s not a ton of dining options in Logan, which is where we stayed.)
The last thing we did which was our absolute favorite (& I mean that – it was otherwordly) was The John Glenn Astronomy Park.
I do not have a fancy telescope or camera to capture how insanely beautiful it is there so I found the pic above on the web. I don’t think the Milky Way was visible for us that night; however, this pic does accurately represent the sheer amount of stars that you can see there. It was stunning & unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. Please note: if you go after the sun sets, it is absolutely pitch black so be sure to have your phone or flashlight handy just to get around to where you need to be. It can be rather eerie but we were the only ones there for majority of the time (people were just leaving when we got there.) I’ve read they often have programs there for assistance in viewing certain astronomical things but it was nice observing on our own. Highly recommend checking this place out (at night of course!)
Overall, we had a really great time at Hocking Hills & are planning to go back at some point. Have you been before? What’s your favorite part of Hocking Hills? Comment below!