Hiking in Hocking Hills State Park can be a rewarding experience filled with breathtaking views of waterfalls, cliffs, bridges, and caves you can actually explore.
After hiking in Hocking Hills State Park with our two dogs back in October, I’ve compiled a list of our best tips and tricks for those who choose to seek adventure on the trails of the Hocking Hills, with or without their favorite fluffy companion.
Bring a Map
All of the trails we hiked on were very clearly marked, however I would still recommend bringing a printed map along with you out onto the trails.
Most of the trail maps were scratched off in the “you are here” area of the map, which sometimes caused nearby points of interest to not be visible on the map. Although this didn’t make the posted maps impossible to use, it was kind of annoying.
Trail maps for Hocking Hills State Park can be found online at parks.ohiodnr.gov and in the Old Man’s Cave Visitor Center.
Pack and Dress Appropriately
Check the weather conditions before you head out onto the trails, and plan your hiking outfits accordingly. It’s always good practice to dress in layers that are easy to add or remove, so you’re covered even in unpredictable weather conditions.
- Appropriate Footwear: Hiking boots or trail runners are your best bet for support, breathability, and providing adequate grip, stability, and foot protection on muddy, rocky, or uneven surfaces. If you don’t have them, opt for a comfortable pair of running, walking, or cross training shoes.
- Packable Layers: I like to carry a packable rain coat, rain pants, and puffy coat on my hikes, as they don’t take up too much room in my pack but are there if things get windy, rainy or cold. (On one of our hikes in the Hocking Hills, we actually experienced a >10 degree temperature drop in less than two hours!)
- Avoid Cotton: Moisture wicking and flash dry fabrics are your best bet for hiking because they dry quickly, generally don’t chafe, and don’t hold dampness against your skin, robbing you of body heat. If possible, avoid wearing cotton shirts, pants, socks, underwear…everything!
- Accessories: I like to keep a hat and/or buff with me when I hike, just so I have an extra source of protection from sun or cold. Gloves are another solid option, however if I’m actively hiking, I sort of prefer just putting plastic bags over my hands to help block the wind and keep them dry.
Packing the right items can also make or break how enjoyable your hike is, no matter the weather conditions.
Daypack / Gear Suggestions:
- Rain Coat and Pants (or a Poncho)
- Water and Snacks
- First Aid Kit
- Trekking Poles
- A Packable Jacket
- Poop Bags + Leash (if you’re hiking with your dog)
If you’re new to hiking and/or not sure what to include in your daypack, check out this article on the Ten Essentials.
If you plan on bringing your dog along, plan on making sure there’s food and water available for him/her as well.
Don’t Rely on Your Phone
In our experience, the cell phone reception in and around Hocking Hills State Park was spotty at best.
I do not recommend relying solely on your phone for maps or communication.
Always have a backup plan in place!
Read Up on Trail Etiquette
I get it, rules aren’t cool and nobody likes them.
The thing is, nobody really likes getting lost, being ill-prepared, getting eaten by wildlife, or having their favorite “Gram-Worthy” places destroyed and defaced, either.
The Leave No Trace principles aren’t about creating stupid rules to follow, they’re about being smart, planning ahead, and preserving some of the most beautiful natural places in the world so we can all enjoy them.
For more information, go check out lnt.org.
Have a Food Plan
While there were a few restaurants and country stores in the area, there weren’t many, and the drive into the nearest city was about 13 miles away.
Plan on packing a picnic, cooking at your tent/trailer/cabin, eating at one of the small eateries near the park, or allowing time to drive into the city to avoid anyone getting too “hangry”.
Pay Attention to Trail Difficulty and Regulations
The trails in Hocking Hills State Park offered a variety of ways to view the landscape. The rim trails offered clifftop views with few hills or obstacles, while the gorge trails were a bit more scenic and required a more climbing and watching where you step.
Before hiking a trail, read the signage located at the trailhead to ensure you know where you are and of any dangers or challenges that may be present on a particular trail.
A few of the trails in the park are handicap accessible. Details on handicap accessible trails can be found on the Ohio DNR website.
While most of the trails in the park allowed dogs, the trails located in the nature preserves do not. Definitely keep this in mind when planning out your hiking itinerary. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that while the majority of trails in Hocking Hills State Park are labeled as dog friendly, most of them did have obstacles such as steep stone stairs, rocks, tree roots, mud, cliffs, etc. Be mindful of your dog’s size, physical abilities, and temperament around people and other dogs when choosing whether or not to bring him/her along. If you do choose to hike with your dog, the park has many cliffs, so hiking with a leash is a must!
Most of the trails that we hiked would be suitable for kids to hike on. Again, just keep in mind that the trails not labeled as “handicap accessible” do have stairs, mud, tree roots, etc.
While I will say that we saw people of almost all ages on the trails we chose to hike on in Hocking Hills State Park, definitely be sure to keep the physical abilities and limitations of everyone in your group in mind when choosing where to hike.
Although Logan isn’t what I would consider a “major city”, there were still quite a few options for lodging.
If you’re looking to stay in a scenic spot that’s close to scenic roads and hiking trails and offers dog-friendly accommodations, camping at one of the local campgrounds or looking for a cabin rental is definitely the way to go!
There were also hotel and bed and breakfast options relatively close to the park.
To read about our experience hiking at Hocking Hills State Park, check out this blog post.