It’s said that no other area in Ohio is as wild, enthralling or photogenic as Hocking Hills State Park. The locals pronounce it Hawkin’ Hills.
This was our last awe-inspiring hiking stop of the trip, and it did not disappoint. The hills are also part of the Allegheny system, and feature massive sandstone outcroppings, deep cool gorges, towering hemlocks and glistening waterfalls. The gorge undergrowth shows off lush maidenhair ferns, rhododendron shrubs, wildflowers, lichens and mosses clinging to the rock faces.
The most outstanding rock formation of the park is its beautiful “Blackhand” sandstone, but shale, limestone, coal and clay are also present.
The sandstone is more than 150 feet thick in the park. Its upper and lower layers are very hard, while the middle layers are easily weathered (where have we seen that before?!). Hocking Hills’ famed rock shelters, caves and recesses were hollowed out of these middle layers. The upper layers form the roof of all overhangs and rock shelters, while the lower layers form the floors. Water has eroded all of these forms, along with freezing, thaw and wind.
Nomadic hunters roamed this area at the end of the Ice Age. The Moundbuilders who lived in Ohio from 1 A.D. to 800 A.D. and Fort Ancient Indians from the 1300s to the 1600s used Hocking’s overhangs and recesses for shelter. Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee nations also hunted and traveled through this area.
Hocking’s timber was used to make charcoal to fuel the iron furnaces of Ohio. Beds of coal were also found. Coal has remained an important mineral resource in eastern Hocking County, but since coal is falling on increasingly hard times at present, we expect that this area will likely see some economic depression. It will need to depend on its tourism draw more than ever.