Hocking Hills State Park
Late Summer is a beautiful time to visit Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio and this was our destination in September of last year. Dave and Garrett had a Cub Scout event so I took the girls on another “Girls Weekend Outside” like in Cuyahoga Valley National Park the year before. Naomi’s friend Liz was also able to join us for the weekend. The 2.5 hours to get to the park from Cincinnati was spent singing to the radio and goofing off with Rubberneckers: Everyone’s Favorite Travel Game (possibly the best road trip game on the planet!). We arrived at the Old Man’s Cave Campground by lunch time and set up camp quickly with everyone’s help before eating our picnic lunch of turkey sandwiches, cranberry muffins (brought by Liz), chips and grapes. After checking in at the entrance and purchasing firewood we set up in site 85, one of the 13 non-electric sites out of 172 in the park. All of the non-electric sites were comfortable with plenty of trees for shade and enough space for privacy. If you camp here during the 3rd weekend in September you could see runners doing the Indian Run, a trail race (5K, 10K, 20K, 40K or 60K) through the beautiful hilly region. Sophie, Naomi and I have done this race (10K and 20K) a few times and it is a blast and definitely fun to run right through the middle of the campground while all the campers are drinking their coffee and making breakfast. Once set up we walked around the campground to look around. There is a nice sized shower house, laundry and even a pool (which is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day). This would be a perfect family camping destination during the summer!
Old Man’s Cave
After walking through the campground, we also took a hike to Old Man’s cave from the trail directly behind the non electric sites. In 15 minutes or so from our site we were exploring the beautiful area. Perfect! The Hocking Hills Region feels like a fairyland because of all the green and blue colors surrounding you everywhere you look and the way the sunlight is filtered through the trees. Old Man’s Cave is a long overhang in a large gorge where a hermit named Richard Rowe lived in the 1800’s. He is said to be buried somewhere in the cave. The area is gorgeous- full of caves, ravines and waterfalls, and a perfect place to hike and play.
After spending the afternoon exploring Old Man’s Cave, we hiked back to our campsite to make dinner. We grilled burgers over the fire pit and as all things do outside, they tasted fantastic. After dinner we made banana boats which are bananas slit down the middle and stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate chips. The whole thing is wrapped in foil and then stuck in the fire to melt. Eaten with a fork, they are beyond yummy. We talked around the fire until we were ready to sleep and crawled into our tents.
Grandma Gatewood Trail
The next morning we woke up early and made another fire to cook our breakfast of grits with sausage and cheese melted on top. It’s a good thing we were doing so much hiking since we were definitely eating plenty! We got back on the trail to Old Man’s Cave and hiked. Throughout the day the we hiked to the area’s waterfalls and then take a break to swim and play under the falls before hiking on. It was a fantastic way to spend the day and broke up the many miles. Part of our day’s hike was on the “Grandma Gatewood Trail” a section of the Buckeye Trail named for the famous Appalachian Trail hiker Emma Gatewood who thru hiked the AT in 1955 when she was 67 years old. The trail between Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and Ash Cave was one of her favorite hiking trails and is now named after her. We hiked about 12 miles exploring the sites over the entire day.
Hocking Hills State Park is absolutely gorgeous and so much fun to explore. Hiking in the warm weather let us really enjoy playing in the waterfalls which was a blast. While we saw people running across the tops of the falls(!!!), we always played under them. We actually watched one lady almost go over the middle falls and while the falls were not very high, she definitely could have gotten hurt had she fallen. What the heck was she thinking? We played it safe and waded in the water which was still really entertaining. We slept great when we got back to our tent that night from all the fresh air and exercise. I loved being with these wonderful girls exploring our beautiful state!
After packing up in the morning, we drove home tired and happy from our fantastic weekend outside. I know we will be back to Hocking Hills again.