Set a course for adventure in southeastern Ohio

The Hocking Hills area in southeastern Ohio offers more than a picturesque walk through the woods. It affords unique opportunities to explore every angle of these stunning surroundings while providing some welcome surprises.

During a trip to the Hocking Hills and the nearby regions, you can hear a beaver slapping its tail on the water as you kayak on a lake under a rising moon. You can spy the majesty of the Appalachians as you glide through a canopy of trees on a zip line. You can even observe the rings of Saturn – 746 million miles up – at an astronomy park where professional and amateur astronomers converge.

We experienced a handful of rewarding outdoor pursuits during a summer weekend adventure in the Hocking Hills, about an hour’s drive from Columbus. Here’s a sampling of what you can do, too.

• Kayak Under the Moon

On a warm evening I eased into a kayak at the nearly 3,000-acre Lake Hope in McArthur. Lake Hope State Park lies within the Zaleski State Forest, about 20 miles southeast of Hocking Hills.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioI teamed up with Mimi Morrison, owner of Touch the Earth Adventures. She inspired me to unwind and tune into the environment. As we glided across the lake, Morrison indicated the lack of mosquitos thanks to the overhead yellow warblers. I quieted and listened to their sweet whistling as the full moon rose over the horizon.

Ramp up the experience by visiting the nature center at Lake Hope State Park to hand-feed hummingbirds during the summer months.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioAt specified times park rangers remove the hung feeders and hand out plastic planter plugs full of sugar water. Each has a red pipe cleaner attached to attract the little birds, as well as a hole for them to poke their pointy beaks into the liquid.

I felt a thrill as bird after bird visited my feeder. As they hovered over my hand, I admired their delicate features and their vibrant blue and green feathers.

• Zip Through the Trees

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern Ohio

You can get in touch (literally) with the trees at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours in Rockbridge, which offers several zip-lining adventures. Max and I hopped on the Canopy Tour. For about three hours we zipped between trees and covered several sky bridges.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioThe company offers various other tours, including some shorter ones, as well as Segway adventures and hikes. What impressed me was the attention to detail at the departure destination. The touring company made sure to give us a training session before we embarked. They follow Association for Challenge Course Technology standards, so we always felt safe while we got our thrills.

Along the way, our guides pointed out interesting trees, such as the American sycamore, with bark that resembles military camouflage, and the indigenous pawpaw tree, which produces a papaya-like fruit. Our guides also took our pictures as we zipped through the course, making it unnecessary to carry mobile phones or cameras.

Ramp up the experience by spending the night in a treehouse at Among the Trees Lodging, only about a mile or so away from the zip lining adventure. We stayed in the Buckeye Barn Treehouse, meticulously constructed from reclaimed barn wood.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioThe cozy confines sleeps four and contains everything for a comfortable stay, including a hot tub. You enter the treehouse via a swaying ramp that’s illuminated at night. The height provides a unique perspective of the woods. Mike liked hanging out beneath the treehouse, studying its impressive construction.

• Gaze at the Rings of Saturn

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern Ohio

We visited John Glenn Astronomy Park in Logan, a short drive from Hocking Hills State Park, joining dozens of others gathering on a warm Friday evening. The crowd included expert and amateur astronomers and many inquisitive visitors like us.

The park, operated by a non-profit organization called Friends of the Hocking Hills State Park, is open Friday and Saturday nights at sunset from the beginning of March through early November. It doesn’t cost anything to visit.

We were invited to study the stars through several telescopes set up on a rectangular, paved surface. We caught a glimpse of the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter and the craters of our moon. As the night quickened, the views improved. The site’s main tool is a huge, 28-inch telescope in the rolling-roofed observatory. During our visit it was trained on the Crab Nebula.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioRamp up the experience with dinner at Kindred Spirits, the new restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls in Logan. Dining here is not roughing it. The food and surroundings are top-notch. Step up to the rooftop bar for a breath of fresh air, filtered through pretty flowers.

Learn more about the Hocking Hills area.