The Beauty of Rockbridge State Nature Preserve
Looking for a hike with fewer people that will challenge you? Then Rockbridge State Nature Preserve may just be for you.
When it comes to pictures people share on Instagram, I see a wealth from the many favorites in the Hocking Hills region. But I realized there weren’t nearly as many from Rockbridge State Nature Preserve. That struck me as curious, because the ones that are shared looked glorious. So without much more thought, I decided I needed to go there.
I punched the address into my GPS and made my way there. I pulled off of 33 and followed the signs, excited about what I was about to see.
As I got out of my car in the small parking lot, another hiker called over, “It’s a great day to hike!” This is one of my favorite parts of hiking. In normal life, people feel like strangers. But as soon as we are all on the trail, we become fast friends. It’s like just stepping foot into the Hocking Hills initiates you into a club of friendly people.
Now, to be completely honest, I made a lot of mistakes on this hike. First off, I did not look at a map. Secondly, I did happen to look at the mileage, and, as a former runner, I thought it would be a piece of cake. So this is what we will call my lessons learned hike.
The good news? As far as a lessons learned hike, this one was very forgiving.
Rockbridge invites you in with a very easy trail to start. I waved to people leaving and made my way in. Soon it gave way to what I would describe as a moderate hike. It will challenge you if you are out of shape or new to hiking, but it will challenge you in a good way. There are climbs and roots that will keep you on your toes... literally. But the greenery is beautiful and you will almost definitely have some animal encounters.
Being a new hiker and learning what to do as I go along, I did find it a challenge. And there may have been an incident where I swear a squirrel was throwing nuts at me. It made me feel like I was stretching my skills while keeping my eyes on that squirrel.
As I reached the option to turn or go straight, I realized I had made a mistake by not looking at a map. This is when I discovered something important to know: Rockbridge is one of the areas in the Hocking Hills region where you can in fact get data on your phone. So I pulled up a map on the trail and continued straight. Like I said, lessons learned. Next time, I will look at a map first.
I found my way to the natural bridge and some of my fear of heights came back. But I hiked down quickly and just took in the beauty of the small waterfall. The whole area is just awe-inspiring, and since I was alone with not another person in sight, I wanted to stay there awhile with my thoughts and all of that beauty.
I finally tore myself away and made my way back. This time, I did not have to contend with the nut-throwing squirrel, but I did find myself getting winded from the terrain. Another lesson learned: Get into better shape.
As I sank back into my car and drove off, I found myself with one thought: Not only am I going to become a smarter hiker, but I’m going to become a more fit hiker. And then I will tackle Rockbridge State Nature Preserve again so I can fully enjoy every nook it has to offer.