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Conkle's Hollow and the #1 Threat to Families Hiking This Innocent Nature Preserve

Updated: May 24

But Ohio was not where I expected this to happen. We look forward to sharing with you hiking Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve, and what to do to make sure you can keep hiking as a family. Let’s Get Started!

Let’s first talk about the location of Conkle’s Hollow and we promise to share how this hike almost ended our hiking together.

Where is Conkle's Hollow Located?

Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve is in the Hocking Hills region of Southeast Ohio about 40 minutes from Columbus Ohio. But, technically it is not part of Hocking Hills State Park. It is actually a nature preserve in existence to preserve the wildlife, plants, and other nature stuff. That is why dogs are not allowed. The Gorge Trail and Rim Trail are there to share the preservation efforts with the public. Where the State Parks are more geared towards human recreation. The preserve is open year-round and it is open to the public ½ hour before sunrise and closed ½ hour after sunset. The hollow is named for W.J. Conkle who scribed his name and the year 1797 into the sandstone within the Gorge. Stay until the end for more general tips to help you enjoy your time at Conkle’s Hollow.

Why is this hike rated one of the top 5 in the Hocking Hills Area?

Conkle’s Hollow actually has two trails. The Gorge Trail and the Rim Trail.

Conkle's Hollow was made over time by erosion and the water running through the gorge is continuing to create the hollow deeper. Made of Black Hand Sandstone the gorge in some places is only 100 feet wide and the walls can rise as much as 200 feet above the gorge floor. Black hand sandstone is only visible in Ohio and the material that forms the sandstone likely came from the Appalachian Mountains to the East. Here in the Gorge you can see the rock elevations up close and at a distance. Along with the rock you will see a variety of plants and trees. As you walk you will be amazed at the ferns and flowers and moss below while also admiring the birch, hemlock and other trees towering above. These views are just the beginning. Just wait until you see what is at the end of the Gorge Trail.

But first let’s discuss what gear you should take. Hikes in the Hocking Hills area are day hikes and need reasonable gear. For any hiking over 1 mile make sure they have good closed toed shoes with good traction. We wear hiking shoes and I like the Merrell Moab II. We used trekking poles for the rim hike and we were happy to have the additional balance and support. We day hike with the Teton Sports Oasis backpack but did not take our water bladder. Instead we took water bottles which are easier to clean. Don’t forget to dress for the weather and dress in layers. It rained a lot so we packed rain jackets. I'd recommend hiking shoes for the kids based on what we've worn but every year it seems like the selection and availability are ever changing. These Amazon links are examples of what we hike with.

Teton Sports Hydration Pack Video Review:

Amazon Link: 2021 model

Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E hydration backpack Video Review for younger hikers:

Merrell Moab II Men's Hiking Shoes:

The First Aid Kit we carry:

Tactical Flashlights:

How Long is the Gorge Trail at Conkle's Hollow?

Now let’s talk about the Gorge trail and later we’ll discuss what to put in your backpack.

As we mentioned before the preserve has two hikes. The Gorge Trail is the easier and shorter of the two. If you only have time for one we recommend this hike. The gorge trail takes a ½ hour to complete. 90% of the 1.5 mile round trip trail is paved and wheelchair accessible. This is a great hike for strollers, too. But if you are like us you will wonder why this trail is a top 5 and why you shouldn’t turn around half way. The trail crosses the stream a few times with bridges. One wooden bridge is slippery when wet so walk carefully over that one. At the end of the accessible trail is an unimproved hike that takes you to the waterfall that eroded the gorge and a beautiful horseshoe hollow with the waterfall and pool as its centerpiece. The waterfall in Conkle’s Hollow Falls at a height of 25 feet. Although not viewable from the paved trail this part of the hike is the most amazing and surprising. Here take in the panoramic views but, also look closely. You may see fish in the pool and other small treasures. Now that you’ve made it to the end of the trail on the way back to the parking lot, notice the rock ledges rising from the bottom of the gorge. Most of what you see while hiking the gorge is not visible from the rim due to the dense forest. Keep this in mind as you begin your hike up to the rim.

Let’s pause for a Dad Joke. Have you heard the joke about the skunk and the hiking trip? Nevermind, it really stinks. Joke books make great gifts. We’ll put a couple affiliate links in our description if you need a gift idea.

Here are dad joke books for great gifts: Dad Jokes Around the Campfire and 600 Funniest Dad Jokes. To view any product mentioned by us in our videos, click this link: As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases through these links, Amazon ads and banners on this page, at no additional cost to you.

As we turn to the Rim Trail one thing to mention are the maps throughout the Hocking Hills Area. Trail Maps are located throughout the parks and do a nice job of helping you know where you are, how far you’ve been and how far you have to go. Waypoints are marked with letters and maps are generally available at trail intersections.

Before we get to a parent's biggest fear let’s discuss what to put into your backpack and the one item most people forget. We first pack water and a first aid kit. But we actually pack 2 first aid kits. We’ve been caught on the trail without one and it didn’t go well. We always pack snacks on our hike, too including granola bars, trail mix, and other salty snacks. But we found a lot of places where a picnic lunch on the trail would be even better. Don’t forget to pack a little motivation, too. We like gummy worms and fruit slices for a sinful treat. To help you keep the right path make sure to take your phone, maps, and a compass. Most casual hikers don’t think to pack a good rope. Good planning and taking safe routes will prevent the need for a rope but we’ve been on many trails where a rescue with a rope could be required.

How Hard is the Conkle's Hollow Rim Trail?

Now for the part all mom's will struggle with.

The Rim Trail is a 2.1 mile loop that has almost 400 feet of elevation gain. Most of the elevation is at the beginning and end of the trail. Here at the trailhead there are steps to ascend to the rim. During 2020 Ohio State Parks made most trails one-way. This decision is still intact today and hopefully will continue on for the future. We see this rule increases safety and improves the experience of hiking in the parks and preserves. The stairs are the first measure of difficulty to the rim trail. At the top the hike generally levels out. But, the focus changes to a trail surface of roots and uneven rocks. Wet or icy conditions will make the trail more difficult.

But now you are on the rim edge and standing upwards of 200 feet from the gorge floor. If you want mom to have an instant anxiety attack let your brood free range on the rim. I did and let’s just say we had some crucial conversations about ½ mile into the trail. The edge of the rim is unlevel ground. In many places the trail width on the rim is only 3-4 feet. So, in order to stay on the trail you need to walk between trees and the rim edge. And this is a preserve so poison ivy appears throughout the trail. So, why are we spending so much time talking about the risk of the rim trail? And why does the trail ignite our parental survival instincts? Every year 1-2 people die hiking in the Hocking Hills Area. Recently a hiker, 45 years old, fell 60 feet to his death on the Conkle’s Hollow Rim Trail. This was an adult.

We love to hear from you! Join the conversation in the comments: what hikes have made you worry for your family’s safety?

Before we continue with the Rim trail, we have a couple more tips to make your time in Conkle’s Hollow the best it can be. Here is a link to Conkle’s Hollow website for you to reference with good content and to keep updated right before your hike. We noticed the parking lot will fill up quickly on the weekends. If you can, plan your trip to happen on a weekday. It will make for a better experience. Also, the only bathrooms are at the front of the parking lot near the preserve entrance. Make sure to use the bathroom before your hike. You will find the gorge trail is awesome! But hiking the gorge trail will lead you to want to tackle the rim trail, too. Many families every year hike the rim trail and you can, too. It’s a great hike! Just take it slow and safe. There is a picnic area at the parking lot and a big field. So, make a day of it by bringing a soccer ball or football and a lunch. The preserve has a lot of shade so you can get out of the heat of Summer. To do your part, when hiking in the preserve, hike only on designated trails to allow the plants along the trail to live and grow.

Now, back to the rim trail. The trail adds to the gorge trail by giving you a view of the preserve from above. There are many overlooks where you can see down into the gorge and across the gorge and further. These really give you a different perspective. We were surprised to notice that you really can’t see down into the gorge very far. There are things you see from the rim you can’t see from the gorge. We noticed a few sources of water from the rim and only one source of water from the gorge trail. Looking across the gorge you can see the rim trail on the other side in some places. These views help you witness how tall the forest is and the overall height of the preserve. The rim trail is a great hike if you have the time and your brood can hike safely.

How Long Does It Take to Walk Conkle's Hollow?

Conkle's Hollow Has two trails as mentioned above. Plan on 1/2 hour to 45 minutes for the 1.2 mile round trip on the paved Gorge trail. If you hike the rim trail add at least another hour to your schedule. The Rim trail has decent elevation change and is a 2.1 mile loop that starts and ends at the Gorge trail trailhead.

If you are just starting your planning for Hocking Hills, Conkle’s Hollow is in the top five of best locations\hikes in the area. Our favorites and the popular trails include Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs. These are all short hikes of moderate difficulty including stairs, unlevel stone and wood steps, rocks and roots and views of Blackhand Sandstone, waterfalls, trees, plants, wildlife, and spectacular views!

Read this post to learn what you can spend money on in Hocking Hills to start thinking about your vacation budget

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For 7 tips to make the best of Hocking Hills read this next: What Do I Need To Know Before Going to Hocking Hills?

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