Hocking Hills’ beauty is breathtaking, especially in the fall, as trees change colors amid millennial-old caverns. Paved and rugged trails invite hikers of all skill levels to experience Ohio’s renowned sites like “Ash Cave,” “Crystal Falls,” and “Old Man’s Cave.” On this trip, though, our family discovered more scenic wonders exploring Hocking Hills by canoe, horseback, zipline and even Segway.
The Hocking Hills Canoe Livery offers two trips down the scenic Hocking River. The sign recommends the shorter, 90-minute trip for canoers with young children, minimally 3 years old. We selected the longer one, and our boys opted for kayaks while my husband and I shared a canoe. We’d brought sandwiches, snacks and a cooler of soft drinks, and the boys were ready to stop for lunch soon after we began paddling. About an hour into our trip, we indulged them, stopping at a rocky beach, sitting on our life jackets, eating and talking about our adventure.
Unfortunately, we resumed our adventure badly. Our boys sailed off the left side of the beach, but we went right, and found ourselves stuck in shallow water and surrounded by fallen trees. We got out of the canoe, my husband dragged it a bit, and we were soon floating along with our sons again, who were busy bumping into each other, pointing out geese overhead, and having fun “dodging obstacles,” Volkswagon-sized boulders in the water. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the peaceful rippling river, turtles, ducks, dragonflies and the happy sounds of our kids. Eventually, we floated beneath a railroad trestle, two other bridges and came upon our exit point.
The next day, we went back into the woods — this time on horseback at Happy Trails Horseback Rides. Our guide, Makenzie, asked about our ability level, that ranged from “some” to “mostly none,” and about any fear of heights. We said we weren’t afraid, so the handlers selected horses for us based on our sizes and the animals’ temperaments, and then Makenzie led us on a trail that headed to Table Top Rock. We leaned back downhill, splashed through a small stream, and climbed up and up. Our horses’ sure-footing took us through beautiful rock tunnels, former resting places of American Indians and up to dizzying heights.
We went higher still on ziplines the next day at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours. Once our guides helped secure our gear, we went to a practice area to master the technique of slowing down. It sounds simple: at the signal, place your gloved-palm flat on the line. Unfortunately, I never mastered it. I grabbed the line, which meant I stopped too soon, and had to pull myself to the next platform. As we zipped to progressively higher platforms, I concentrated harder, and, sadly, grabbed the line harder. Zipping was fun, but the course proved too tough for me, so the kids continued without my poor parental guidance. They cannonballed to go even faster, and said that sailing above the Hocking River was “awesome.”
On my way back, I saw the Dragonfly Adventure for ages 5 – 12. According to the jeep driver, “They hook kids up to the continuous belay and let ‘em go. They have a ball going from bridges to ziplines, one after another.”
I’m too old for that, and those little guys are too young for our final adventure, Segways (minimum age 14). On grassy hills, we learned the basics of leaning forward to go, back to stop, and left and right to turn, and then took to the trails. I found it a little scary down steep hills, but ridiculously fun. (As seen in the picture above, too.)
Throughout our visit, we stayed at “Heart and Soul,” a Lazy Lane Cabins rental properties. They offer everything from rustic to luxury accommodations, even overnights in a genuine caboose!