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Hocking State Forest Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area, OH

Toproping on Rectangle Rock.

It’s been said that if God wanted Midwesterners to be rock climbers, He would have put rocks in the Midwest. Well, the Hocking State Forest Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area is proof that God – and the state of Ohio – want you to climb.

“People who thumb their noses at the area haven’t spent much time there,” says local climber Brian Still, “We local guys haven’t gotten bored yet.”

The 99-acre area includes a smattering of sandstone toproping options from 5.0 to 5.12 – some as high as 75 feet – and tons of bouldering problems from V0 to V6. Amazing Grace (a.k.a. The Beech) and Rectangle Rock (a.k.a. The Island) are the classic toproping sites and Workout Wall is the motherlode of bouldering problems (see map). If you go to climb, be aware that this isn’t ground up climbing – the soft sandstone cannot take any gear and your toproping setup skills must be dialed in. Rappelling options are plentiful, and the classic rappel is the 100-plus-foot free rappel next to the Big Spring waterfall.

The location is great for summer climbing with a dense forest of deciduous trees and hemlocks shading just about every climb. Spring is great for viewing wildflowers and ramps (wild leeks) – if you’re lucky you might even find some morel mushrooms. Cold winters allow for some ice climbing that definitely must be toproped.

If you’d just as soon watch a rappeller or a rock climber than participate, go for it: a portion of the 1,400-mile Buckeye Trail winds through the climbing and rappelling area as do other foot trails. This is also a popular horseback riding destination. Across the road is the trailhead to Airplane Rock, a well-known rock outcropping with an expansive view of the forest below.

Where it’s at: About an hour from Columbus; from US 33 in Logan, OH turn south on OH 664 and travel the winding road 4 miles to Big Pine Road. Take a right (your only option) onto Big Pine and drive 6.5 miles to the parking lot on the right.

Contact: www.dnr.state.oh.us or (740) 385-4402

Digs: Caveman Retreats has a campground ($20-$25/night) and cabins, www.hockinghills.com/cavemanretreats or (740) 385-9485; Big Pine Retreat is just minutes from the climbing and rappelling area ($125-$215/night), www.bigpineretreat.com or 866-474-5660

Grub: The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls has seasonal menus based on locally grown food, www.innatcedarfalls.com or 800-653-2557

Gear and Outfitting: Earth Water Rock Outdoor Adventures Ltd., http://ewroutdoors.com or (740) 664-5220

Please practice Leave No Trace climbing and rappelling. Among other things, this means that you don’t wrap your rope directly around a tree trunk, rappel and pull it from the ground. This rubs off the bark and eventually kills the tree.