Hocking Hills Scenic Byway
The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway was officially designated as an Ohio Scenic Byway in February 2005. The Scenic Byway passes through some of Ohios most beautiful landscapes and circles the natural areas of the Hocking Hills State Park.
The route begins as you turn off US Route 33 onto Rt. 374 near Rockbridge, Ohio. At this point, you may wish to reset your trip odometer to best follow the following narration of the Hocking Hills Scenic Byways points of interest.
You will notice a stream that flows on the right. As the tale is told, a buck deer was wounded on Little Cola Road and ran for many miles. The pioneer trackers found it in a mill pond near this stream. According to Effie Woltz, a well-known Hocking County school teacher, the stream derives its name from the deers valiant efforts. It is called Buck Run.
About .4 miles later on St. Rt. 374 you will see an Indian mound on the right. Prehistoric Indians called the Hopewells created this mound. It was said to have been excavated by a former landowner, but very few artifacts were found. This mound is believed to have been a burial mound.
Just past the mound on the right, and all along the scenic byway route, you will see outcroppings of Blackhand sandstone. This type of stone is prevalent in the area.
The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway also winds by many small farms in Hocking County.
- Points of Interest
- Mile 3.7
- Mile 4.1
- Mile 6
- Mile 7.5
- Mile 8.0
- Mile 9.7
- Mile 11.9
- Mile 12.3
- Mile 13.2
- Mile 13.4
- Mile 18.1
- Mile 18.6
- Mile 19.7
- Mile 21
- Mile 21.4
- Mile 21.7
- Mile 23.3
- Mile 24
- Mile 24.8
- Mile 26
- Mile 26.4
About 3.3 miles past the Hopewell Mound, you will drive up a hill and see the sign that announces you are entering the Hocking State Forest area.
The road curves around at the very top where you will notice newly planted pine to help reforest our hills. You will see the beginning of the giant hemlocks and tall pine trees. Many of the bigger pines were planted by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) in the 1930s.
About a half mile from the Hocking State Forest sign, at the top of the hill, you will notice a large white house. This is the home of the Black CCC Corp. These men planted the trees, created trails, and built some of the structures found in the parks. At the time they lived here, segregation was common. The house was the headquarters for the camp.
Cantwell Cliffs State Park
1.9 miles past the CCC Camp Headquarters you will see the Cantwell Cliffs parking lot. This is the first of the Hocking Hills State Park areas. The park was named for Joshia Cantwell. Although it is least visited, many visitors proclaim the Cantwell area as the most picturesque in Hocking County.
You will see a little log cabin which serves as office headquarters for the park rangers during the summer.
Each of the parks offers restful picnic areas to allow you to stop for a rest. Picnicking is available year round.
Maps can be found displayed in each of the parks. Visitors are asked to stay on the trails for their own safety. The deep valley, steep cliffs and rock shelters of Cantwell Cliffs create a beautiful sight regardless of the season. The erosion caused by Buck Run accounts for the depth of the valley and the heights of the cliffs. Trails wind up through narrow passageways caused by large slump blocks that have fallen away from the main cliff.
Cantwell Cliffs has a shelter house, as well as a picnic area. Family picnics and large reunion gatherings make good use of these types of facilities.
The hemlocks and pines are a pretty sight regardless of the time of year. Their deep greens are especially welcome during the winter months. The parks seem to have their own beauty in every season.
1.5 miles past Cantwell Cliffs parking lot on Route 374 you will see a large grouping of directional signs. Turn right to continue on 374 and the Scenic Byway route.
This farm is one of the small farms that enhance the beauty of Hocking County.
The beautiful rock cliffs edge the right of Stoody Hill (named for the farm owner). The left side is a wonderful ravine with an old farm with the remains of a Mail Pouch barn.
A picturesque wall of water can be seen on the right, across from Mt. Olive Road at the bottom of Stoody Hill. The Wildflowers and Waterfalls Tour also highlights numerous waterfalls throughout the area.
In the winter, the seepage through the rocks forms beautiful ice formations for the eye to enjoy.
Near a big log house is a small cemetery that belonged to the Hanson family. It is taken care of by the Laurel township trustees.
At 23500 St. Rt. 180 in Rockbridge, Ohio is Spirits of the Hills Fine Arts and Crafts Gallery. The Hocking Hills Region is home to many artists. The Art of the Hocking Hills booklet is available at the Welcome Center. It tells of many artists homes and studios.
2.2 miles after Spirits of the Hills, you will come to the Village of Mound Crossing, you will find a beautiful old farmhouse with a mound in its backyard. This mound was built by the Hopewell Indians before the birth of Christ. St. Rt. 374 originally ran around this mound. The road was straightened and relocated about a half mile farther down. There used to be a house built on the side of this mound, but it has since been torn down. A few pieces of flint were found when the original house was built. The big farmhouse is also the location of just one of our many craft and antique shops scattered throughout the county.
After you pass Mound Crossing, you will notice the first hints of the great American prairie on the right. This prairie extends all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Farther on, the majestic Hocking Hills give way to gently rolling fields and small rounded hills that look more like hay stacks. The awesome standardizing effects of the Wisconsin glacier that came this way about ten thousand years ago is in evidence everywhere. There are high vistas where the distant horizon turns blue-black.
Make sure to turn left to continue on State Route 374. The scenic byway route is one of many winding roads found in Hocking County. Drive carefully and enjoy the scenery.
About a mile after the left turn, you will come to The Nestled Inn was originally known as Little Denmark. It was one of the first cabin rental businesses in the area. The picturesque countryside just seems to invite you to stay.
The parking lot to Rock House, another area of the Hocking Hills State Park is on the left. The Rock House is unique of all the Hocking Hills State Parks because it is a true cave. It is a tunnel-like corridor situated midway up a 150-foot Blackhand Sandstone cliff. The "Rock House" is complete with seven Gothic-arched "windows" and great sandstone columns which bear its massive roof. The Rock House has a ceiling 25 feet high, while the main corridor is 200 feet long and 20 to 30 feet wide.
Rock House was used by many past visitors as a shelter. You will find hominy holes, small recesses in the rear wall which served as baking ovens for Native Americans. Past visitors have chiseled out "troughs" or "holding tanks" in the stone floor of Rock House. These were used in the melting of pine knots to make turpentine, which was used by the Indians and pioneers for many things. It is believed that many not-so-welcome visitors used the Rock House, like robbers and horse thieves, which earned the cave a reputation of "Robbers Roost".
Continuing on State Route 374 past the Rock House, is the Hocking State Forest Headquarters. In the 1930s the state built the buildings on this site to house prisoners who were not a flight risk. The camp was called the Hocking County Honor Camp. The actual camp was located about where the garages now stand. These men planted trees, fought forest fires and helped take care of the parks. A guard went with them wherever they went. It was not necessarily economical, but it gave prisoners time in the outdoors and to have an opportunity to learn new skills.
A half mile past the Hocking State Forest Headquarters is Big Pine Road, where Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve is located (youll have to make a turn off the Scenic Byway to visit Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve. From St. Rt. 374, turn left on Big Pine Road, and Conkles Hollows parking area is just a few hundred feet away). This park is a rugged, rocky gorge, one of the deepest in Ohio. The timeless beauty of the rustic valley is surrounded by towering 240 foot Blackhand Sandstone cliffs protecting a wilderness of hemlocks, birch, various trees, shrubs, ferns and wildflowers in this beautiful gorge. The hollow was named for W.J. Conkle who left his name and the date 1797 carved into the sandstone on the west wall of the gorge.
The little white church you see at the intersection of 374 and Big Pine Road is Pine Grove United Methodist Church and Cemetery. It was constructed in 1886 with unique architecture: it has two separate entrances, one door for the men and the other for the women. Although some modernization has been done to the building, the original entry doors were left as a comment on practices of the past. One of the graves in the cemetery belongs to Clyde Huffman, a navy crewman of the USS Arizona. His body lies with his crewmen in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. His stone was placed at the church here as a memorial for him.
At the stop sign one mile past Big Pine Road, turn left to follow St. Rt. 374 to Old Mans Cave in the Hocking Hills State Park.
The Hocking Hills Park System Dining Lodge, swimming pool, and rental cabins are at the end of a mile long scenic driveway. The dining lodge is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from April until December. Drive on up and see whats on the menu!
Welcome to Old Mans Caves Visitor Center. Youll find restroom facilities, a museum display and a gift shop in the center (seasonal).
Old Mans Cave is the hub of the Hocking Hills State Parks. The park gets its name for Richard Rowe, a hermit, who lived in the area in the mid 1800s and is reported to have stayed here until his death. In this park, the creek has carved a magnificent gorge through the entire depth of Blackhand Sandstone. There are 2 sections: the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls. Trails take you down from one to the other. The vertical cliffs reveal deep recesses, potholes, and cracks that widen in some places so that massive blocks of rocks have tumbled from the cliffs. The lush vegetation varies and gives the eye a feast regardless of the season.
This building is the headquarters for Old Mans Cave Campgrounds and the Hocking Hills State Parks. It opened in the fall of 2003. The new entry to the campground winds up over the cliffs above the caves. There are campsites available with electricity and water as well as primitive sites. The campground is equipped with its own swimming pool also.
Just past the Hocking Hills State Park Headquarters, make sure you turn right to continue on State Route 374. (Mile 22.2)
Along this portion of State Route 374, youll see the Primitive Camping area and the parking lot to Rose Lake. Known for its fishing, Rose Lake is only accessible by foot via the half-mile trail from its parking lot.
The Inn at Cedar Falls is one of the many fine restaurants and inns found in Hocking County.
On the right, you will see the beautiful curved block wall that graces the entry to Cedar Falls. This park was named because early white settlers mistook the towering hemlocks for cedar trees. Two deep grooves and numerous potholes have been created by the action of the stream as it cascades over the face of the Blackhand Sandstone. At one time a grist mill was located just above these falls.
Across the road from Cedar Falls entry, stop for a look and listen to the crystal clear stream as it flows down the hill over small boulders and rocks. The shade from the hemlocks and pines make a very restful scene.
A few yard past Chapel Ridge Road, look up over the tree line at the top of the hill past Cedar Falls. You will see tucked away (almost hidden) on a knoll, the Ash Cave Fire Tower. The tower was built in 1934 and still stands. Visitors cannot climb the tower due to safety reasons. There were some who wanted to raze the tower, but, it still stands to become a monument to the many years of service these towers provided in keeping our Hocking State Forest safe.
It is the hope of several people of the area to preserve the tower as a historical element and have it refurbished as a lookout tower for tourists in the future.
Follow Rt. 374 to the junction of Rt. 56, you will turn to the right on to Rt. 56.
The Shelter house lies across the road from the entry to Ash Cave. It is just one of the areas that folks can find for a quiet picnic or resting spot. The ancient Indian trail from the Pickaway Plains follows through this park and visitors travel part of this old trail when they walk from the parking lot at Ash Cave.
Most of the caves in our park system are recess caves. Ash Cave is the largest and most impressive of this type of cave in the state of Ohio. The rim spans 700 feet around to form a sandstone horseshoe. A misty waterfall plunges 90 feet from the rim to the valley floor below. Huge mounds of ashes discovered here by early settlers are thought to be ancient campfires of early Indian inhabitants which gave this cave its name. The ashes were excavated in 1877 to reveal many Indian artifacts as well as bones of animals. The cave was a meeting place in early 1800s. The shelter is large enough to seat hundreds and the natural acoustics are excellent. Ash Cave became an official park in 1925.
Just past Ash Cave on Rt. 56, look to your left to see another beautiful small waterfall and spring that has been carved from the rocks. What a cool and inviting spot to rest!
Continue along State Route 56, enjoying the rock outcroppings, small waterfalls and creeks along side the scenic route. Many miles past Ash Cave and just after Chapel Ridge Road, the Scenic Byway Route continues by turning right on State Route 664. Eventually you will be back to State Route 374 and will have officially driven the entire Hocking Hill Scenic Byway. Turn left onto State Route 374 to continue back to US 33 the way you came on the Scenic Byway Route. Another option (and shorter distance) back to US 33 would be to continue north on State Route 664 to Logan. Following State Route 664 11 miles past Old Mans Cave will lead you to the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center, located at US 33 and State Route 664.
Other Points of Interests on State Route 56
You may wish to continue on 56 (off the official Hocking Hills Byway Route) to see more historic points of interest in Hocking County. Continue past Ash Cave and past the St. Rt. 664 turn off and watch for the Narrows Road sign on the left. This will take you to a very narrow valley area where geologists believe ancient waters from the glaciers broke through to flow, carve and create the valleys and gorges that make the Hocking Hills the beautiful place that it is today.
Across the highway youll find a creek that flows along an old Shawnee hunting trail. This trail connected the hunting grounds at the Old Mans Cave area with the Shawnee villages along the Scioto River near present day Columbus. When settlers came to the area around 1790, they found a large beech tree along this trail. The tree had a message carved on it that say "this is the road to hell." Local legend says that this was carved by some poor white captive on his way to his death farther on in a Shawnee village.
Just past the Narrows Road, you will see a Bicentennial marker. This marker was placed to honor the Salt and Hunting Trails that the Indians traveled from the southern counties through the Hocking Hills region. Salt was very important commodity even more precious than gold. Stop to read the marker and learn more about this ancient trail!
Watch on the same side of the road as the marker. You will see a giant tree growing by itself in the middle of a farm field. This is Ohios biggest Swamp White Oak. Some people call it the Giant Prairie Tree. These flat lands that you see through this whole area are part of the Great Prairie that stretches to the Rocky Mountains.
At 17212 St. Rt. 56, just east of Laurelville, you will pass one of the oldest stone houses in the county. It was constructed of sandstone with walls that are 22 inches thick! The house was built by Daniel Karshner in 1820. Most of the wooden interior of this house is original. The four wood-burning fireplaces in the house are still there, but no longer used. The house today has been painted a sparkling white and looks very much like many other farmhouses in the area. Hocking County was only 2 years old when this house was built. What history it must have seen through the view from its windows!
Further down the valley, the Shawnee trail passed near an ancient Mound Builders mound that still rises boldly out of the ground. From a distance, it resembles the top half of a giant basketball or baseball. The race of people who built this mound disappeared from the earth centuries before Columbus discovered America.