Hocking Hills in Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring
Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler
Buried treasure and nature’s riches fill the Hocking legends and wilderness. Among the caves, waterfalls, gorges, and rock outcrops are the unclaimed lore of robbers, the unmarked graves of early settlers, remains of ancient Indian civilizations and natural splendor.
Conkle’s Hollow looks much today as it always has – one of the deepest gorges in Ohio, it has steep cliffs plunging to a valley floor so dense with plant life, sunlight is blocked at its deepest depth. The setting is perfect…for a tall tale. A petroglyth is rumored to have adorned the gorge wall, created by a band of Indians who stole huge sums of money from settlers along the Ohio riverbanks. The wall carving was an arrow pointing across the hollow to a hiding spot only reachable by climbing a towering hemlock. After the settlers gave up the hunt for the thieves, the outlaws returned to find the hemlock destroyed, thereby making it impossible to reach the treasure buried in the rocky wall of the gorge. The petroglyth, having long eroded away, leaves only the mystery of whether or not the money is still somewhere to be claimed.
Nearby, another legend and natural wonder exists in what was once referred to as Robbers Roost, known today as the Rock House. The Rock House is the only true cave in the Hocking Hills region. It is a corridor located halfway up a 150 foot cliff measuring 25 feet high, 25 feet wide and stretching 200 feet long. Its structure includes natural windows cut through the stonewalls and porous rock in the rear of the cave where Native Americans lit fires to cook and warm the cave. There is even evidence of a drinking water supply maintained by manmade troughs used to contain spring water that entered through the wholly sandstone. However, such amenities later made this an ideal hideout for robbers.
Old Man’s Cave is one of the most popular natural attractions in Hocking Hills and also serves as the final resting place for some of its earliest inhabitants. A hermit by the name of Richard Rowe lived and died there. He is buried beneath the ledge of the cave. Before Rowe, two brothers who built a cabin by the cave’s entrance are also buried nearby. Old Man’s Cave has a bit of everything for nature lovers along its stretch of valley offering waterfalls, streams, forest, and wide variety of plant life, cliffs and undercut rocks. It is also part of the Buckeye Trail and America’s Discovery Trail.
Perhaps the most impressive natural treasure in the region is Ash Cave, Ohio’s largest recess cave. Its massive horseshoe shape spans 700 feet wide, 100 feet high and comes complete with a cascading waterfall. Its name is telling of its history. Several thousand bushels of ashes were discovered there (one measured 100 feet long and 30 feet wide). The ash remains included pottery, arrows, animal bones, flints and additional evidence of Native American campfires dating back hundreds of years. Today, the enormous cave-like ridge features impressive views from top to bottom. While hiking up the inner side behind the falling water, people on the ground floor look like ants.
Conkle’s Hollow, Rock House, Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave are just several of the many adventures to be had at Hocking Hills. Visitors will also enjoy the scenery of Cedar Falls – the best waterfall in the region; breathtaking Cantwell Cliffs; and Rock Bridge, a natural stone arch.
Known as the hot-tub capitol of Ohio, Hocking Hills begs an extended stay by offering an abundant selection of rustic to modern lodges, cabins, cottages and campsites. Nearby towns provide great shopping excursions for antique and craft lovers. For the more adventurous, there are activities such as zipline canopy tours, horseback riding, rappelling and kayaking. Side trips include train rides on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway and a tour of the nation’s only washboard museum. Throughout the year, unique activities and events include moonlit canoe rides, standing under a meteor shower, taking a winter hike to see the frozen waterfalls, as well as plenty of birding and fishing.