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A group of Mennonites pass over a bridge at Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills, Ohio, on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Hocking Hills closed on Friday due to COVID-19. (FILE)

Hocking Hills State Park to close Friday at sunset

Hocking Hills State Park will close until further notice Friday at sunset due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The challenging terrain of a narrow trail system, where it is prohibited to step off the trail, makes keeping six feet of distance nearly impossible, according to a news release from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. In some areas, stepping off the trail may result in injury. 

“This was a difficult decision, however, this unique trail system is not designed to allow for adequate social distancing without potential risks,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said in the release.

The park has also limited staffing, which could impact response time as well as place pressure on local emergency responders if falls or accidents occur. 

Hocking Hills is currently the only full park closure in Ohio’s state park system. Part of the closure of the park include Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Old Man’s Cave, Rock House, Whispering Cave and Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve.

Ohio’s stay-at-home order has been extended to May 1, and people should stay home as much as possible.

If people choose to go outside, the release advises people to use common sense and follow the guidance from the National Recreation and Park Association for staying safe:

  • Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to heading to trails — wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, do not use trails if you have symptoms, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, etc.
  • Observe at all times CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from other people. Practice it and know what it looks like. Keep it as you walk, bike or hike.
  • Warn other trail users of your presence and as you pass to allow proper distance and step off trails to allow others to pass, keeping minimum recommended distances at all times. Signal your presence with your voice, bell or horn.
  • Note that trail users may find public restrooms closed — be prepared before you leave and time outings so that you are not dependent on public restrooms.
  • Bring water or drinks — public drinking fountains may be disabled and should not be used, even if operable. It is important that hikers on state forest backpack trails take their own water or filtration system because backpack trail water tanks will not be refilled at this time.
  • Bring a suitable trash bag. Leave no trash, take everything out to protect workers.


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