The best hidden gems near Hocking Hills
Hocking Hills is the most popular state park in Ohio, so it’s easy to see why some of the main hiking trails get very crowded during summer or weekends! While most first-time visitors stick to the well-known Hocking Hills trails, there are actually plenty of great hikes that do not draw major crowds! I’ve compiled a list of some of the off-the-beaten-path trails at Hocking Hills, you’ll be sure to impress your family and friends with these hidden gems of Ohio.
Rockstall Nature Preserve
Located on the grounds of Camp Akita, Rockstall Nature Preserve is still, for the most part, a Hocking Hills secret. Rockstalls is not part of the Hocking Hills State Park.
Rockstall Nature Preserve is a short drive from Logan, making it very easy to explore while in the region. The trail is just over 1 mile long. It is open every day from 9-5 and parking is limited.
The trail is a loop. Give yourself 45 minutes at a minimum. We visited with family that had been before, and they advised us to follow the trail straight down the stairs towards the falls (do not veer to the right). We came back this way, too, and avoided walking along the gorge with our young children.
The waterfall was dry during our fall visit! If you’d like to see a flowing waterfall, I recommend visiting in the spring. Winter would also bring cool ice formations. There are stairs on this trail, so make sure you have proper footwear for winter hiking.
Want more info? Click here for my full guide to visiting Rockstall Nature Preserve.
Wahkeena Nature Preserve
Located just south of Lancaster in Fairfield County, the Wahkeena Nature Preserve is on the northern edge of the Hocking Hills region. Wahkeena is the Native American word for “Most beautiful.” Visitors to Wahkeena will leave the preserve understanding why the property was named in this way.
There are 4 different trails at Wahkeena. These are short in length and easy for children. The Pond Trail is a .1-mile trail that circles the pond. The Shelter Trail and Casa Burro Trail both travel mostly through woodland. The Shelter Trail is .5-mile and the Casa Burro Trail is 1 mile. There is no handicap-accessible route.
Wahkeena Nature Preserve also has an interesting Visitor Center! This multi-faceted attraction is only open on Wednesday- Sunday from 8 am – 4 pm. Find out more info about visiting on my post about Wahkeena Nature Preserve with kids.
Boch Hollow – Robinson Falls
Boch Hollow is a Nature Preserve located northeast of Logan, Ohio. This area has been recently developed by the ODNR. The main trails at Boch Hollow can be accessed without a permit, but Robinson Falls (a.k.a. Corkscrew Falls) area does require a permit. (Get a permit through ODNR).
The trail to Robinson Falls is very short! Do not drive to Hocking Hills just for this trail, as it will take you about 5 minutes. Once you see Robinson Falls, the trail ends and you have to turn around and go back to the car. Rockstall Nature Preserve is just down the road and would be easy to include in a day-trip!
We visited Corkscrew Falls at a time that was very dry, so the falls were not running. I’d recommend visiting in the spring or after a good rainfall!
Saltpetre Cave is another Hocking Hills trail and hidden gem that is accessible by an ODNR permit! (Get permit here). Make sure you apply for the permit at least 14 days in advance!
Saltpetre Cave consists of 4 rock formations. This 14-acre site has a recess cave that truly looks like a smaller version of Old Man’s Cave. Because this is also a nature preserve, no pets are allowed on the premises.
Visitors should be careful to follow the driving directions given on the permit! The parking area is only marked by a green wooden stake.
Chapel Cave, or 21 Horse Cave, is another hiking trail at Hocking Hills that is not as popular as the State Park trails. It’s easy to see why the cave gets its name- it really does look like a sanctuary, at least in nature! It’s rumored that the cave also fits 21 horses, and that makes plenty of sense, as it is located along the bridle trail.
Access to Chapel Cave is located along Big Pine Rd. Look for the bridle trail and rappelling area parking. Follow the white blazes until you see a wooden fence – walking along the fence line takes you to the cave.
You can learn more about visiting Chapel Cave on my itinerary for 3 days in Hocking Hills.
Big Spring Hollow
Big Spring Hollow is the highest waterfall in Hocking Hills! This is considered a “secret trail” because it’s on a bridle trail, not a traditional hiking trail, so most visitors to the area don’t realize they can hike here!
Big Spring Hollow is a great hike for families. Because it is a bridle trail, the terrain is very flat! Just watch – there is a lot of mud and sometimes a lot of poo. 😉 For more trails for families, check out my post on the best Hocking Hills Trails for kids.
Clear Creek Metro Park
Clear Creek Metro Park is part of the Columbus Metro Parks and is really a gateway to Hocking Hills. Clear Creek Metro Park encompasses over 5,000 acres of woodland and meadow in the Clear Creek Valley. We have enjoyed picnicking and hiking here on our trips to Hocking Hills.
Visitors to Clear Creek should print a map at home before entering the park. The trails are marked, but it does take some time to acclimate to the area. Even though this Metro Park is close to Lancaster, cell phone service is very spotty.
Clear Creek Metro Park is open from April – September from 6:30 am – 9 am. During fall and winter, the park closes at 7.
Moonville Tunnel is an old railroad tunnel with a vibrant history. This abandoned tunnel is part of a 16-mile work-in-progress trail that travels through Zaleski State Forest and Lake Hope State Park wetlands areas. The trail can be accessed by parking at the Moonville Tunnel lot. Download the map before you go because cell service in this area is almost non-existent!
While visiting Moonville Tunnel, you may also want to make time for hiking in Zaleski State Forest and having lunch or dinner at Lake Hope Lodge.
Where to find these Hocking Hills Hidden Gems
Have you been to Hocking Hills? What are your favorite trails?
Staying overnight? Check out a stay at the Hocking Hills Caboose. Have just one day in Hocking Hills? Check out my 1-day Hocking Hills itinerary for families. Staying longer? Check out my 3-day itinerary for Hocking Hills.
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