Pandemic Adventures in Hocking Hills

Pandemic Adventures in Hocking Hills

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After months of being cooped up in our home, we decided our family needed a getaway. Several of our spring and summer trips were canceled due to the pandemic. I know many of you have had similar experiences.

Our household includes one immunocompromised person and two others with respiratory issues. Because of that, we tend to fall on the cautious side. We wanted to get away and have some much-needed family fun. But we also wanted some level of social distancing and control over our environment. We’ve always heard fantastic things about Hocking Hills but have never been there.

So in July, we booked a cabin and spent a few days in Southeastern Ohio. We also had friends planning a Hocking Hills trip for the same time, so we made plans to meet up and hang out.

The timing of our trip makes it somewhat unique. In early July, Ohio started opening back up some of its previously closed businesses like state parks and restaurants. We figured our entertainment, shopping, dining and adventure options would be somewhat limited. Because of that, we didn’t do much advanced planning for our trip.

Our family could easily spend a week exploring an area like Hocking Hills. There’s so much more to see and do in that area of Ohio than we were able to experience. I wish I could give you a more complete review of Hocking Hills, but this is 2020, and, well, this is just how it goes.

What is Hocking Hills?

Located in Hocking County in Southeastern Ohio, Hocking Hills is one of the most gorgeous regions of the state. It’s home to state parks, a national forest and several nature preserves. Visitors love its scenic hills, trails, caves, cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, wildlife and more. Hocking Hills is a must-see tourist destination for nature lovers, but also is a perfect road trip for every family.

Our Cabin

Typically, I do most of the research when planning our family trips, but Barb took the reins this time and knocked it out of the park. She found the perfect cabin for our family. We’re a family of six, and since this was basically our only vacation, we decided to level up our accommodations this trip. Of course, the second we walked through the door, our kids called dibs on the giant couch and quickly found their electronics. You can’t win every battle, right?!

We stayed at the Lodge at Lane’s End, which is owned and operated by Cabins by the Caves. Their website was easy to navigate and book our stay. The cabin featured a lockbox, so we didn’t need to stop anywhere to pick up a key.

The Lodge at Lane’s End is located in Logan, Ohio. The cabin was decked out with a huge fireplace, plenty of seating, a full kitchen, bedrooms for everyone, a hot tub, a hammock, a beautiful fire pit, and a wraparound deck. It’s a shame we were only there a few days. When we walked in, we could tell that they took every safety precaution possible to ensure a healthy environment. It smelled super clean and looked spotless, too. Of course, we still brought wipes and Lysol spray to make sure we were good to go.

We decided to bring our sweet Lola on the trip with us. Not all cabin rentals are pet friendly, so double check before booking if you’re bringing your dog. I believe we had to pay an extra fee to bring her. It was worth it. Lola absolutely loved the cabin. We had planned to bring her on all of our shorter, easier hikes, but the temperatures were in the 90s the week we went. We ended up only taking her on a few of our adventures. But she still loved going hiking, making s’mores by the fire pit and chasing the kids around the cabin.

Hiking Adventures in Hocking Hills

Most of our time in Hocking Hills outside of the cabin was spent hiking the incredible trails. We focused on trails within Hocking Hills State Park. The park splits into seven main hiking areas:

  • Ash Cave
  • Old Man’s Cave
  • Rock House
  • Conkle’s Hollow
  • Cedar Falls
  • Cantwell Cliffs
  • Hemlock Bridge / Whispering Cave

We ended up tackling trails at Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls and Rock House during our trip. I’ll admit that we aren’t the most “outdoorsy” family. We also had a kid returning from a sports injury (sure, blame it on the kids), so we opted for shorter trails. You could easily spend all day on these beautiful trails, though.

To help maintain social distancing, all of the trails are one-way. That also played into our decision on which paths to choose. We wore masks where required and then had them with us on the trails to wear as needed. The parking lots at several of the parks seemed busy, but we didn’t cross paths with any large crowds.

Ash Cave features a wheelchair-accessible trail. So does Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve, which we also hiked. Here’s a list of other Hocking Hills wheelchair-accessible trails I found online. It was cool to see the care that’s gone into making the area accessible to everyone.

Hocking Hills State Park has plenty to do besides hiking trails, including archery, boating, hunting, fishing, camping and more.

Water Sports in Hocking Hills

We also spent some time on and in the water during our Hocking Hills adventure.

There are a few places to enjoy the water in Hocking Hills. A pontoon boat was the perfect choice as we explored Lake Logan for a few hours. Our crew especially loved jumping and diving into the swimming area. We rented our pontoon boat from Lake Logan Marina. The staff was great, giving us clear instructions and using every safety precaution possible. They also rent kayaks, paddleboards, paddleboats and more.

The last morning in Hocking Hills was spent canoeing. For this, our crew headed to Murray’s Landing. The rental company offers three canoe trips of varying lengths. Three miles was enough for our family, especially those who spent some extra time in the water instead of the canoe. If canoes aren’t your thing, they also rent kayaks and have lazy river innertubes.

Dining in Hocking Hills

OK, so I’m sure there are plenty of great places to eat in Hocking Hills. At the time of our trip, though, restaurants were just opening back up and we weren’t ready to venture indoors to eat. We opted for restaurants with simple takeout options. Since our cabin was decked out with a large kitchen, we packed most of our food anyways. One of our takeout adventures was to Capt. Ron’s Pirate Pizza. Admittedly, I chose this spot on the name alone. Blame the 90s kid in me. None of our kids complained about the pizza, which is as close to a five-star review as you can get from our crew.

Our other dinner was takeout from the Hungry Buffalo. The restaurant was open for sit down service but was super packed when we pulled in, so we were glad we opted for takeout. Hungary Buffalo offers standard American fare and other eats. It also is the only restaurant I’ve ever been to with its own ax-throwing bar.

Here are some other eateries to check out in the Hocking Hills area:

Planning a trip to Hocking Hills

Before our Hocking Hills adventure was over, we realized we should have stayed at least one more night to fully experience the area. That’s OK, though, because we’ll be back for sure. If you’re thinking about a late summer or fall trip to Hocking Hills, just book it. It’s well worth the three-hour road trip from the Cleveland area.

Here’s a list of places to look for cabins, along with options for camping and RVs. The list isn’t exhaustive, as there are endless rental options in the Hocking Hills region.

If you’re looking for a unique place to lay your head in Hocking Hills, why not stay at a rental through the Box Hop, which are compact, funky rentals made from shipping containers. They are probably not the ideal accommodations for a large family but are definitely on our radar for a future trip without the kids. (Is that even possible?!)

Anytime you are booking rental accommodations, look over the fine print, paying close attention to:

  • Refund policies
  • Any extra fees
  • Check-in and check-out procedures
  • Amenities included with the rental
  • Sleeping arrangements

When you leave your cabin to explore the area, be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and other essentials. Our favorite travel purchase ever is a couple of backpack coolers, which make carrying all of our goodies a breeze.

If you’re feeling adventurous or need a break from your own house for a weekend, Hocking Hills is the perfect location for a family getaway.

About the author

Kevin Payne is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. His work has been featured in Forbes and Credit Karma. He is a regular contributor to Student Loan Planner, FinanceBuzz, and Club Thrifty. Kevin is the budget and family travel expert behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife and four kids. His spare time is spent exploring Northeast Ohio and planning family vacations.

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