We've all seen pictures of Hocking Hills. Waterfalls, lush forests, caves painted with pastel colors, sky-high trees, hands sporting big old rocks after an engagement, adventurous pups in backpacks, cerulean water pooled between boulders, etc. Without a doubt, it's one of the best places to enjoy natural beauty in the entire state. As a bonus, it's not far from Cincinnati; you're talking 2.5 hours away if you drive the speed limit.
That makes Hocking Hills a day trip at the least. For those who want to hike all day and not make the 2.5-hour drive back to their beds, however, lodging is required. Pitching a tent is fine, but I have a better suggestion: plan a stay in the Hocking Hills Caboose.
WAIT, A CABOOSE?
Yes. More specifically, a converted 1950s caboose. When railroads phased out cabooses in the late-70s and early-80s, Hocking Valley Scenic Railroad member John Holt purchased one and had it placed on a small section of track in Steep Woods. Holt and other folks painted it, landscaped the area around it, and opened the caboose as a guest cottage in 1997.
Since that time, the caboose has lodged thousands of visitors to the area. As of 2016, it changed owners and received a renovation, bringing it up to date with other non-hotel accommodations in the area. While it looks relatively small from the outside, the Hocking Hills Caboose is surprisingly roomy once you get inside. It's packed full of features that make it a comfortable stay when compared to traditional camping.
Spending a night in the caboose gets you the following:
- Your choice of five twin beds, two of which are elevated top bunks
- A full bathroom complete with a shower and toilet
- A kitchenette with a sink and microwave and stocked with dishes and glassware
- A coffee-maker and toaster
- A four-person kitchen table
- A mini-fridge
- Air conditioning and heat
- A back deck with patio furniture and gas grill
- A fire pit with chairs
- A thick gravel private parking lot that can easily fit five people's cars if needed
- A landline to make calls since there's no reception in the valley
Basically, the caboose is an incredibly unique tiny home in the middle of the woods. It's great for people who, like myself, enjoy outdoor activities by day but want a shower and a bed at the end of the night. Thanks to it being temperature controlled, the caboose offers respite from the elements if it's particularly frigid or sweltering.
The caboose was also made to be as green as possible to reflect its appreciation for the nature that surrounds it. It's equipped with LED lights and a NEST thermostat to help conserve electricity.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Alright, so we know the caboose is a pleasant, eclectic little treasure in one of the more remote and beautiful state parks of the Buckeye State, but what it's close to is really the reason visitors sign up to stay in it.
Put simply, Hocking Hills is mesmerizingly beautiful. The caboose is close to Ash Cave (like, two miles close), and that's a great place to begin a weekend of hiking. Hocking Hills' own website even describes Ash Cave as "beyond doubt the most spectacular feature of the entire park." You'll know you've found the right place when you see the waterfall. Trust me.
Hit up Old Man's Cave after that. The miles of trail lead you down into a valley surrounded by trees and falls and back up into a sandstone ridge that seems to glow even under the most overcast of skies. Additionally, the Upper Falls has a pretty waterfall that empties into a pool of water that's so blue, it doesn't even look real.
You can continue on to Cedar Falls or the other many hiking trails from there.
There's a lot of fun stuff to see and do in the area, but if you grill your burgers on the deck, shower away the grime of the day, and lay your head in the Hocking Hills Caboose, you'll probably enjoy your weekend away in central Ohio so much more.
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Pricing for the Hocking Hills Caboose fluctuates depending on the number of guests and when you want to stay. More information, including a helpful FAQ about the caboose, is available on its website.