Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve - Lower Falls Trail

Updated: Nov 2


Rockbridge Hocking Hills


Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve

24858 Big Pine Road

Rockbridge, OH 43149

"I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it." ~ William Shakespeare

CONKLE'S HOLLOW STATE NATURE PRESERVE

LOWER FALLS TRAIL


About Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve

Conkle’s Hollow is an Ohio State Nature Preserve located in the picturesque Hocking Hills. It is comprised of 87-acres and has 2 hiking trails.


In 1925, the State of Ohio purchased Conkle’s Hollow to preserve the land and its scenic beauty. In 1977, Conkle’s Hollow was dedicated as a State Nature Preserve. This land was named after W.J. Conkle. His name with the year 1797 was found carved in the sandstone.


Conkle’s Hollow’s State Nature Preserve is a beautiful park. There are deep gorges and sheer Black Hand sandstone cliffs. You can also find plenty of wildlife, waterfalls, and native Ohio plants and flowers.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio


THE LOWER FALLS TRAILS

Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

There are 2 trails located in Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve:


  • Lower Falls Trail (aka Gorge Trail)

  • Rim Trail (East Rim Trail & West Rim Trail)


During our latest trip to Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve, we only walked the Lower Falls Trail. We will be doing another post soon for the Rim Trail.


The Lower Falls trail is a nice, peaceful, relaxing trail that can be enjoyed by anyone. Since you are down in the gorge, the temperature is usually cool and comfortable. If you are looking to take a leisurely stroll in the Hocking Hills, this trail is a great choice.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio


The trail starts off at a bridge. After you make it over the bridge, the trail is made of concrete. It continues a short distance, then turns into a wooden boardwalk. After another short distance, it turns into concrete again. This section of the concrete trail ends in the shadow of Conkle’s Hollow’s Highest cliff. The Lower Falls Trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible to this point.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio


After that, the concrete trail ends you make your way through the opening of two large fallen Blackhand Sandstone slump blocks. The trail from there is all natural and rough in areas. There is nothing extremely strenuous, but it is not suitable for a wheelchair or a stroller.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Once you make it to the end of the natural bath, you will find yourself at the end of the Gorge Trail. The end of the trail is surrounded by towering sandstone walls and waterfalls. The waterfalls are not always active. If you are planning on visiting to see the falls, you would want to visit the park after it rains.



The day we visited, the waterfalls were dry. However, there were a lot of people walking in the very shallow water at the base of the falls. For this reason, I did not get a picture of the back of the gorge.



Fungus at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio


BIRDING

Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve is a great place to bird during migration. During our recent visit, the birds were few and far between. But we did have an amazing surprise, we spotted a barred owl on the lookout for its next meal.


Barred Owl at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio



THE SIGNS

Below are all the signs located throughout the park. When visiting, it can sometimes be hard to get to read them all. So, here they are just for you.

Fungus at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Conkle’s Hollow is a picturesque 87-acre state nature preserve nestled in the emerald beauty of the Hocking Hills. Dedicated as a scenic nature preserve in 1977, Conkle’s Hollow is endowed with a rich variety of natural features.


Once past the rich bottomland of the gorge opening, one notices the valley beginning to narrow. Towering sandstone cliffs become increasingly visible through the hemlocks and hardwoods of the hillsides. Waterfalls cascade over moss-covered rocks in the side valleys during the seasonal wet periods. Wildflowers carpet the gorge floor in April and May of each year.



Those seeking a greater challenge will discover the Rim Trail to be a memorable experience. This two-mile loop trail winds along the high cliffs overlooking the gorge valley. Here, amid chestnut oaks and Virginia scrub pines, grow such dry-habitat species as mountain laurel, blueberries, deerberries, trailing arbutus, lichen and stemless lady’s slipper. The numerous natural overlooks give visitors one of the most scenic vistas in Ohio.


As you enjoy the serenity and natural beauty of Conkle’s Hollow, do so in a safe manner. By remaining on the designated trail system at all times, visitors and the fragile plant communities are protected from injury.


Enjoy Ohio’s natural preserves – naturally!


Valley of Pine Creek Sign at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The valley of Pine Creek is an excellent example of a river birch community. Found primarily in southeastern Ohio and the Southern United States, the river birch (Betula nigra) is found mainly along smaller streams that are prone to frequent flooding. Such floodplains are home to many species of trees and wildflowers. Striking flowers, such as Virginia bluebells, trout lily, cardinal flower and ingstem, provide a colorful contrast to the muted bark of the sycamore and musclewood trees.


Sandstone Cliffs Sign at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The rugged beauty of the sandstone cliffs found in the Hocking Hills belies the delicate ecosystem they support. Home to several rare and endangered plant species, the weathering of the sandstone rock provides just enough soil in cracks and crevices for their acid-loving roots. This harsh environment supports the colorful round-leafed catchfly, wild columbine and a collection of redacious lichens spleenworts. The preserve is also home to the rare Sullivantia and Canada yew.


Staying on the designated trail is the best way visitors can help make sure this most unique ecosystem continues to thrive.


Evergreen Hemlocks Sign at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The stately evergreen hemlocks of Conkle’s Hollow gorge are relics of a time when massive ice sheets halted their approach just miles from the preserve. In the Hocking Hills region, the eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) grows primarily in the cool, moist hollows. Easily identified by the two white stripes on the bottom of each needle, the hemlock creates an atmosphere similar the boreal forests of Canada.


Although capable of living 900 years, most old growth hemlocks in this area were harvested soon after settlement. The bark, high in tannic acid, were used for tanning leather, and the needles, which are high in vitamin C, helped prevent scurvy among settlers.



The Grotto Sign at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The definition of a grotto is a small cave usually with attractive features. For those of you with imaginative minds, the shape of a horse’s head can be seen on the back wall of this small recess. You may at this point leave the concrete trail and take the steps up into the cave for a closer look – although the horse’s head can be best seen from the concrete trail.


- Please Remember –

Hiking off trail in the creek or on the hillside is strictly prohibited. Violators may be cited for hiking off trail pursuant to the Ohio Administrative Code.



Sandstone Blocks Sign at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The massive blocks of sandstone, which litter the valley floor of Conkle’s Hollow, are called “slump blocks.” At one time, these blocks were firmly attached to the bedrock walls of the hollow, but gradual erosion and the hand of time have caused the blocks to fall from their original lofty positions. Because these blocks side imperceptibly down the hillside on which they lie, they are also knows as “float blocks.”


The Rock Outcrops Sign at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The rock outcrops, which can be seen throughout Conkle’s Hollow, are comprised entirely of Black Hand sandstone; a sandstone formation extending in a narrow band from the Ohio River, northward nearly to Lake Erie in eastern Ohio. The Black Hand sandstone is divided into three layers. The top and bottom layers are strongly cemented together while the middle layer is much softer and erodes much easier. It is in this softer portion of the Black Hand sandstone that recesses or re-entrant caved often form. The yellow, orange and red colors on the rock are evidence of the iron oxide which binds the sand grains together.


Lower Falls Trail Sign at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The concrete trail ends here in the shadow of Conkle’s Hollow’s Highest cliff. Feel free to continue on the dirt trail that leads to the end of the Gorge Trail. You will pass the locations of several waterfalls (most are dry in summer and autumn) along this somewhat more difficult section of trail due to projecting rocks and roots in the trail surface.


- Please Remember –

Hiking off trail in the creek or on the hillside is strictly prohibited. Violators may be cited for hiking off trail pursuant to the Ohio Administrative Code.



OUR THOUGHTS

We love Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve and visit it at least once a year. If you are in the mood for an easy Hocking Hills hiking experience, walk the lower falls trail. If you are wanting a more strenuous workout, the upper rim trail is a good choice. And there are fewer people that choose to walk that trail.


The only problem with Conkle’s Hollow (and most of the Hocking Hills Parks) is the parking. The lot at Conkle’s Hollow is extremely small. People end up parking in the grass along the driveway. So, there have been times we visited the Ohio park and there was not a single spot available. The only choice is to leave and come back. Or keep driving through the parking lot until someone pulls out.


If you are looking for what to do in Hocking Hills that is relaxing, we would definitely recommend the Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve Lower Falls Trail.




WHAT TO EXPECT AT CONKLE'S HOLLOW STATE NATURE PRESERVE

Please note that trail rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Conkle's Hollow State Park in Rockbridge Hocking Hills as of August 2021.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

There are bathrooms located in the parking area.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Bicycles are not permitted.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

There was quite a bit of activity during migration.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Several small foot bridges located along the trail.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Concealed carry is permitted.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Dogs are not permitted.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Trail surfaces are concrete, wood and natural. The first 2/3 of the trail is level. The second part of the trail has some moderate areas to navigate.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

The parking lot is blacktop. There are 63 parking spaces that fill up fast.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Picnic tables are located near the bathroom.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

No playground.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

There are a couple of benches.

Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

A lot of shade.


Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

No shelter house.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Trails is not marked. However, you cannot mistake where it is at.



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

No trashcans along the trail.

Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

Waterfalls



Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve Hocking Hills Rockbridge Ohio

There are 6 ADA parking spots. The first 2/3 of the Lower Falls Trail is wheelchair accessible.





Locate Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve HERE



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