Not far from Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills, Ohio is another, less well known, deep gorge called Red Rock Hollow. After reading about it a couple years ago, I’ve been eager to try and find it. Recently I went with @big4ord and @jbigford to check it out. We had a flawless late-Spring morning to explore this fantastic part of Hocking Hills. It had rained recently so we were hopeful the double waterfalls at the end of the gorge would be flowing.
If you have a GPS, the approximate address for the parking area is:
21241 OH-664 South Bloomingville, OH 43152
EDIT 7-28-2017: This same parking area and trail will also lead you to Parish Rocks about 1/2 mile past Red Rock Hollow on the other side of the creek.
From US-33 take exit 33A/OH-180 and turn onto OH-180 West. After about 4 miles, continue straight onto OH-678 South. After another 4 miles, continue straight onto OH-374 West. After yet another 4 miles, turn right onto OH-664 West. After about a mile, you’ll come to the bottom of the hill. Look for a small road and bridge to the left. The parking area is a pull off right by the bridge.
Click maps to enlarge.
The trail head is on OH-664 on the other side of the bridge from the parking area, just past the culvert. You follow the narrow single track trail roughly parallel with Queer Creek. After about 1/2 mile, you step down to cross a small creek. Look for orange blazes on the trees. Here is where you turn north and follow the creek/trail into Red Rock Hollow. It’s about another 1/2 mile to the end of the gorge and the double waterfalls.
The short hike along Queer Creek was idyllic. It was late enough in the year for everything to be lush and blooming, but the temperature wasn’t too hot and the biting bugs weren’t out yet. The first little side falls we came to was hidden behind rocks and trees and the profusion of ferns and wildflowers.
Some of the interesting things we found along the trail included a blooming Jack-In-The-Pulpit, an alien looking mushroom and, an super abundance of ferns.
At the end of the gorge are two waterfalls that come down at a right angle to each other. They’re separated by about 50 feet (15m). I tried a couple compositions to photograph them together, but didn’t really love any of them. Instead, I concentrated on just photographing the more lively of the two.
Right in front of the falls is a rock with ferns growing on it. I lined it up with the falls in the background and took two shots to combine later in post. The first shot was a long exposure of the falls. For the second, I refocused on the foreground fern, opened up the aperture and cranked up the ISO enough to get a shutter speed that would freeze the slight swaying of the leaves. A simple gradient mask was all that was needed to blend them together in Photoshop.
I also brought along my Bronica 6×6 medium format film camera loaded with my favorite black and white film, Ilford Pan-F. Fifty years before the advent of Instagram, medium format film shooters had the option to shoot square photos. The idea was to capture the scene as a square then crop to whatever aspect ratio you wanted for the final print. However, I’m enjoying the challenge of composing for a square final image. The standby composition guides, like the ol’ rule-of-thirds, just don’t work the same in square compositions as they do in 4×5 or 3×2 photos.
For the photo below I again lined up the fern and the waterfall, but opened the film camera lens to f/3.5 and focused on the fern letting the light and water blur into the background.
Even after a couple days of heavy rain, most of the little side waterfalls had dried to a trickle. The main falls were flowing, but we saw many clues that the water can rage much harder than we saw that day. If you want to go and see the falls, Spring after, or even during, a good rain will be your best bet. The rest of the time, Red Rock Hollow offers the same extraordinary sights you get in the rest of Hocking Hills, but without the crowds and with no Ohio DNR permit required.