This Underrated Midwest Destination Has Beautiful Walking Trails and a Surprisingly Large Wine Scene

The often-overlooked Hocking Hills region of Ohio is home to cozy cottages, a state park with beautiful waterfalls, canyons, and hiking trails, and much more.

When it comes to stateside natural beauty, Ohio doesn't exactly dominate the conversation — but that doesn't mean that the Buckeye State has nothing to offer. Just one hour southeast of Columbus, the Hocking Hills in Ohio are home to vast swathes of black hand sandstone that have blessed this region with a wealth of geological features, from towering waterfalls to gaping canyons.

Water falls at Old Mans Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Laurelville, Ohio, USA
Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

Spectacular vistas abound across the Hocking Hills, but there's one particular destination that's front-loaded with gorgeous natural scenery — the aptly named Hocking Hills State Park, a beloved fixture of southern Ohio since 1924. There are more than 10,000 acres of pristine wilderness to explore around here, but for any newcomers to the area, there are two must-visit trails to keep in mind. In the northern reaches of the park, the Old Man's Cave provides stunning waterfall views surrounded by lush cliffs, while Rock House offers an opportunity to check out the only true cave in the Hocking Hills.

A bedroom at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls
Matthew Lovette/Courtesy of the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls

There's no shortage of cozy cottages scattered across the Hocking Hills, either, but for those wishing to truly immerse themselves in the untouched Ohio wilderness, it's tough to beat the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. Perched right on the eastern perimeter of Hocking Hills State Park, this idyllic getaway provides easy access to the preserve. Plus, there are rejuvenating on-site spa treatments and snug yurts, making Cedar Falls one of the region's top spots for kicking back, relaxing, and basking in the beauty of rural Ohio.

A guest at the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours
Courtesy of Hocking Hills Canopy Tours

A leisurely stroll through Hocking Hills State Park is certainly worth the effort, though there are other activities available. If you're hoping to soak in stunning vistas of the surrounding woodlands from a bird's-eye view, there's no better destination than Hocking Hills Canopy Tours. There are seven distinct tours to choose from here, with each one offering ample opportunities to spot native Ohio fauna, including the white-tailed deer and bald eagles, as you speed across the canopy.

Canyon Rappeller with High Rock Adventures
Courtesy of High Rock Adventures

While soaring along the tree line will get the heart racing, those hoping to gain some insight into the region's native flora and fauna should book a tour with High Rock Adventures. The Natural High Tour provides information on the geology and wildlife found across the Hocking Hills, while the Edible and Medicinal Plant Tour focuses on the indigenous Appalachian plant life found within the area, highlighting their role in the modern-day medical industry.

A couple inside the Hocking Hills Sauna Pods
Courtesy of Hocking Hills Sauna Pods

A couple of days spent traversing the hills of rural Ohio may leave you feeling fatigued, but the region is fortunately home to a surprisingly developed wellness industry with rejuvenating treatments. The Hocking Hills Sauna Pods, for example, offer a much-needed respite from the blistering cold, and even come equipped with Bluetooth connectivity so you can achieve peak relaxation with meditation music — or belt out your favorite tunes — in full view of the Hocking Hills landscape. After a lengthy sauna session, those wanting a little extra treatment can head to the Himalayan lamp-loaded Serenity Salt Cave for a halotherapy session in an ultra-relaxing environment.

Guests inside the Serenity Salt Cave
Kevin Kopanski/Courtesy of Serenity Salt Cave

Not much of a spa person? No need to worry — the region is rife with all sorts of fascinating activities to enjoy between hikes. For the artistically inclined visitor, Jack Pine Studio is the perfect spot to try your hand at glassblowing, with paperweight and glass pumpkin-making workshops open to the public. For a deep dive into some of the region's quirkier attractions, the town of Logan is a treasure trove of off-the-wall institutions like the Pencil Sharpener Museum and Columbus Washboard Company — an 1890s-era factory that's home to one of the largest washboards in the nation.

Glenlaurel Hiking Trail
Courtesy of Glenlaurel

And when it comes to dining, don't let the destination's low population density fool you — its food scene is anything but undeveloped. From freshly made donuts at The Ridge Inn to crisp apple cider at Laurelville Fruit Farm to more than 1,600 apple varieties at Hocking Hills Orchard, the region is a paradise for homegrown Ohio cuisine served in a cozy setting.

But one of the area's most impressive venues is equipped with a markedly European flair. Located on a sprawling 160-acre estate, the palatial Glenlaurel is home to vast hiking trails, plush suites, and an opulent seven-course tasting dinner that wouldn't feel out of place in the remote reaches of Cairngorms National Park.

Glasses of white and red wine from Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards
Courtesy of Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards

In addition to a developed dining scene and lots of natural beauty, the Hocking Hills area is also home to a surprisingly large wine scene, providing the chance to kick back with a refreshing riesling after a long day of hiking. If you're in the mood to bask in some charming pastoral scenery while sipping your vino, Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards is an essential stop. In addition to rolling pastures and a whole host of adorable farm animals, this venue is packed with top-quality wines ranging from the semi-dry 2021 Catawba to aromatic strawberry wine.

A bottle of wine and meat and cheese plate at Hocking Hills Winery
Courtesy of Hocking Hills Winery

If you're trying to keep the wine train rolling after your first tasting, the moscato, Hocking River Red, and honeysuckle wine at Hocking Hills Winery are worth sampling, and lucky visitors may be able to catch a glimpse of the property's adorable cats strolling around the outdoor patio. If you're looking for a little variety on your drinking agenda, downtown Logan offers perfectly crafted grain spirits in raspberry, blackberry, and peach tea form at Hocking Hills Moonshine.

Though not as heavily touristed as some of the nation's other popular rural destinations, the Hocking Hills region is certainly one of the most idyllic in Ohio. Whether you're hoping to explore sprawling sandstone formations, try your hand at glassblowing, or simply sample some strawberry wine paired with a perfect sunset, this area will leave you with a glowing impression of southern Ohio and all the natural beauty that it has to offer.

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