Hocking Hills for Nature Lovers: Top Things to Do Outdoors

An hour drive from Columbus, Ohio, lands you in Hocking Hills, an area known for its breathtaking cliffs, waterfalls, caves and gorges. The region has several protected wildlife areas and nature preserves, making it ideal for nature and outdoor enthusiasts to escape their daily routines and enjoy the unspoiled scenery. Hocking Hills State Park recently made this list as one of the 50 best natural wonders of the country and the best in the state of Ohio. And make no mistake: Hocking Hills is a year-round destination, but the scenery becomes more varied and nuanced once the snow melts and flowers start to bloom. Now is the time to get outside, so here are the top things to do outdoors in Hocking Hills, Ohio.

Canoeing & Kayaking
Get up close and personal with nature by canoeing and kayaking some of Hocking Hills’ most scenic rivers. Several kayak and canoe rental facilities like Hocking Hills Adventures, Hocking Hills Canoe Livery, Lake Logan State Park and Touch the Earth Adventures offer extra amenities like fishing supplies, guided tours, and one-of-a-kind packages like a romantic moonlight tours under the stars. While paddling through the rivers, keep your eyes peeled for some of the migratory birds making their way back north. During spring and early summer, millions of birds make rest stops in the region and take advantage of the area’s rich wilderness. 

Thrill-seekers will want to check out some of Hocking Hills’ canopy tours, where guests can whiz through trees and get a bird’s eye view of the area. With more than 60 zip lines to choose from, guests can reserve a spot at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, R Adventure Park, Soaring Cliffs or Valley Zipline Tours. Some zip lines can go as high as 1,000 feet and feature different challenges. Ziplining in Hocking Hills will take you past some of the most gorgeous sites in the region, including waterfalls and caves. 

Horseback Riding

Why walk through the woods when you can do it on horseback? During spring and early summer, stables across Hocking Hills offer private and group tours on trails that pass waterfalls, cow pastures, rolling hills, caves, interesting rock formations and more. Many stables and ranches have special offerings, like barbecue cookouts (Uncle Buck’s Riding Stable) or a Cowboy Cookout Ride with designated campgrounds (Spotted Horse Ranch). However, for a lesson in horse riding etiquette, the Equestrian Ridge Farm in New Plymouth trains guests on proper handling and riding on gentle horses. Other nearby ranches include Smoke Rise Ranch & Resort, Blue Moon Acres, and Happy Trails Horseback Rides

Catch your own dinner in one of Hocking Hills’ many streams, rivers and lakes. Area visitors can rent boats, using a charter service or fish from land. Lake Hope State Park in McArthur is a 2,983-acre fishing paradise outfitted with its own boat rentals and comfy fishing spots. Lake Logan State Park in Logan is another fantastic fishing site with its own boat rentals, bait shop, and marina. Amateur fishers will want to look into Ohio Belly Boat Fishing, where they will be taken to known spots for hungry fish and given personal lessons on using rods, reels and bait. All supplies are provided. Common fish to catch during spring and early summer are crappie, catfish, saugeye, bluegill, pike and bass. 

Rock Climbing
Hocking Hills has a new attraction, High Rock Adventures, bringing rappelling, rock climbing and scotours to the area. During a 2.5-hour program, climbers and rappellers are given brief lessons on safety, then with ongoing instruction from their guide, they set out to tackle cliffs anywhere from 35 to nearly 100 feet tall. If you’re more excited to venture down rather than going up, consider rappelling, where the rush of stepping off a cliff (safely) really is happening. High Rock Adventures also offers Eco & Adventure Tours, where you get up close and personal with nature through rock squeezes, challenges, crawls and/or have fun learning about forest plant and animal life, history, geology, local legends and more

International Migration Bird Walk at Lake Hope
On May 14, the Migration Bird Walk at Lake Hope attracts birders from across the globe to celebrate the love of birding while looking for rare species. Participants are to meet at the Hope Furnace parking lot to team up with other bird enthusiasts and search for the feathery migratory creatures. Songbirds, waterfowls and whippoorwills (known for their melancholic singing) are among the birds often seen in Hocking Hills. During the trek, birders will also catch glimpses of native wildlife like deer, raccoons, rabbits and squirrels.   

2nd Annual Cruise Hocking 
Check out the best local joints and entertainment that Hocking Hills has to offer by joining the 2nd Annual Cruise Hocking event. At a fixed price, visitors will be given deals of complimentary breakfast at the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge before embarking on an adventure down Main Street in Logan, Ohio. Guests participate in Autocross Racing, where they can show off their racing skills and interact with other car enthusiasts. Visitors can show off their classic and vintage automobiles at the “Show-n-Shine” car show before hitting the buffet by the poolside. This event lasts for two days and live music will be played throughout the festival. 

5th Annual Duck Creek Log Jam 
From May 27-29, the Hocking Hills area comes alive with eccentric and raw folk bands playing their best tunes at Duck Creek Log Jam. Expect to see musicians play feet-stomping music with their mandolins, cellos, guitars, violins, banjos and fiddles. Attendees will have the choice to expand their musical vacation by camping overnight with their RVs and tents while they mingle with other campers over a bonfire. This event will be held at Duck Creek near Lake Logan State Park, nestled in 100 acres of scenic beauty.