LOGAN - A few years ago, while hiking at Old Man's Cave in the Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio, Peebles, Ohio, resident Sarah Miller slipped and sprained her ankle, putting her out of commission for several weeks.
But that didn't keep her from returning there for a hike recently with her husband, Charles.
"There's no place better to clear your mind than in the woods," said Miller, 60. "This is perfect weather - it's cool and you don't get overheated."
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Connie Swisher, left, of Middleburg, Pa., and Gary Swisher, right, of Parkersburg, go for a hike in the Hocking Hills region. There are several miles of hiking trails in the region, and there are also several options for other activities.
The couple lives about two-and-a-half hours away from the Hocking Hills region.
"We were looking for a place we don't have to drive very far (to get to) and has things to do and Hocking Hills does have things to do, but hiking is my favorite," Sarah Miller said. "It's really beautiful."
The Hocking Hills region is a less than two-hour drive from Marietta. The region is comprised of about 15,000 acres, including about 1,500 acres of Hocking Hills State Park, about 10,000 acres of Hocking State Forest and about 1,000 acres of natural areas.
Getting there from Marietta
Take Ohio 7 south to U.S. 50 west/Ohio 32 west towards Athens/Chillicothe.
Merge onto U.S. 33 west toward Columbus/State Street.
Take the Ohio 664 ramp toward Logan/Bremen.
Turn left onto Ohio 664, then turn left to stay on Ohio 664.
About the Hocking Hills region
It is comprised of about 15,000 acres, including about 1,500 acres of Hocking Hills State Park, about 10,000 acres of Hocking State Forest and about 1,000 acres of natural areas.
There are six areas within Hocking Hills State Park, including Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Conkle's Hollow, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs and Old Man's Cave.
There are 31 miles of trails within the six different areas in the state park.
There are 59 miles of hiking trails within Hocking State Forest.
For information, visit www.1800hocking.com.
Right now is a peak time to visit the area not only because it's cool outside but also because the leaves on the trees are beginning to change and there are plenty of special events planned.
"October is our busiest month of the year," said Patrick Quackenbush, a naturalist with Hocking Hills State Park. "This is a very, very busy season for us. It's starting to pick up on the weekends with the little bit of color change we're getting now."
It is believed that mankind moved into the Hocking Hills area about 15,000 years ago. Noting a bottle-shaped pool by a waterfall, the Delaware Indians called the stream "Hockhocking," or Bottle River - later translated to the Hocking River.
"It became state property in the 1920s and in 1949 they created the division of parks and recreation and it was one of the first state parks added into that group. It's been one ever since," Quackenbush said. "As far as visitation, this is the No. 1 visited state park in the state. We estimate between 2 to 4 million visitors a year. It's a phenomenal number of people."
Quackenbush said by far, Old Man's Cave - where the Millers recently hiked - is the most popular destination in the Hocking Hills region.
"It's almost a mile long sandstone gorge with three sets of waterfalls and beautiful rock formations," Quackenbush said. "When anyone talks about coming to Hocking Hills, they talk about coming to Old Man's Cave."
One of six areas at Hocking Hills State Park, Old Man's Cave gets its name from that rock shelter that was once home to Richard Rowe, a 19th century hermit who is believed to be buried underneath a cave ledge on the premises.
There are five main sections within Old Man's Cave, including Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls and Lower Gorge. It is located off Ohio 664.
Medina, Ohio residents Sam and Shawna Moyer recently went for a hike near Old Man's Cave with their dog, Gracie.
"What's not to like? It's beautiful," said Shawna Moyer, 29. "It seems no matter what time of the year you are here it's beautiful."
"There are some challenging trails and some not as challenging," she added.
Quackenbush said there are 31 miles of trail within the six different areas in the state park. The six different areas include Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Conkle's Hollow, Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs, as well as Old Man's Cave.
"It is strenuous hiking here about anywhere you go," he said, noting that there are handicapped accessible areas at Ash Cave and Conkle's Hollow.
Quackenbush added that the Rock House is "probably the closest thing we have to a true cave."
"It's probably 75 to 80 feet long and 35 to 40 feet high - you can actually get into it and walk around in there," he said.
Native Americans staying in the cave used small recesses in the back wall of Rock House as baking ovens. Additionally, where the picnic shelter is currently located at Rock House, there used to be a 16-room hotel.
In addition to the hiking trails, the Hocking Hills region is also known for its waterfalls, with 10 "big name" waterfalls existing in the area, according to Quackenbush.
"If they want waterfalls, the best time of the year is March to April - they're roaring that time of the year," he said.
Spring may be the best time of the year to see the waterfalls but this is the time of year when Grandma Gatewood's Fall Colors Hike is held.
It's scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 15 and begins at the Old Man's Cave Visitor Center. The hike will take between three and four hours to complete.
"It's a six-mile hike to Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls and back. You'll spend half of the hike in the bottom of the gorge and the other half up on the rim trail," Quackenbush said. "It's a strenuous hike...you'll be tired when you get back but it's the prettiest six miles in the state."
Grandma Emma Gatewood lived most of her life in Gallia County. In 1958, then again in 1960 and 1963, she hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. She also hiked the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon before passing away in 1973 at the age of 85.
There is a trail in the Hocking Hills region named after Gatewood called the Grandma Gatewood Trail. It begins at Upper Falls and connects Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls to Ash Cave.
"This was her favorite place to come hiking," Quackenbush said.