Ever since I read about Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio a decade ago, I’ve wanted to go there. The opportunity came up a few years ago when I snuck away from a conference.

The state park is broken into segments scattered across the hills, each surrounding a significant geologic feature. I managed to hike at six of the eight locations, mainly by sticking to the trails that took you deep into the gorges instead of the hikes up on top of the cliffs. The formations, from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave to Rock House, are incredible rock shelters and deeply eroded ravines with winding streams, and the trails often lead you up and down steps carved into the solid rock and sometimes even through tunnels.

What I wasn’t expecting was the constant parade of hikers. Yes, it was the last hurrah of fall leaves, but the day was extremely overcast and misty rain fell several times. But every parking area was full to overflowing, and every trail was downright crowded with hikers. A surprising sight to someone used to hiking solo for miles and miles. Hikers of every age, size, and ethnicity, out enjoying the brisk temperatures, the stunning scenery, and each other’s company. As it said near the Old Man’s Cave trailhead,¬†these are “The Most Exciting Trails in the State,” and it seems that everyone¬†knows it.