Hocking Hills Highlights - Conkle's Hollow Preserve, Rock House, & Ash Cave - Hocking Hills Area - Ohio
On this day we visited three of the Hocking Hills area natural attractions. It was a bit more crowded on the trails than we like, but the features themselves were better than we expected.
We headed out around noon to visit some more of the area highlights around Hocking Hills.
I said yesterday that we didn't exactly beat the crowd. Boy was I wrong - yesterday's crowd was nothing.
The parking lot here at Hocking Hills State Park was overloaded. The whole area was crawling with people. It looked more like a popular National Park rather than a series of natural attractions in a rural section of Ohio.
Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve
Our first stop was the Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve. It was just a few miles from the campground.
I knew it would be busy around here on an October Saturday, but I was sort of hoping all the Ohio State fans would be home watching the game or actually at the game since it was homecoming. But noooo .... lots of red shirts were out doing the nature thing today.
At Conkle's Hollow there are two trails. There is a 2 1/2 mile trail around the rim of Conkle's Hollow, a sandstone gorge with 200 foot cliffs. And there is also a 1/2 mile paved, wheelchair accessible trail into the gorge.
After crossing the bridge toward the trailheads, ....
we started out with the East Rim Trail. After the steep climb up steps and an incline, ....
we were on the rim.
And make no mistake about it, this is truly a rim trail. The trail runs right along the edge of the cliffs with no barriers. A bad slip or trip could result in serious injury or worse.
Here is probably the most photographed point at Conkle's Hollow.
Here is a pull-back shot.
You can barely see someone out close to the edge on the rocks.
Linda found her own rock along the edge for a pose.
Just after that, we ran into a couple of rangers. They were very nice and told us a little about the area. They are a little more diligent than the state parks in making sure people aren't doing any more damage to the Preserve.
They told us the Hocking Hills area is the most-visited natural area in Ohio due to some pretty strong promotion over the past six or seven years. In fact, they said the area is about at its tourist capacity. I can't remember the number of annual visitors, but it was certainly up there in National Park territory.
Eventually, we rounded the end of the gorge and finished the East Rim Trail. So we started back toward the parking lot on the West Rim Trail. On the west side, it was more wooded along the rim and the drop-offs weren't as dramatic. Still, it was very pretty.
Like the state park, there was no running water and therefore, the many falls in the Preserve, like the one above, were dry.
We finished the West Rim Trail by descending down an incline and numerous steps.
At the bottom, I convinced Linda to do the 1/2 mile paved trail into the gorge.
It was much cooler down on the gorge floor as we walked between the cliffs along the creek bed among the tall trees and the ferns.
It was a very nice, easy walk that was well worth it. At the end of the paved trail, we could have continued on into the gorge, but we were getting hungry and retreated to the Jeep for a late lunch.
After finishing up at Conkle's Hollow, we drove the five miles to Rock House.
We were told by several people not to miss Rock House which is located in a different section of Hocking Hills State Park.
There are two parking lots at Rock House. There is a trailhead at each parking lot that lead a half mile to the Rock House from different directions. We parked in the upper parking lot and took the "yellow" trail.
There were bunches of people on the trails and many were hanging out at this rock wall.
We didn't know it at the time, but inside that wall was Rock House, a huge cave room with several openings looking out over the forest.
Now, we've seen lots of caves and our expectations weren't very high. But the striking thing about this one, at least for me, was the variety of colors in the cave walls.
Even in the dark, you could see the colors, but they really showed up with flash photos inside.
This is just a shot of Linda taking pictures of other people with their camera.
She does a lot of that. You can see light coming in from some of the "windows" and you can barely see the opening in the other end of the cave.
More colors on the walls surrounding one of those windows.
I took a lot of photos in there. Several of us were blinding each other with flashes.
I just couldn't get over how colorful it was.
We did finally get out of there. And I got a shot of the easiest entrance at the front of the Rock House.
Linda waited for me as I walked past the cave and down a bunch of steps to the right to get a different view.
Everyone that suggested Rock House was right. It is certainly worth seeing. Here was my last shot from below ....
before I walked back up and met Linda for our hike to the parking lot.
Oh, but we weren't finished for the day. We drove another part of the area's scenic drive and came in the back way to Ash Cave.
Ash Cave is also part of Hocking Hills State Park and in addition to being able to drive there, it's a six-mile hike (one-way) from the campground.
The trail at Ash Cave is another paved, wheelchair accessible trail that runs a quarter mile.
Wow! Ash Cave is a massive "recess" cave that spans 900 feet (imagine three football fields) and is 90 feet high.
It was just amazing. Here is another shot back from the other side.
The good thing about a lot of people on the trails today is that it was easy to show perspective.
This was easily the largest recess cave we have ever seen. For several minutes, Linda & I sat in the back of the cave, approximately in the center, and took it all in.
We could easily see why this was such an attractive gathering place and why many fires were built over many years (thus, Ash Cave). We imagined what it must have been like for early generations to live there.
Even with quite a few people around, Ash Cave still provided us with a more spiritual feel than any of the other places we've visited the last couple of days. It's a very, very special place, and we understood why one of the rangers we spoke with earlier had it at the top of his list.
As we were leaving, we noticed a small wedding party gathering at the front of the cave. Yep, they just had a wedding right there in the cave in front of everyone.
Pretty cool, huh?
By the time we reached the parking area, we could hear the cheers echoing off the cave walls when the ceremony was over.
It was certainly a day worth cheering for.
Well, we hoped you enjoyed our day two in the Hocking Hills area. We sure did.