A person rappels Big Spring Hollow Waterfall

Columbus Rock Climbing: Hocking State Forest Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area

Photo: Mary Reed

Rappel alongside a 100-foot waterfall.

So you want to go rock climbing and rappelling outside on real rock, but you live in central Ohio. Are you scratching your head? It’s not quite the problem it seems at first—the Hocking State Forest Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area, just an hour southeast of Columbus, is home to climbs and rappels as tall as 100 feet. 

Start by downloading the map for the rock climbing and rappelling area, so you know which rocks you can legally get on. The area is compact enough that you can likely explore more than one cliff line.

Rappel Big Spring Hollow Waterfall

Gear up at the parking lot on Big Pine Road (no facilities, no fees, open dawn to dusk) then cross the road and hike over Pine Creek on the footbridge. Just past the bridge, take a right and follow the trail up Big Spring Hollow for less than a mile until it ends at a 100-foot recess cave and waterfall (it’s usually more of a trickle than a gusher). Take a left to hike a steep trail to the top of the cave and waterfall. If you have your own gear and are qualified to set up a rappel, this is the choice spot, with a scenic and long free-rappel (where you are hanging free, not touching any rock). If you don’t have the gear (including two ropes) and skills to do this safely, hire a guide service. In the spring, the water is flowing and the wildflowers are spectacular—think trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, hepatica and more. There is a little bit of top-roping nearby; looking at the waterfall, hike right for a few minutes to identify a section of rock you’d like to climb and then scramble back to the top to set up a rope. 

Climb Rectangle Rock

If you want to focus efforts on going up the rock instead of down, cross the footbridge over Pine Creek and take a left this time. In about a half-mile, you’ll come to the free-standing Rectangle Rock, about 35 feet tall and shaped, well, like a rectangle. You’ll need to have solid scrambling skills to ascend the fixed line toward the back of the rock, plus lots of webbing to set up a safe top-rope anchor—there are no proper fixed bolt anchors. The reward? Some of the cleanest climbs in the area. If you don’t have your top-rope setup skills dialed in, hire a guide. You can climb several routes here, rated from about 5.8 to 5.11. 

While you’re at Rectangle Rock, hike a couple hundred yards farther up the trail (this is a portion of the statewide Buckeye Trail) to Balanced Rock, also known as Table Top Rock. It’s a cool feature worth checking out, though off limits to climbing. 

More Info: ohiodnr.gov


A man on the approach to Rectangle Rock in the Hocking State Forest Rock Climbing and Rappelling area.

Getting There

Take U.S. Route 33 east about 45 minutes to SR 664 in Logan. Turn south and then take a right on Big Pine Road to the parking area. Looking to camp out? Unfortunately, there’s no dispersed camping permitted in Hocking State Forest. However, you’re less than a mile from Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve and 3 miles from Hocking Hills State Park trails and campground.

Where To Eat

The Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium is right along the way on SR 664; it has breakfast and lunch sandwiches, nitro cold brew and good espresso drinks. Closed evenings and Wednesdays. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.