Experience Nature's Beauty at the New Hocking Hills Lodge: The Ultimate Ohio Getaway
If you were to ask me where I love traveling to again and again, my answer, without hesitation, is Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. This area has so many natural wonders that never fail to take my breath away. It's full of cascading waterfalls, cliffs, gorges, and unique rock formations. It's about 2.5 hours from Cincinnati, OH, and only 1 hour away from Columbus, OH. My husband and I packed our bags on a Tuesday morning and left for the new Hocking Hills Lodge (it opened last fall) to enjoy a relaxing 2-night midweek getaway.
The Hocking Hills Lodge is nestled amidst the State Park's beauty and offers easy access to all of the attractions. As soon as we stepped foot inside, we were greeted by a warm and inviting atmosphere. I loved the massive windows that allow you to see the expansive views of the area. There are two stone fireplaces parallel to each other which really gives it that cozy lodge feeling. The decor reflects the natural surroundings of the area and has elements that pay homage to the local wildlife, flora, and landscape.
Since we arrived before check-in time, we decided to get coffee from Café '22, which is located on the right when you walk into the main lobby. I got a chai tea latte and my husband got a regular black coffee. This café is so convenient since it also has many grab-and-go snacks. After getting our coffee, we found a cozy spot in front of the fireplace to connect to wifi and finish up on work emails. I love that there are so many great spots for seating in the lobby area. This made it so easy to finish up on work while waiting to check in.
We were hoping to play a round of disc golf while waiting to check in but it started to rain and was extremely windy that day. The disc golf course is located at the lodge and currently has 9 holes. You can sign out frisbees at the front desk. There's still a lot you can do at the lodge on a rainy day! There's a pool table, ping pong table, and even board games. Don't forget about the indoor pool and hot tub.
During check-in, make sure to ask about the Naturalist Program events that may be happening during your stay. These programs include guided hikes, meet live animals, tips for outdoor survival, and much more. Check out the Naturalist Program's website to see the schedule.
Once we were checked in, we took the elevator up to our room on the 2nd floor. The first thing I noticed about the 2nd-floor hallway was the floor-to-ceiling windows at the end. It made the hallway feel more open and unique. We had a double queen room with a balcony. This lodge holds 81 guestrooms and also has 40 cabins.
I loved how simple the room decor was. The guestroom color schemes reflect the shade of birds native to the area. I also learned that the pattern on the headboard depicts the signature treeline that surrounds the property. We had a large TV, microwave, mini fridge, and desk. The bathroom had a spacious walk-in shower and large vanity. The balcony was my favorite part. The view was stunning and I could sit out there all day relaxing. The balcony is covered which was great because we could sit outside, even during the rain.
Before dinner, we headed downstairs and relaxed in the rocking chairs that are located in front of the lodge. We both agreed that these were the most comfortable rocking chairs we ever sat in!
The lodge has a restaurant called The Rock House. If you're planning on eating here make sure to get a reservation! You can call 740-270-6100 or reserve through OpenTable. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You'll find a variety of options on the menu. Many of the food items are made with local ingredients. I really loved the Greek salad and evergreen garlic fries. My husband loved the baked penne. We were so full after eating but ended up getting a slice of carrot cake to put in our fridge for later.
If you're looking for a nighttime activity and the skies are clear, make sure to check out the John Glenn Astronomy Park! This is located within walking distance of the lodge. You can check their website for updates and programs. The lodge even made sure to have special lights to reduce light pollution.
The next day we woke up well-rested and headed back to Café '22 for coffee and a small snack (we were still full from dinner and decided to skip a big breakfast). We had some hikes planned out for the day and our first one was Whispering Cave. The trailhead to this hike is located right next to the lodge!
I've been to Hocking Hills many times and have never hiked the Whispering Cave trail! This hike is 1.5 miles out and back. It does get steep in some areas and has a lot of stairs, but is so worth it. This recess cave is huge! It's crazy to think this was shaped over millions of years by water! Due to the cave's size and shape, sounds made near the entrance can travel and reverberate throughout the space, creating a distinct whispering effect. There's even a small waterfall that runs down the middle of it. This is a lesser-known hike in Hocking Hills and we had it all to ourselves that morning.
After spending some time at Whispering Cave, we hiked back up to the lodge and grabbed a light lunch at Cafe '22. They have an assortment of premade sandwiches, fruit, chips, water, and soda. This is also a great spot to stop at before leaving to get snacks before your hike. I love that you can also find plenty of seating outside to enjoy your meal.
Our next hike was at Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve (located at 24858 Big Pine Road, Rockbridge, OH 43149). This is one of the deepest gorges in Ohio. There are two trails to hike, the Upper Trail and the Lower Trail. The upper trail is 2 miles long and can be pretty steep in some areas. The cliff views from the upper trail are gorgeous. The lower trail is 1.2 miles, paved, and wheelchair accessible. The lower trail at Conkle's Hollow is one of my favorites. You'll find towering trees, large boulders covered in moss, and a small waterfall at the end. As we hiked through the lower trail, the sun emerged and produced sunbeams down the path which gave it an ethereal glow! It was beautiful beyond words.
Another great lesser-known hike to do in Hocking Hills is Cantwell Cliffs (located at 13540 OH-374, Rockbridge, OH 43149). This loop trail is 1.8 miles and rated moderate. It does have a lot of stairs and steep areas. You start out on top of the cliffs with a breathtaking view. You can then take the stone steps down between the cliffs which was our favorite part about the hike.
After hiking we headed back to the Hocking Hills Lodge to relax by the pool! The lodge has a seasonal outdoor pool (which opens on Memorial Day and Closes on Labor Day). The outdoor hot tub is open all year round and even has a radiant-heated concrete slab to prevent snow and ice. I loved putting my feet up and relaxing on one of the lounge chairs! Towels are available at the poolside which was so nice since I forgot to bring one.
Does anyone else experience a surge of hunger following a session of swimming, or am I the only one in this phenomenon? After we finished up at the pool we hurried up to our room and got dressed for dinner. We decided to check out the Rock House Pub. The pub is located next to the Rock House Restaurant in the Lodge and has a full bar, tables, and even outdoor seating available.
I was excited to see that the Rock House Pub has a pizza menu. We ordered a veggie pizza and paired it with a glass of locally sourced wine. We sat outside on the patio and the breeze felt so refreshing.
For dessert, we decided to make s'mores using one of the fire pits located at the Lodge! The fire pits are located on the Grand Terrace where the outdoor games are. They are first come first serve. If you need help getting it set up, go to the front desk and they will call maintenance to start your fire. This a great spot to connect and talk to others while you're enjoying your fire. We loved relaxing out here and the warmth of the fire felt amazing.
In my opinion, the perfect way to end the day at the Lodge is to relax in the indoor hot tub and pool area. We went an hour before it closed and had it all ourselves! The water temp was just right. The switch to turn on the jets to the hot tube is next to the door where you enter from the Lodge.
The next morning we checked out at the desk and grabbed some coffee to-go at Cafe '22. We made a fast stop at one of my favorite waterfall hikes in Hocking Hills, Ash Cave (located at 26400 OH-56, South Bloomingville, OH). This an easy and short hike of 0.5 miles and it leads you to an enormous recess cave and waterfall. I recently learned that Ash Cave is one of the largest recess caves east of the Mississippi. I loved taking the steps up behind the waterfall and seeing the full view of it.
Before saying goodbye to our happy place and heading home, we stopped at Old Man's Cave. This is one of the most popular hikes in Hocking Hills (located at 19852 St. Rt. 664 S Logan, OH 43138). It's comprised of 5 different areas. Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls, and Lower Gorge. This hike is about 1.5 miles long. You'll also find some caves and stone bridges that look like they're straight out of a fairytale! Make sure to visit Old Man's Cave Visitor Center where you can learn about the local area and history of the State Park.
Other hikes to add to your Hocking Hills List are Cedar Falls and Rock House. Please remember to stay on the trails and there is no wading or swimming allowed in creeks or waterfalls.
Need some backup activities in case of inclement weather? You can go shopping at the Hocking Hills Candle Works and Wood Chime Shops or visit the Jack Pine Studio and catch a live glass-blowing demo!
Ready to book your stay at the Hocking Hills Lodge and explore the magic of Hocking Hills? Click this link- https://www.hockinghillsparklodge.com/lodging