Hocking Hills is tucked away about an hour from downtown Columbus, Ohio, on the northern rim of the Appalachian region. Logan, Ohio, is the area’s municipal center, and the expansive Hocking Hills State Park is the outdoor adventure epicenter. On a recent press trip organized by Explore Hocking Hills, I got to see year-round activities like ziplining and repelling to fishing and kayaking.
The state park has miles of trails and the region is filled with cabins and lodges to stay and sit by a fire or enjoy a spa treatment. Even if you are not an outdoor enthusiast, I found this gorgeous region is full of festivals all year that are connected to interesting places to enjoy including wine and moonshine, glass blowing, and stargazing.
1. Hocking Hills State Park
More than a single park, this complex of natural lands is surrounded by three state forests and one national forest. It makes the entire region a naturalist haven for outdoor activities. Inside Hocking Hills State Park, you can walk over two dozen miles on 11 different trails.
There are picnic areas at most of these trailheads, and two of them — Ash Cave and Conkles Hollow — are designated as accessible with paved trails as well. The most well-known trail is at Old Man’s Cave. This 2-mile trail descends into an area that is flanked by a large open-air cave carved out of a rock shelf on one side. There is a waterfall that cascades from several levels higher up on the trail and empties into a lovely pool just below the cave.
To descend and then ascend out of this area, there are many stairs built into the trail. Be cautious in this wet environment as these steps can be slippery. It’s no wonder this is a favorite hiking spot for all ages because of its colorful history. The legend is that an old hermit lived in the cave and died while trying to poke a hole through the ice on the pond in winter, accidentally discharging his rifle.
The beautiful rock formations and water features are a treat. There are other caves to see in the park and trails that allow you to ride mountain bikes or rappel over rock walls. Fishing and camping options are available as well. Stop by the John Glenn Astronomy Park for a guided stargazing program, weather permitting.
There are plenty of outdoor adventure companies that provide fun in the park and outside the park on their own property. High Rock Adventures provides all the equipment, has expert guides, and will lead you on a rappel into a sandstone canyon.
2. Festivals Throughout The Year
If outdoor adventure is not your first preference, you’ll still find plenty to do in this hilly, forested area. Logan is a small town that hosts many fun events throughout the year on its historic Main Street. Founded in 1816, this place is a slice of Americana with plenty of restaurants, entertainment, antiquing, and walkability to venues from the Washboard Museum to the Hocking Hills Moonshine Distillery.
3. Urban Air Airstream Festival
Each May, nearly 100 Airstream trailers are parked on Main Street for the Urban Air Weekend in downtown Logan. As an Airstream owner and enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with the organizers and participants. The trailer owners “camp” along Main Street and provide tours of many of the vintage and new trailers they bring.
Airstream owners rally at events around the country, and this is one of a few urban places where they gather. They park bumper to bumper, and when their awnings unfurl, they put out their best patio decorations and enjoy the fun of camping. I talked to first-timers and long-timers who were enjoying the fun and games during the day, live music at night, and food truck vendors that provided a variety of treats.
On the first day of the rally, the local high school band came out and marched down Main Street to welcome the Airstream guests as they played a variety of tunes recognizable to the mostly retiree crowd. People visiting and living in the area came out to see these aluminum beauties and participate in the festivities. The Urban Air Festival raises money through donations and rally events for two charities in town — the local food pantry and the renovation efforts for the historic Logan Theater building downtown.
This festival is a great example of the hometown spirit that Logan provides. The historic buildings as well as the newly renovated town square preserve the past as well as provide a congenial, walkable experience. Come back often to enjoy the other festivals and special events hosted in and around Logan.
4. Washboard Music Festival
This free festival is sponsored by the Columbus Washboard Company in Logan every Father’s Day. This is the last operating U.S. washboard company. They make their boards by hand in all sizes and configurations. You can tour the factory and purchase products on site.
5. Pumpkin Festival With Glass Pumpkins
Plan to attend this annual festival in October in Circleville. While this is a fairly common theme in many places for a fall festival, it is the glass pumpkins that are special. Glass-blown pumpkins are made at the nearby Jack Pine Studio. The studio makes a special edition pumpkin every year and they make plenty of other pumpkin designs in a variety of sizes.
Best of all, you can visit the studio to watch the glass items being made and take a class to blow your own glass pumpkin. The studio is a must-visit stop in Hocking Hills. The artistry, craftsmanship, and good-natured staff will provide an afternoon of fun.
6. Moonshine Festival
Logan’s own Hocking Hills Moonshine distillery participates in the annual Memorial Day weekend Moonshine Festival in nearby New Straitsville. Come for the music and moonshine, as well as family fun events on Saturday. There are trails in the area, and you can visit Robinson’s Cave, where mineworkers first met to unionize in the late 1800s. You can do tastings and a tour at the distillery in Logan on any day but Sunday.
Once you’ve enjoyed yourself outdoors or had fun at a festival, it’s time to relax. Hocking Hills is filled with inns, lodges, and great dining options as well as nighttime entertainment.
7. Inn & Spa At Cedar Falls
While there are many places to stay in the area, the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls offers some unique rooms. You can stay in a yurt or geodome. The geodomes are complete with a full bath, mini-kitchen, and air-conditioning. The 14-foot-high glass geodome “wall” gives you an unobstructed view of the forest from the ground to the treetops from the comfort of your king-size bed.
Enjoy the lush property that is surrounded by the state park. They have recreational games on the main lawn, or guests can sit in a rocking chair and soak up the serenity of the forest on their rooftop porch. There are cottages on the other side of this heavily wooded property, each with screened-in back porches, fireplaces, and whirlpool jet tubs.
The Inn has a full spa and rustic-themed dining room at the center of the property as well. Enjoy seasonal cuisine including the delicious wild mushroom toast appetizer.
8. Glenlaurel Scottish Country Inn
Noted as one of the most authentic Scottish locations in North America, Glenlaurel is a 140-acre property that replicates a Scottish village. There is the manor house with a pub, dining room, and parlor decorated in a sumptuous castle style. There are individual highland-styled cottages in a separate area from the traditional Inn rooms at the main building.
You can hike down to their private Camusfearna Gorge or enjoy the park-like setting from the manor house and inn’s outdoor patios. Try your hand at playing eight holes on the authentic links-style golf course. Your round includes authentic Scottish clubs, tees, and balls that will challenge even the most talented American golfer.
At dinner, you will be treated to an amazing six- or seven-course gourmet meal. On Saturday nights, a bagpiper will lead you from the pub or parlor into the dining room. During the year they have several themed dinners including a Robert Burns night complete with a poetry reading. The experience at Glenlaurel is designed to have you pampered, feasting on gourmet food, and immersed in Scottish culture. It’s formal dining on the weekend and no children are allowed at the inn.
If you crave more simple settings for your meals, try The Feed in Logan. They serve elevated comfort food with a hillbilly twist. The menu highlights regional favorites like Hillbilly Hibachos — nachos with fried rice, barbecue, and yum-yum-inspired sauce. The very comfortable surroundings allow you to fully enjoy these large meals.
Top off your evening at Hocking Hills Winery, serving a wide array of locally grown wines from this family-run vineyard. They have a large covered patio and outdoor seating with live music on the weekends. It’s a perfect place to enjoy a wine flight and unwind from a busy day in Hocking Hills.
Pro Tip: Being out in the country in the hills and hollers means your cell signal is weak to nonexistent until you get into a town. Some of the inns and lodges have Wi-Fi. Plan ahead with your GPS route as the winding roads can be confusing — but getting lost in a beautiful setting is not all that bad.