Grand Canyon of Ohio: Conkle’s Hollow

The sheer cliffs from the gorge trail
Lichen covered cliffs from the rim trail
Some of the Blackhand sandstone cliffs
The waterfall at the end of the Hollow
Sun shining on the rock under the waterfall
Close up of the altar rock

There is no “official” Grand Canyon of Ohio.  As Tom and I were researching the “grand canyon of Ohio” we found four candidates, so we decided that we couldn’t name a Grand Canyon of Ohio until we had seen all of them.  The candidates were Blackhand Gorge which we saw last summer, Gorge Metro Park in Akron which we have hiked many times, Clifton Gorge State Nature Reserve which we visited several years ago, and Conkle’s Hollow in Hocking Hills State Park.  None of them are designated “grand canyon of Ohio” and all have their own spectacular beauty.  But after visiting all of them, we have a winner:  Conkle’s Hollow is the Grand Canyon of Ohio.

Conkle’s Hollow appeared on our list of possibilities for the Grand Canyon of Ohio because of an article in the Chicago Daily Herald in 2008.  I am not sure why the author designated it “the little grand canyon of Ohio,” but Conkle’s Hollow certainly lives up to the title.  We visited it on a sunny and warm day last week, accompanied by my parents.

Conkle’s Hollow is surrounded by sheer cliffs of Blackhand Sandstone up to 200 feet high.  There are places where the hollow is broad and other places where it narrows to less than 100 feet wide.  Recent improvements to the Gorge Trail make the hollow accessible to people of any ability.  Most of the trail is broad, level concrete.  When this part of the trail runs out, there is a little up and down, but the trail is mostly smooth with well-built steps and handrails at the steeper parts.

Conkle’s Hollow is green and lush, with a small creek running through it.  There are dozens of kinds of ferns as well as beautiful strands of trees and rocks covered with moss and lichens.  You can see the power of erosion in the caves cut into the rock walls.

We arrived at the end of the Gorge Trail very close to noon, when the sun was shining through a crevice onto the trickling waterfall that splashed on a rock.  Just the rock was lit by the ray of sunshine and it looked like an altar in a spectacular cathedral.  Wow!  After worshiping in that wonderful place we headed back to the parking lot and ate lunch at the picnic area outside the Hollow.

After lunch Tom and I hiked the rim trail, much of which is right on the cliff edge.  Many people have fallen from this trail and been seriously injured – several have been killed – so we were careful as we climbed up and down and around the rim.  There were some wonderful views, especially of the sentinel rocks, but the trees covered the Hollow like a blanket and made it impossible to see the Hollow floor.

Conkle’s Hollow is a State Nature Preserve in the middle of Hocking Hills State Park.  You take State Route 664 12 miles south of Logan, then State Route 374 north one mile to Big Pine Road.  The entrance to Conkle’s Hollow is on Big Pine Road.  The route is well-marked with signs at the intersections.

We enjoyed our time at Conkle’s Hollow and feel that it is a worthy addition to our collection of “grand canyons.”  We are comfortable with declaring that Conkle’s Hollow is the Grand Canyon of Ohio.

Choose your trail
The gorge trail is mostly paved, wide, and level
Toward the end, the gorge trail gets a little more challenging
Looking up at the cliff walls
One of the caves. The rock on the left is supposed to look like a horse’s head
Sheer Blackhand sandstone
Our group of hikers at the end of Conkle’s Hollow