The best ways to appreciate Hocking Hills fall colors
It’s hard to miss the out-of-this world colors of the Hocking Hills region in October. If you are outdoors in the thousands of acres that make up the Hocking Hills region, you are going to be stunned by the autumn beauty.
If you want the insider’s guide to how best to take in the Hocking Hills fall colors, check out our list below. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is not your friend — but this time the feeling might be guiding you wisely. These colors are unforgettable and the scenery in October helps give Hocking Hills its reputation for being the most famed when it comes to fall colors.
When to go
We cannot predict this to the T, but based on our experience, the colors peak around Oct. 15. The ideal September weather calls for cool, clear nights (30 to 40 degrees) with warm, sunny days (60 degrees). That formula — along with a frostless and low precipitated October — will give you the best colors. Don’t stress though — the wide range of trees species result in so many endless color varieties it’s hard to have an October that isn’t astonishing. Maples, dogwoods, hemlocks, birch, sassafras, beech, black birch, red oak and hickories — growing everywhere from exposed ridge areas to covered, cool gorges — means leaves change at alternating paces. Meaning there will always be a rainbow of Hocking Hills fall colors.
The lore and fame of foliage colors is so treasured there is even a website devoted to tracking the leaves. Check out this link for a weekly report on Ohio fall foliage reports beginning the last week of September. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources posts up-to-date leaf conditions through the state. Talk about some serious Hocking Hills fall color enthusiasts!
Pick the elevated hikes
There are 25 miles of trails in the Hocking Hills region, with some more elevated than others. For the best Hocking Hills fall colors choose a “hike with a view.” We always love being deep among the trees, but to see Hocking Hills fall colors go for a trail option that opens up onto high cliffs. For the best vistas, we recommend Conkle’s Hollow Upper Trail (2.5 miles above the trees) and Cantwell Cliffs (2-mile gorge trail with about one mile of rim trail).
For a guided hike by the area’s favorite naturalist, Pat Quackenbush (read an interview here), check out Grandma Gatewood’s Fall Colors Hike at 1 p.m. Oct. 17. This challenging six-mile hike from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls and back (about 3 to 4 hours long) is a not-to-miss expertly guided adventure through the fall foliage.
Hocking Hills fall colors from the road
There are a variety of combinations of scenic roadways. If you’ve got the time, go for the classic Hocking Hills Scenic Byway.
This 26.4-mile byway follows State Route 374 through Ohio's scenic Hocking Hills and around Hocking State Forest. You’ll pass Cedar Falls, Old Man’s Cave (stop at any one of these beauties to get some recess cave with your color). Continue on and you’ll pass Conkle’s Hollow and Cantwell Cliffs — the best two hikes for your “elevated” views. And check out this Hocking Hills Scenic Byway Map courtesy of Ohio Department of Transportation.
Little known fact about the parkways in the Hocking Hills Region: Car and Driver Magazine called the Hocking Hills parkways one of their “Midwestern driving roads of choice” and test drove the 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish on the southernmost loop of the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway.
Fall through the falling leaves
Feast your eyes — and pretty much every other sense — on the Hocking Hills fall colors as you fly through them on one of the many canopy tours the area has to offer. Let’s admit it, at this pace the Hocking Hills fall colors may be a bit blurry as you’re careening through the yellows, purples, and fiery oranges of the turning leaves, but you’ll never forget being this close with the changing October trees.
When it comes to autumn in the Hocking Hills, we want it all: breathing in the fresh air after a drive through the scenic byway, going on a long hike and, afterwards, sipping apple cider or a glass of wine from a local vineyard, carrying a bag of fresh picked apples, and yes, watching a pumpkin parade while looking forward to one last night of camping out in the Hocking Hills before winter comes.
Attend one of the Pumpkin Parades in nearby Circleville on Oct. 21-24 to entertain you and your friends or family at the end of a long day enjoying the Hocking Hills fall colors.
Make this October one that quiets the FOMO: Be sure not to miss the region this fall season.