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Overview

It took millions of years for Mother Nature to create the awesome beauty of Hocking Hills State Park. More than 350 million years ago, area bedrock was deposited as a delta in the warm shallow sea that covered Ohio at the time. Generations of subtle movement and erosion did the rest. The gritty reddish stone found all over the park is a type of sandstone called Blackhand Sandstone, so named because of a large black hand drawn on a slab of the stone near Newark. Probably drawn by Native Americans, the hand may have served as a marker pointing the way to the outcroppings of flint found at Flint Ridge. Lovely hollows and hills of the park ...

It took millions of years for Mother Nature to create the awesome beauty of Hocking Hills State Park. More than 350 million years ago, area bedrock was deposited as a delta in the warm shallow sea that covered Ohio at the time. Generations of subtle movement and erosion did the rest. The gritty reddish stone found all over the park is a type of sandstone called Blackhand Sandstone, so named because of a large black hand drawn on a slab of the stone near Newark. Probably drawn by Native Americans, the hand may have served as a marker pointing the way to the outcroppings of flint found at Flint Ridge. Lovely hollows and hills of the park complex have long attracted visitors. Evidence of the ancient Adena culture shows that they first inhabited these recesses more than 7,000 years ago. In the mid 1700s, the Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee Indian tribes lived here or journeyed through and named the river for which the park gets its name. Because of the bottle shaped valley of the river, Indians called it Hockhocking or "bottle river." White settlers moved to the area after the Greenville Treaty of 1795 and the caves became well known as scenic attractions by 1870. When the Department of Natural Resources was created in 1949, the new Division of Parks assumed control of the Hocking Hills State Park complex, which includes six park areas. One of the most popular of all the Hocking Hills areas is Old Man's Cave, which so awed Richard Rowe in the early 1800s that he chose to live in the cave for the rest of his days. The hermit was the "old man" for which the cave was named. Rowe is believed to be buried under a ledge at the site. Hocking Hills is beautiful in any season but the winter transformation may be the most dramatic. Frozen waterfalls and snow-draped trees create picture-perfect scenes. Each January, thousands of hikers turn out for the annual Winter Hike, following a trail that winds through the park for about six miles from Old Man's Cave to Ash Cave. Started in 1965, the Winter Hike has drawn as many as almost 6,000 hikers. One of the most dedicated hikers was Emma Rowena Caldwell, known as Grandma Gatewood, who did the winter trek for 13 years. Born in 1887, Grandma Gatewood is famous for being the first person to walk the entire Appalachian Trail at the age of 70. The trail from Old Man's Cave to Ash Cave is named Grandma Gatewood Trail in her honor.

Jackie Finch
About the Expert

Jackie Sheckler Finch has written several guidebooks, including The Unofficial Guide to Campgrounds in the Great Lakes States, and four times she was named Travel Writer of the Year by Midwest Travel Writers Association.

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Jackie Finch for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring for the wildflowers and weather or January for the annual Winter Hike. Check the State Park website for the actual January date.