48 Hours in Hocking Hills (Budget and Dog-Friendly!)
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Hocking Hills has a special place in my heart. My husband and I traveled there together once before we were married, and we have been hooked ever since! We’ve now been there six or seven times and have a tradition for each day. Whether you go for a short weekend or an entire week, there’s plenty to do if you love the outdoors.
Hocking Hills is an ideal vacation spot for many reasons. If you’re a Clevelander, it’s just a quick three hour drive away. It is great for families, yet ideal for singles and couples alike. Large and small groups have many options when it comes to cabin rentals and activities. Every season is beautiful, with late summer/early fall being our favorite. Hocking Hills has many dog-friendly hikes, making it easy to bring Fido (or in our case, Molly and Gracie) along. Cabins are exceptionally dog-friendly too, and most restaurants allow dogs on their patios or in their outdoor seating.
Our favorite vacations tend to involve a lot of time outdoors, is easy on our budget, and allows us to bring our dogs. We also love breweries and wineries! Hocking Hills checks all the boxes.
The State Park is full of hiking trails and is probably best known for Old Man’s Cave, a beautiful hike that ends with a cave and waterfall. It’s a low-cost vacation since we can drive to our destination (vs flying), and we tend to bring most of our groceries with us. This saves a significant amount of money when compared to eating out. If you’re on a budget too, pack small items and breakfast staples.
We like to bring eggs, bread, olive oil, chopped vegetables (such as carrots and celery), hummus, olives, cheese cubes, berries, apples, and trail mix. Popcorn is a MUST for a hiking or movie snack, so be sure to bring some! These items make great snacks and picnic items, and you can easily throw a breakfast together with these ingredients too.
Chris and I prefer going during warm seasons so there’s more dog-friendly restaurant options. We try to go over a long weekend if we can. There’s many more potential activities than are listed below, but these are our favorite spots and where we most often recommend fellow adventurers. There’s links at the bottom of this page with more resources. Check out the below travel details and recommendations, then plan your next stay!
2pm: Leave right after work or take a half day of vacation so you can get on the road! We like to leave by early afternoon if we can. You’ll typically beat any Columbus traffic if you’re coming from Cleveland at this time.
4:30pm: Stop at Rock Mill Brewery on your way down – a small family owned brewery with a wonderful new tasting room, plenty of outdoor seating, and a small lake and chapel you can wander to, beer in hand. They allow dogs and outdoor food, so bring a packed picnic and grab a beer or two. It’s about 2.5 hours into your drive, so you’ll only have 30 minutes left until Hocking Hills! They have a rotating draft list, so buy a few bottles to save for later if you find something you really like.
6pm: Settle into your cabin! Our favorite place to stay is just the right size for two people (and two dogs) and it can be found here (mention that we sent you!). Unpack groceries and clothing, but don’t get too cozy – you’re headed out shortly for the next adventure. For those who like to settle in during the first night, make dinner at home or just whip up a fun charcuterie board, then cuddle up with a movie!
7pm: Head to Hocking Hills Winery, where you can listen to live music every Friday and Saturday from 6-9pm. If you like to sample wine, try one of their flight offerings (and enjoy the fun way they serve it!), but you must get their wine slushees – ask for a mix of their two flavors. If you’re wine’d out, buy them to go and stash them in your freezer! Order a cheese plate and sit outside on the patio – they allow dogs, and the ambiance is quite nice!
Morning: Whether you wake up at 6am or 9am, sip a cup of coffee or hot chocolate on your porch while enjoying the quiet. Our favorite cabin is surrounded by woods and tall grasses, and you feel removed from the rest of the world! I like to wake up before anyone else and start a good book. This is also a good time to pick out a hike or two for the day and repack your picnic basket!
Less than 1 mile hikes: If you can only do a mile or so, make sure you check out Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave. These trails are both appropriate for all skill levels, dog-friendly, and offer excellent views including waterfalls. Ash Cave Trail: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/ohio/ash-cave Old Man’s Cave Trail: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/ohio/old-man-cave-trail
5.2 mile hike: Want a hike away from the crowds yet still the experience of the major attractions of Hocking Hills? This is a good choice. Dog-friendly, moderate difficulty, and shaded. Find the trail here: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/ohio/buckeye-trail-and-gorge-overlook-loop
12.3 mile hike: Cedar Falls to Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave: This moderate, dog-friendly trail seems much shorter than it is since there are so many waterfalls and landscapes changes throughout the loop. This is a great route to get a sense of the Hocking Hills magic. You’ll feel like you know the area much better after going on this hike! Find the trail here: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/ohio/ash-cave-cedar-falls-and-old-man-caves-loop
11.3 mile hike: Depending on where you stay, Zaleski’s State Park is potentially 30-40 minutes away by car. Take South Loop Trail; Not for the weary of heart, this trail is considered moderate and has varying elevations. The nearly 5 hour hike was worth every second, as the views kept the hike enjoyable and interesting. Dogs are allowed (on leash) and you’ll find moderate foot traffic. The trail is used for day hikers and for backpackers who camp overnight. Find the trail here: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/ohio/zaleski-south-loop-trail
12pm: Take your sweaty selves over to Brewery 33 to cool down. During summer weekends, they typically offer live music. There’s corn hole and other yard games in the outdoor area available for free play, and inside is a plethora of board and card games to choose from! This is one of the only places we’ve found that allows dogs inside (good to know in case you get caught in a rainstorm or visit during winter). They usually have a food truck parked outside, and they offer small snacks made by locals in the area (jerky, potato chips, and the like). They also allow outdoor food, so bring out that trusty picnic you packed!
My favorite beer here is the Mingo Mango Gose – easy to drink at only 3.9% and mixed with mango juice, it hits just right after a long hike. They have plenty of options for every beer drinker, ranging from Hefeweizens all the way to Porters. Locals frequent here, so if you need advice for where to hike or grab a bite next, this is the place to ask!
4pm: Get back to the cabin to hit the reset button! Need a nap? Want to get a few more chapters in on that book you started? Go for it! Chris and I typically continue card games on the porch and watch the dogs play. Our cabin has a hot tub, and it feels so good after a day of hiking! If you still want a short hike or you want to go for a swim, head to Lake Logan (not to be confused with Logan Trail) and walk the perimeter of the lake (a few miles). Then hangout at the beach and go swimming!
7pm: Order take out (or go for dine-in) at Pizza Crossing. Great for all groups, families, and couples alike, this is a must! We adore their veggie pizza and a big salad, but we’ve heard good things about their subs and garlic bread. Our guilty pleasure is eating in front of the TV (I know, I know), so we usually order take out and hole up for the night with a movie. Don’t forget the popcorn!
10pm: One of the most impressive nature sights of the weekend is the dark sky and night stars. Walk outside and take a peek before you go to bed. I can practically guarantee that on a cloudless night, they’re brighter than you’ve ever seen in the city! Enjoy the crickets and the frogs as they sing you to sleep.
Morning: Start your day the same… because you can! Enjoy quiet on the porch and make a leisurely breakfast. Just because it’s your last day doesn’t mean you can’t hike! We like to pack up the car around 11am after a relaxing morning, say goodbye to our beloved cabin, and head to our final hike. Most cabin rentals request that you leave by 11am, but many will extend that for you if you ask.
11am: For your final hike, visit Cantwell Cliffs. It’s a short, 1.8 mile hike that includes steps, deep valleys, and a waterfall. This is a great choice because it’s not far off the highway, is picturesque enough to appreciate Hocking Hills one last time, and is short enough for people anxious to get back home and start their Sunday chores! Dog and family friendly, hike both the valley floor and the rim to get the full mileage (and views).
12pm: Head back home, sweet home. Venture back to your normal lives, but remember to carry with you the peace of the outdoors, the freedom of waking up when you want, the intimacy you’ve cultivated during quality time with loved ones, and the joy of exploring and adventuring. Hocking Hills is one of Ohio’s finest places to visit!
Hocking Hills Resources
State Park Website: https://www.hockinghills.com/index.html
Trails and Maps: https://www.explorehockinghills.com/parks-trails/
Special Events: https://thehockinghills.org/Events.htm
Our Favorite Places
Cabins with a view – My Little Heaven: https://www.cabinswithaview.net/My_Little_Heaven.html
Rock Mill Brewery: http://www.rockmillbrewery.com/
Hocking Hills Winery: https://www.hockinghillswinery.com/
Brewery 33: https://www.brewery33.com/
Pizza Crossing: http://www.pizzacrossing.com/
Whether coming down for a girl’s weekend away, a family vacation, or a solo trip to clear your head, you’ll be sure to have a wonderful time at Hocking Hills. Have you been there too? What are some of your favorite places to hike, eat and relax?