By Jane Beathard
LOGAN, Ohio – The first thing visitors notice about the new Hocking Hills State Park Lodge & Conference Center is its towering three-story entrance and sun-drenched lobby.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in both in the front and back of the lobby offer spectacular views of the surrounding hills and forests.
Two 39-foot stone fireplaces, Douglas fir beams, a custom-designed fountain and polished aggregate floors add a homey touch to the expansive room.
Overhead, a mezzanine sky bridge provides visitors with ways to view the lobby, gift shop, Rock House Restaurant & Pub and Café 22 grab-and-go snackerie as they come and go from their rooms.
“I wanted a high ceiling,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine at the lodge’s official opening in October.
He got his wish. And everyone who visits will appreciate it.
The new, 74,000 square-foot lodge is an 81-room hotel with four family-sized suites. Every room offers a view of the Hocking Hills. Some rooms also feature private terraces.
Each also has a full bath, coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator, high-def television and USB charging stations
Indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub and four-season spa mean healthy recreation and relaxation are available year-round. Access to the spa is via a heated stone walkway.
Guests can remain cozy while seated at propane heated fire tables on the first-floor Grand Terrace, located outdoors — just behind the lobby.
The state set out four years ago to replace the 1930s-era dining hall and conference center that sat on the site. It burned down in 2016.
About five million people visit the park annually, according to Karen Raymore, executive director of the Hocking Hills Tourism Association.
“It is our number one attraction,” she said.
Raymore believes the new lodge will have a significant impact on regional tourism.
“We’re getting a whole resort,” she said. “And you can’t beat the location.”
Ohio DNR Director Mary Mertz said planning and building the new lodge took two years and faced many challenges, including a world-wide pandemic that affected labor and supplies. Total cost was $40 million.
She said the state wanted to improve the visitor experience while preserving the area’s important eco-system.
“I think we nailed it,” she laughed.
Local craftsmen added important artistic features to the lodge.
“There’s so much local that people will see all over the lodge,” said General Manager Todd Tucker. “The artwork, live-edge lumber that surrounds the bar, the Nelsonville-made mantles above the fireplaces on the fireside concourse – all of these things are from right here in Ohio and it’s those special touches that make this place even more exceptional.”
The governor took the occasion of the grand opening to tout all nine Ohio State Park lodges, saying each provides world-class experiences.
“There’s something for everyone,” he said. “There’s no better place to go on vacation.”
He also announced the new state budget provides money to bring all other park lodges up to date in the next few years.
The new Hocking Hills State Park Lodge & Conference Center is located at 20020 State Route 664 near Logan. For reservations, call 1-800-AT-A-PARK.