Travel looks a little different in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are venturing out, many are choosing locations within driving distance, staying at lodging that allows appropriate social distancing, and choosing activities that don’t involve crowds and have proper safety precautions in place.
With all these things in mind in June 2020, I planned a weekend getaway for my partner’s 65th birthday in Hocking Hills, Ohio, which is just under a 2-hour drive from our home.
This getaway was my first venture out since being sent home from my trip to Spain in March because of the European Travel Ban. You can read about that crazy adventure here! Since that experience I’ve been isolating at home, like most of you, and only dreaming of traveling.
Now that things are starting to open back up, we ventured out. Here’s how we managed a perfect weekend getaway in Hocking Hills while still adhering to Covid-19 safety guidelines.
Hocking Hills, Ohio
With two state parks, spectacular hiking, a lake and a state forest, the Hocking Hills region in Ohio makes you feel like you’ve left the state and entered another world. Starting with Old Man’s Cave, the most popular destination, you can wind your way through the 6 mile journey, connecting to two of the park’s other destinations, Ash Cave, an accessible sandstone cave, and Cedar Falls. This section is also part of the national North Country Scenic Trail and America’s Discovery Trail. Also within a short drive is Cantwell Cliffs, the huge cave system known as Rock House, Conkles Hollow, a trail following one of the deepest gorges in Ohio, and nearby Lake Logan, one of the best fishing lakes in Ohio.
Hocking Hills Covid-19 Updates
UPDATE: Hocking Hills State Park reopened to the public on July 2, 2020.
At the time of this writing, because of Covid-19, only part of the park was open. When we arrived we were dismayed to discover that only two trails were open: Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs, and those opened on June 15. Keep an eye on the official Hocking Hills website for updates on Covid-19.
Where We Stayed in Hocking Hills, Ohio
With the growth in popularity of the region, lodging, cabin rentals and Bed and Breakfasts have popped up all over the park. Despite that, it can still be difficult to get a last minute rental, so I recommend booking well in advance. Even though only two of the hiking trails were open during our visit almost everything was booked solid when I started looking weeks in advance.
After TWO double bookings and the ensuing struggle to get refunds, I found this, The Georgian Manner Bed and Breakfast. They had a room available, were open for one night stays, and had the appropriate social distancing rules.
The inn was built in 1840 right at the end of Lake Logan. The current owner bought the property in the mid 1980s and completely renovated, upgraded and expanded the structure to what you see today. It is decorated in the Georgian style with his immense collection of civil war antiques and paraphernalia setting the tone for each room.
Because of Covid-19 we did not have to share a bathroom and had the entire upstairs to ourselves. There was one other couple downstairs in a large suite. Being upstairs in an older structure our room was hotter than I wanted and there was no way to adjust the temperature.
One of the best parts about staying at a bed and breakfast is meeting the people, so while this group was kept small, the owner did not disappoint. A former Navy pilot, this man has traveled the world and lived his life to the fullest. He will regale you with stories of his travels and of his challenges with the renovations and wildlife on the property. You’ll see pictures all over the property that will make you want to ask questions, and he will not hesitate to share those fascinating stories.
Rock House Cave
After checking in we headed back to the Hocking Hills area, about a 25 minute drive from Lake Logan, to explore Rock House. Rock House is the only real cave in the park and it sits midway up a 150-foot cliff of sandstone. You’ll encounter a steep climb of stairs and hills to get in and out, but the trip is worth it. Expect to spend at least an hour exploring this natural wonderland.
The Inn at Cedar Falls – Kindred Spirits Restaurant
I’d made reservations at the beautiful Inn at Cedar Falls, which is open but with enhanced safety protocols for Covid-19. They are limiting the number of guests on property, so you must make a reservation at their restaurant, Kindred Spirits, in advance. I made ours for 8:15, figuring there’d be even fewer people there then.
The restaurant is located in the original 1840s log cabin, fully restored and decorated with simple furnishings. The menu includes items like maple bourbon glazed salmon and fresh scallops, or a filet with mushroom and wine reduction. Much of their cooked to order cuisine includes the finest fresh ingredients, some locally grown in the Hocking Hills. Their extensive wine selection along with full cocktail menu makes for a wonderful experience, for a special occasion like ours, or to top off a weekend of hiking.
Lake Logan, Ohio
After breakfast and coffee and before checking out of our inn, we took some time to enjoy the views from the front porch rocking chairs and to take advantage of the canoe, available to guests, to explore Lake Logan. The lake was still, like glass, and the water lilies were in full bloom.
If you don’t happen to have access to a canoe, boat or kayak through your lodging, you can go to Lake Logan Marina, a full service marina on the lake from which you can rent a pontoon, kayak or canoe to explore the lake yourself. Canoeing is the perfect social distancing activity!
UPDATE: The entire park has been reopened to the public as of July 2, 2020.
At the time of this writing, the only other hiking stop open was Cantwell Cliffs, which opened on June 15. We were lucky and timed our arrival with no wait to enter, but the following day when we went back to finish our hike, park rangers were limiting the number of people that could enter at one time.
Created by erosion, Cantwell Cliffs is a deep valley with steep cliffs and rock shelters. You can choose to hike either the valley floor or the rim of the cliffs, and either offers some of the most picturesque views in the park. Expect steep stairs both in and out no matter what you choose, but the climb is well worth it. Parents, leave your strollers in the car, there’s no way to manage a stroller here.
Hocking Hills Winery
Our final day included a stop at Hocking Hills Winery. Open since 2013, the winery sits on a former cattle farm and began as a Masters’ Degree project for the son of the farm owner. Since then, they’ve turned the operation into an award winning winery, achieving a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor! We settled in and decided on a flight.
They are under new guidelines for Covid-19 and, while open, are operating with social distancing and enhanced cleaning guidelines. We sat outside and were far enough away from others to feel comfortable.
Traveling with Precautions for Covid-19
With proper advanced planning and a little creativity, you can enjoy a weekend getaway while still following Covid-19 social distancing and safety protocols. We managed to have a perfect weekend in Hocking Hills, Ohio despite the challenges.