Turns out, one of the best places in the U.S. to watch the leaves change is just a short trip east from Cincinnati in Hocking Hills State Park.
Hocking Hills, which is about a two-and-half-hour drive from the Tri-State, ranks as the third best place to see fall foliage, according to voters in a USA Today 10Best poll.
“The crown jewel of Ohio natural beauty, Hocking Hills State Park spans more than 2,000 acres across the southern reaches of the Buckeye State — and this stunning natural feature is particularly idyllic during autumn,” 10Best wrote.
Taking the top two spots were Keystone State Park in Derry Township, Pennsylvania, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise, Michigan — about a five-hour and nine-hour trip from Cincinnati, respectively.
According to Explore Hocking Hills, a warm and wet spring plus a sunny summer and plenty of rain have resulted in extra beautiful foliage in the region this year.
“The region's fiery red Maples, blazes of orange Sassafras and yellow Hickory, brushstrokes of brown Oak and pops of green Hemlock and Pine create a bold tapestry that's a feast for the eyes,” they said in a press release.
The region features 13,000 acres of unbroken forest with nearly 100 different tree species against a backdrop of deep gorges, soaring rock faces and unique rock formations. The area consistently garners five-star reviews from leaf-peeping travelers, says Explore Hocking Hills.
As for how to enjoy the foliage, the state park and surrounding area offer plenty of opportunities. 10Best suggests exploring places like Cedar Falls, Rose Lake and Old Man’s Cave. This writer’s favorite hike hits all three spots:
Start your morning at Cedar Falls (get an early start if you want to avoid the crowds). Hike the Gorge Overlook Trail to Rose Lake to enjoy the view of the reds, yellows and oranges blooming around the reservoir. You can choose to rest here and take in the view, veer off on the trail that travels the perimeter of the lake or continue your hike to Old Man’s Cave to enjoy the waterfalls and rock formations. After you’ve seen both the Upper and Lower Falls, travel along the Grandma Gatewood/Buckeye Trail back to Cedar Falls (be aware there are some rocky, narrow footpaths along this part of the trail and parts can feel like an obstacle course).
Apart from hiking, Hocking Hills also touts one of America’s newest National Scenic Byways for a drive full of autumnal sights. You can also view the foliage by air with Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tour, zip through the trees and even a waterfall with Hocking Hills Canopy Tour or go rappelling or rock climbing with High Rock Adventures. You can also take in a crisp autumn night and observe the stars at John Glenn Astronomy Park.
Learn more about Hocking Hills State Park here.
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