Located in southeastern Ohio in Hocking County, Hocking Hills is the Buckeye State’s most popular state park, visited by some 5 million people annually, and this past October, the brand-new, highly anticipated Hocking Hills State Park Lodge and Conference Center opened its doors to guests.
The nearly 74,000-square-foot lodge has 81 guest rooms, and the event space can accommodate hundreds of people.
My wife and I were among the first visitors, booking an overnight stay to celebrate our birthdays in early November. “The lodge has been very busy ever since we opened,” says general manager Todd Tucker.
As expected, the lodge is gorgeous. Especially stunning is the view through the four-story picture windows of the main lobby. The open, timber-frame architecture incorporates the surrounding woods and natural landscape into a rustic yet state-of-the-art modern design. Overnight guests can choose from king beds, double queen beds, king and bunk beds, and queen and bunk beds. Two-room suites are also available. All rooms have a mini-refrigerator and microwave.
The lodge has two swimming pools, indoor and outdoor; and two large hot tubs, again, indoor and outdoor. After enjoying the many scenic areas of the Hocking Hills, visitors can relax and warm up in front of any of five massive, 39-foot-tall limestone fireplaces.
Both lodge guests and day visitors can enjoy full-service dining at the Rock House Restaurant and Pub. My wife and I ate both supper and breakfast there, and the food was excellent. Reservations are not required, but highly recommended, as the available seating fills up quickly. A grab-and-go snack shop (Café 22) offers sandwiches, pizza, soft drinks, and other finger foods. There’s also a gift shop, filled with creations from local artisans.
Outdoors, a large patio overlooks a tree-filled gorge. “The Forest Plaza with its wooden pergola is going to become one of the most popular guest areas at the lodge,” Tucker says, “likely the site of many future weddings.” Nearby, on the Grand Terrace, are several propane-fueled fire tables that guests can gather around after dark.
The Hocking Hills are known for their hiking trails, arguably the best and most scenic in the state. If you are new to the park, not to be missed are Old Man’s Cave, Whispering Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, and Conkles Hollow. The trails range in skill level from easy (handicap accessible) to difficult, so there is something for everyone. Two mountain bike trails are also available: the Purple Loop is rated moderate, and the Orange Loop rated difficult. If you’re a stargazer, John Glenn Astronomy Park is located near the lodge within Hocking Hills State Park.
The only regret my wife and I had concerning our visit was that we hadn’t booked a second night’s stay. Gee, guess we’ll just have to go back.
To make your reservations at the lodge, visit www.hockinghillsparklodge.com or call 800-AT-A-PARK.