Sometimes your kids just make you want to run for the hills, right? Well, pack 'em up and start running to Hocking Hills. Located in southeast Ohio, the Hocking Hills region includes a variety of state parks and attractions where your family can unwind and explore nature. Your kids can run, scream and burn off energy in forests and caves, giving your whole family plenty of space and fresh air to breathe.
Most kids love to get wet, but Hocking Hills offers a chance for them to get closer to nature while splashing around. Strap on some life jackets and take a canoe ride. Rent a canoe from the Hocking Valley Canoe Livery (hockinghillscanoeing.com) and take the Crockett's Run to Livery trip, designed for families with young kids. Hocking Hills Canoe Livery (hockingriver.com) also offers Crockett's Trip, a 90-minute canoe ride with plenty of secret "islands" and clearings where you can stop and eat lunch or play in the water. You can literally tell your tot to go jump in a lake at Lake Hope State Park (lakehopestatepark.org) or Lake Logan State Park (dnr.state.oh.us/parks/lakelogan/tabid/757/default.aspx). Both offer kid-friendly swimming beaches -- but the water may look a little yuckier than the pools and bathtubs they're used to.
Pull out your kids' walking shoes and head out for a hike in the Hocking Hills. To avoid sore arms or an aching back from carrying your tired toddler or preschooler, pick a kid-friendly trail. Park near the Old Man's Cave Visitor Center and take the 1-mile hike through the cave, where your tot can pretend to be a bear or a caveman. If you venture a little further down the trail, you can catch a glimpse of the upper and lower waterfalls. If your kids are too tired to walk, check out the stroller-friendly half-mile Ash Cave trail, which also features a cave and a waterfall to wow the family.
Trains, Planes and Fun Centers
If your toddler or preschooler is "choo choo" obsessed, add a trip on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway (hvsry.com) to your Hocking Hills agenda. If planes are more your kids' style, take in the Hocking Hills from the sky with Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours (hockinghillsscenicairtours.com), which welcomes fliers of all ages. Of course, you can always have fun while keeping your feet on the ground by visiting one of the area's mini golf courses or family fun centers. Both Rempel's Grove (oldedutch.com/rempels/) and Hocking Valley Canoe Livery offer mini golf and other family activities, such as a petting zoo, arcade games and go-kart rides.
While there are plenty of places to pitch a tent in the Hocking Hills, you can also give your preschooler or toddler a more unique camping experience. At Boulder's Edge (atbouldersedge.com) lets you rent teepees so your kids can pretend they are living just like the Native Americans -- with a few modern conveniences, of course. The Hocking Hills KOA Campground (koa.com/campgrounds/logan) has both primitive and modern tent sites, plus activities for kids such as gem mining and hay rides. Many of the local state parks also feature traditional tent and RV camp sites, plus playgrounds and special activities for kids.