Road Trips from Toledo: Adventures in Hocking Hills

A child playing near a Hocking Hills sign.
Photo by Matthew Sackmann.

Our little family’s most recent adventure was a weekend trip to Hocking Hills, where we filled our days with outdoor adventures, some R & R, and educational activities for all three of us. On this trip, my husband and I found a balance between grownup activities and those our soon-to-be-three-year-old could enjoy along with us.

With a drive time of just over three hours from Toledo, we recommend taking a break from your busy schedules for this beautiful getaway. Below are some options we particularly enjoyed.

Where to stay

Treat yourselves to a stay at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, where you can take your pick of cabins, yurts or geodomes. Children aren’t allowed to stay in the yurts, but everything else is kid-friendly. Our family stayed in Larkspur, a cabin with a country bed-and-breakfast motif featuring a fireplace, whirlpool tub and a back porch to take in the view. 

I also treated myself to an hour-long massage at their spa that was out of this world!

Get moving

There are innumerable ways to get some exercise in the Hocking Hills region, but we have a few favorites. On a hike to Old Man’s Cave, we had the pleasure of meeting Mimi Morrison of Touch the Earth Adventures. Not only did we get to take in the wonder of the Cave, but we were able to learn about the plant-life and history of the site from Morrison, who led us in a sensory meditation. 

“I am a native of this area,” she said. “My family came here as generations of Irish railroad builders did. More and more, I have connected to the energy that is here, and I hope that generations that follow me will love it as much as I do.”

Other hikes we recommend: Rock House at Hocking Hills State Park (just be cautious with active toddlers at higher elevations) and Cedar Falls (we didn’t have time for this hike, but you can easily walk there from the Inn).

If you’re looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush, I can’t recommend Hocking Hills Canopy Tour enough. It’s a ziplining adventure that — to be completely honest — I was initially nervous about because I’m a bit scared of heights. The team of guides were incredibly knowledgeable, they give you a practice run on a small line so that you get a feel for it beforehand, and they educate you on the natural world you’re surrounded by at each platform stop. Bonus: Their DragonFly Zipline course is available for kids 5-12.

A child exploring the inside of a cave.
Photo by Matthew Sackmann.

Other activities for adrenaline junkies: Night Rappelling with High Rock Adventures and the Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tour.

Educational experiences

When you’re ready to give your body a rest but still keep your mind active, make it a point to go to John Glenn Astronomy Park, where I got a chance to speak with amateur astronomer Brad Hoehne, the Park’s executive director.

“One of the things I like most about this place is that people do use it to just come out and look at the stars. They bring their own telescopes,” Hoene said as he showed us around the Park. “About half of the people who come here are from Columbus, and the other half are from somewhere else, as far away as Sri Lanka.” 

The biggest highlight for me was looking through a telescope and being able to see Saturn so clearly that it took my breath away. 

Other educational stops: Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum and Lunchbox Museum at the Hocking Hills Welcome Center, Hocking Hills Orchard (make sure to chat with Derek Mills, who can tell you about his unusual selection of apples — the largest variety in North America), Columbus Washboard Factory, Hocking Hills Moonshine Distillery (samples for parents; sweet treats for kids).

Book a class

There are two amazing experiences for older kids and adults that are well worth it if you can book them ahead of time:

Jack Pine Studio (for ages 16 and up): Known as “Jack the Pumpkin King” for his famous glass pumpkins, Jack Pine is truly a master. Shop at the studio, or try your hand at making a Christmas ornament or pumpkin with the skilled assistance of their instructors. I made my own pumpkin, and it was honestly one of the highlights of our trip.

Lockhart Iron Works is run by Doug Lockhart and his family on their farm, which is in a remote, hilly area that will make you feel like you’ve stepped away from all the overwhelm of the modern world. Kids can take a day class in blacksmithing with classes that range from beginner to intermediate. Known for their hand-forged cookware (we are now proud owners of one of their pans), the family is also passionate about introducing new generations to the art of blacksmithing.

For the foodies

The Cedar Inn & Spa has a wonderful restaurant, Kindred Spirits, that is especially cozy in colder months. It’s a log cabin dining space where you can chow down on a hearty breakfast like The Cure or a seafood dinner with a glass of wine to end your day. We found it to be very toddler-friendly, and the seasonal menu with lots of local ingredients didn’t disappoint.  

Banana Bread desert.

Another favorite of ours was the Hocking Hills Diner, a casual, clearly very popular spot for locals. Everything we tried was delish, but the star of the show? French toast made of banana bread. Wow.

A sandwich and onion rings.
Buffalo cauliflower was a healthy and delicious option at The Feed. Photo by Matthew Sackmann.

Other places to stop for a bite: The Feed, 58 West, The Ridge Inn (get the donuts!), and Laurelville Fruit Farm for an apple cider slushie (if you are visiting early fall through mid-December), and La Cascada for Mexican cuisine.