The large recess at Cantwell Cliffs is one reason some visitors say this site is the most scenic of the five locales at Hocking Hills State Park.
Photo: Staff photo by Connie Post
Photo: Staff photo by Connie Post

WORTH THE DRIVE: Hocking Hills State Park to reopen several popular hiking trails

As businesses begin to reopen in the state of Ohio, many favorite outdoor destinations, like Hocking Hills State Park, are also greeting visitors once again.

On Monday, June 15, two beloved Hocking Hills State Park sites — Cantwell Cliffs and Rock House — will once again serve as a natural oasis for travelers from all over the state. Perhaps the most beloved trail, Old Man’s Cave, will reopen later this summer, along with many other trails and destinations in the state park. Currently, most trails in Hocking Hills State Park are closed due to concerns for public health and social distancing. These sites will be the first to reopen in the park, since social distancing on the spacious trails surrounding these sites is easier to do than on other trails. 

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“Visitors are attracted to rugged beauty of the Hocking Hills region, but some of the features that draw hikers also make it difficult for them to practice safe social distancing,” said Glen Cobb, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s (ODNR) Division of Parks and Watercraft, in a press release. “Our top priority is the safety of our visitors, staff and first responders, and we believe the modifications will make trail use safer.” 

The ODNR will be re-routing trails and directing hikers to one-way travel in places where this form of social distancing is possible. Aside from allowing visitors to maintain a proper social distance, one-way travel throughout the trails also protects the delicate ecological systems in the area. 

Visitors will be asked to park only in designated parking spots. When the parking lot is deemed full, the area will be temporarily closed until more space becomes available. 

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Along with the reopening of these popular trails, the Hocking State Forest is also bringing back several recreational features beginning on June 15, like the horse camp, Airplane Rock and bridle trails north of the rappelling area on Unger Road. The bridle trails south of the rappelling area and fire tower parking area will remain closed to the public until further notice.

In the latter portion of the summer months, park officials hope to revise current trails surrounding other popular destinations, like Ash Cave, Cedar Falls and Whispering Cave to allow for social distancing. 

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Looking to spend an entire weekend exploring all that Hocking Hills State Park has to offer? The park will be taking new reservations for the campground and cabin areas with an arrival date of July 15 or later. If you reserved a spot at a campground or cabin through June 30, the reservation will be automatically canceled and a full refund will be issued to the original form of payment. If they are unable to refund your reservation to the original form of payment, then you will receive an Ohio State Parks e-gift card that can be used on a future reservation. 

For more information about Hocking Hills State Park and their coronavirus policies, head to their website.

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