Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hocking Hills alternative: Lake Hope

Millions of visitors traipse through the Hocking Hills each year.  Word on the street is that the state park camp ground books up months in advance.  Fear not, there is a hidden gem tucked in about 20 miles southeast of Hocking Hills, surrounded on all sides by over 26,000 acres of state forest land.  Complete with a pristine lake, a great BBQ joint, world class mountain biking, camping, hiking, and a wealth of history.  Lake Hope State Park might be a worthwhile backup spot.     

It could be said that the North’s victory in the civil war came on the backs of the hills in this area.  Most of the cannons and ammunition that armed the civil war, came from high grade iron mined in this area, which consumed pretty much every tree in sight in order to fuel the furnaces necessary in the production of this important commodity.  The demand was insatiable and in short order, what was once a majestic primordial forest, became denuded hillsides.  By 1900 the iron industry of the area had pretty much dried up and moved on, leaving a few stragglers who turned to farming out of necessity.  

Lake Hope State Park was established in 1949.  Driving through the Lake Hope area, one might not realize the relatively young age of the forest.  It wasn’t until the 1930’s when the government got involved and through sound management successfully revived the area, and a thriving productive Zaleski State Forest is the result.  Not only does it boast huge wildlife management areas, it operates the only state owned sawmill in Ohio producing lumber for use in state parks and other government agencies, occasionally selling excess direct to the public.   

It is a great alternative to the Hocking Hills as a “home base” for a little get away, while still close enough to allow for exploration of the Hocking Hills area.    Lake Hope is reminiscent of little semi-alpine lakes of the White Mountains region of New Hampshire, or the Smokies.  It has a pristine beach tucked down in amongst steep tree shrouded hill sides, giving one the feeling of being surrounded by wilderness.   They have cabins and a nice campground buried under the canopy as well.  During the summers the naturalists there often offer opportunities to hand feed hummingbirds.  It’s a great place for plenty of rest and relaxation.   
Or if mountain biking is your thang, there is over 23 miles of world class mountain bike trails.  Don't like wheels?  Zaleski has top notch backpacking trail loops, over 23 miles of those as well.  Prefer more feet?  Bring your horses and take to the extensive bridle trails through the forests.  

And if none of that sounds appealing, how about slurping on sumptuously flavored, fall off the bone, drop dead delicious bbq while perched overlooking a picturesque lake filled valley, and washing it down with a cold craft beer, right here, Lake Hope Lodge.


A great little driving tour of the area

Zaleski map


No comments:

Post a Comment