Stunning foliage; quirky lodging beacons fall travelers to SE Ohio

Staff Report

Old Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills State Park.

Old Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills State Park.

LOGAN — More than 10,000 acres of unbroken forest in Ohio’s Hocking Hills region — dotted with outdoor adventures and wildly unusual lodging options — offers some of the nation’s best fall foliage, thanks to the ideal concoction of fiery red Maples, blazes of orange Sassafras, flashes of yellow Hickory, brushstrokes of brown Oak and pops green Hemlock and Pine. The Hocking Hills also offers some of the country’s most diverse accommodations, though travelers encouraged to book lodging quickly via, as accommodations fill up quickly in fall, the area’s high season.

An easy, scenic drive from most major cities and an hour from Columbus, the Hocking Hills’ extraordinary rock formations were carved eons ago by glaciers. Rushing waterfalls, soaring cliffs and craggy caves draw visitors from around the globe. Ribbons of twisting, turning roads offer some of the most dazzling fall color drives in North America. Travelers can immerse themselves in the beauty via off-road Segways, horseback, kayak or from the air via zipline canopy tours. And no visit to the area is complete without a hike to Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Conkle’s Hollow or Cedar Falls.

Dubbed the “Canopy Tour Capital of the Midwest,” multiple world-class zipline operators offering dozens of tours, including a Super Zip and an X-Treme canopy tour that takes travelers right through a waterfall and into a cave for a truly unusual birds-eye view of the season’s splendor. Meanwhile, an off-road Segway tour gives visitors a more ground-hugging tour. The all-new High Rock Adventures takes visitors on guided eco tours and heart-pounding rappelling trips, giving adventure-seekers a ringside seat for what may be the most beautiful color show on earth. Kayaking, horseback riding, ATV and other guided and self-led hikes and adventures let Hocking Hills visitors really immerse themselves in autumn’s beauty.

Quirky Lodging Abounds

From cozy cottages, historic B&Bs and charming country inns with spas and four-star restaurants, to fully-equipped cabins and lodges that sleep dozens, many offer a fully loaded gourmet kitchen, perfect for huge groups. Most are outfitted with deluxe amenities, such as a pool table, foosball, gas grill or telescope for viewing fall color and local wildlife or for stargazing. Many feature a large hot tub, offering the perfect way to experience Hocking Hills’ magnificent star-filled skies. (The lack of city lights means that the region’s night sky is nothing short of dazzling.)

Intrepid travelers can “Sleep in History” — literally — thanks to the creative preservationists at Historic Host Vacation Rentals. Among this unusual lodging company’s offerings are a restored general store/post office, with its original scale, shelving and other vintage touches. The old Dunkle Schoolhouse, a 1926 B&O train caboose and an Ohio early farmhouse are also available for overnight accommodations. Historic Host’s Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum, two historic B&Bs and several charming little cottages and cabins in its Fiddlestix Village round out the offerings. Each is lovingly restored so guests enjoy a comfortable yet authentic overnight stay that carefully preserves the rich history of not just the shelter, but the Hocking Hills region itself.

At Boulders Edge Cabin and Tipi Retreat allows visitors to experience the magic and tranquility of camping in traditional Sioux Native American tipis, reminiscent of “Dances with Wolves.” Each tipi sleeps 10 comfortably, sits on a wooden deck and has a wood-burning stove inside. Guests provide their own sleeping gear cot or mattress, sleeping bag and chairs. But picnic tables, fire rings and a solar shower are provided.

It’s “All Aboard!” for guests Hocking Hills Caboose, a just-renovated, antique train caboose hidden deep in the woods. A huge hit with kids, railroad buffs and anyone seeking an unusual escape, the caboose has been transformed into a fully equipped cabin that sleeps five and features kitchenette, full bath and a cozy fire pit just outside the door that overlooks a stunning woodland valley.

A Mongolian yurt offers yet another option for visitors seeking to sleep in the unusual. Salt Creek Retreats’ cabins and yurt sits on 60 secluded acres near miles of private trails, a fishing pond, scenic overlook and a river for swimming. Dog friendly and fully stocked with dishes, utensils, pillows, chairs, heater and a grill, the yurt sleeps up to six.

As if Ravenswood Castle’s Medieval Village, castle rooms and Fairytale Village Cottages are not enough, for just $59, visitors can tuck into a cozy reproduction British Romani Gypsy Wagon, equipped with double-decker beds, a kitchenette and a bath house down the wooded path.

A traditional Scottish hamlet, complete with Old World-style crofts and cottages, is part of the charm of The Glenlaurel Scottish Inn, which transports guests back to Medieval Europe, yet retains today’s modern conveniences. Glenlaurel’s fine dining and authentic Scottish Links Golf help visitors truly immerse themselves in a historical Scottish experience.

Beyond quirky, a number of Hocking Hills lodging operators have taken luxury to a wild, new level. Majestic Oaks Lodge is one of the dozens deluxe lodges in the Hocking Hills that are fully loaded with far more comforts than most homes. With space for a whopping 44 guests, this stunner boasts 9,000 square feet of indoor living space; 4,800 square feet of gorgeous outdoor decks with two eight-person hot tubs; a heated, indoor pool; eight full baths; a dazzling gourmet kitchen and 18 acres of woodlands and trails.

Located 40 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio’s Hocking Hills region offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make every day feel like Saturday, with plenty of free activities. Unique gift and antique shops, artists’ studios and hands-on activities add to the allure of the Hocking Hills as the perfect place to unplug. Complete traveler information is available or 1-800-Hocking (800-462-5464).

Old Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills State Park. Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills State Park.

Staff Report