While destinations like New Zealand, Nepal and Ecuador are well-known for their adventurous offerings, there is actually an off-the-radar region in Ohio that offers an array of thrills: Hocking Hills. While I’ve talked about the region’s quirky, cultural and sustainable offerings, it’s now time to shed some light on its more adrenaline-pumping fare. From zip-lining at night to ghost hunting in the haunted Ash Cave, here is the Adventurous Traveler’s Guide To Hocking Hills, Ohio.
Zip-Lining One Of “10 Amazing Zip-Lines Around The World”
Ohio’s first canopy operation, Hocking Hills Canopy Tours features 10 zip-lines and five adventure skybridges, all immersed in a beautiful landscape of rivers, caves, forest and cliffs. While they have a range of canopy tours to choose from, I highly recommend their “SuperZip,” a superman-style zip-line that flies for a quarter mile at 50-miles-per-hour and was named one of the “10 Amazing Zip-Lines Around The World” by Discovery.com. Make the experience even more thrilling by doing a zip-line tour at night, or more scenic at sunrise or sunset.
Kayak, Canoe Or Raft Down The Hocking River
The Hocking Hills Canoe Livery offers a range of excursions down the Hocking River, including kayaking, canoeing and rafting. Lined with trees, fields and several islands and sandbars that offer a great place to stop for lunch, you’ll get your heart rate up as well as snap some beautiful landscape photos. If you’re interested in canoeing or kayaking, the trip goes for about five to seven miles depending which tour you choose. You can also rent the vessels for an hourly rate of $15. Additionally, the rafting trip goes for five miles with rafts holding four to six people.
Bonus: For a mix of aerial and water-based thrills, combine a kayaking trip with a zip-lining tour. The Hocking Hills Canoe Livery teams up with Hocking Hills Canopy to bring you this combo experience that includes kayaking to the SuperZip, zip-lining Superman-style, then continuing down the Hocking River. Call 800-634-6820 or e-mail them at [email protected] for more information.
In my opinion, the most worthwhile offering of Hocking Hills is its hundreds of miles of hiking trails. You can explore permit-only reserves while listening to the storytelling of a Shawnee Indian, or opt to explore Ohio’s largest state park, Hocking Hills State Park. The attraction features six main hiking areas, including Rock House, Cedar Falls, Conkie’s Hollow, Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave and Old Man’s Cave. Lose yourself — without actually getting lost — in the surrounding hemlocks, caves, cliffs, waterfalls and rivers. If you want to know more about the park, hire a naturalist guide to show you around.
Oh yea, did I mention most of the park is haunted? Which brings me to my next point…
While scenic, Hocking Hills State Park features some of Ohio’s most haunted sites, including Ash Cave and Old Man’s Cave. In fact, the park is home to a woman named Mary who was murdered at the once-onsite hotel, as well as the undead Richard Howe and his hounds who can still be heard roaming the woods late at night. Park staff member Pat Quackenbush is not only a local celebrity and certified naturalist, he’s also a ghost hunter and the author of “Haunted Hocking: A Ghost Hunter’s Guide.” He’ll help you explore Ash Cave using spirit boxes, digital infrared thermometers and electro-magnetic field detectors as you try to pick up energy from the other world. He’ll also tell some personal experience stories that will make your hair stand on end. Pat can be contacted at (740) 385-8003 ext. 213 and [email protected]
An Actual Haunted Wagon Ride
Another haunted site of the area is Moonville and the Moonville Tunnel. Local John Hutchison will take you on his horse and wagon through the area, regaling you with chilling but true tales with the voice of a gripping storyteller. Moonville was once a mining town, but locals just kept leaving until there was nobody left. Today, you’ll find a tiny cemetery in the woods as well as a haunted tunnel, said to be the hangout of a headless brakeman carrying a lantern.
Lose Your Lunch On A Small Plane
For those who want a scenic adrenaline rush, Pilot Harry Sowers of Scenic Air Tours will give you just that. It’s immediately clear upon meeting him how passionate he is about flying, and he loves taking interested parties up in his 4-seater Cessna 172 Sky Hawk from the tiny Vinton County Airport. The view is breathtaking as you see the lush landscape, flowing rivers and cozy cottages below. Try to sit in the front seat, as you’ll get to help fly and land the airplane. Moreover, when Harry shifts gears and takes you to zero gravity you’ll feel like you’re an astronaut on the moon. Just make sure you don’t eat too much beforehand, as the feeling is akin to a steep drop on a roller coaster.
Hocking Hills State Forest staff focus on keeping the woodland a place for outdoor recreation. In fact, there is a designated “Climbing and Rappelling Area” for adventurous visitors. While Big Spring Hollow in the eastern portion of the climbing area provides access to a beautiful waterfall, Evolution Rock has three different routes to choose, each named after one of the Three Stooges. Other worthwhile climbs include Six Crack Area, Shipwreck Rock and Flap Jack.
There are many places in Hocking Hills that allow you to explore the landscape from the back of a horse. Hocking Hills State Forest and Tar Hollow State Park are some of Ohio’s most popular parks that welcome horseback riders. Moreover, Equestrian Ridge Farm, Spotted Horse Ranch and Uncle Buck’s Riding Stable can help you have a leisurely ride or more fast-paced adventure. My personal favorite is Uncle Buck’s, as the attraction also features a dance barn, beer garden and saloon.
ATVing & Biking
For those who want to experience Hocking Hills on wheels, you can rent ATVs from Hocking Hills Nature Trails all over the region. Their private property location is on Sauerkraut Road, and staff will train you before you head off. Afterward, riders can choose to be guided or go on their own. The company also offers bikes on the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, and you can again choose to take a tour or cycle solo. I actually recommend biking on the paved Hockhocking Advena Bikeway, as it is a 22-mile Rails to Trails bikeway stretching between Nelsonville and Athens.