One sunny day this summer we decided to visit Balanced Rock (also known as “Table Top Rock“). I’d seen pictures of it many times, but had never been there.
We parked at the gravel lot in Hocking State Forest, just up Big Pine Road from Conkle’s Hollow. We’d parked here the previous week on our visit to Airplane Rock. We crossed the street and came to a footbridge across Big Pine Creek that consisted of an I-beam with boards across it. Then we took the wrong turn off and ended up in the Rock Climbing and Rappelling area of Hocking State Forest. It was an interesting diversion, but I’ll save that for a later posting.
Anyhow, after you’ve crossed the bridge a kiosk will be directly in front of you. Follow the wide path to your left (east) that’s in front of the kiosk. This path narrows a bit and skirts the north edge of the escarpment that forms the rock climbing area. It’s marked with the familiar blue blaze of the Buckeye Trail. Since it’s also a bridle trail, horses provide additional markings with … uh, never mind.
The trail climbs gently and then dips into a valley named Edison Hollow. You’ll cross a small creek bed here. When we were crossing it the creek bed was dry due to the drought. Ahead of us we could see a large hill crisscrossed with switchbacks. We went up.
At last the trail turned sharply to the right, and we saw tall towering cliffs ahead of us. The trail continued through a narrow cleft in the rocks. After passing through it, there was a steep drop off ahead of us. The trail then turned sharply right and upwards, passing through another narrow gap between rock outcroppings. Once we were through this second gap, we looked to the right and saw a wooded plateau with a hitching post for horses. To the left, a steep plunge to the valley below … and something else. A tall pillar of stone rising from the valley floor, topped with a large, but precariously balanced rock.
Somehow differential erosion had eroded the pillar faster than the harder rock now balanced on top. No matter how it was formed it was an impressive sight, and we paused to take photographs.
A large nearby log served as a bench while we ate our lunch. It was a little after noon, so we decided to press on. The trail continued (remember – blue blazes) across the plateau. We passed the original canyon, this time from the rim above it and the trail turned the to left. Below are some views from the rim trail.
The trail continued on, and turned right following a cliff rim with the southern edge of Edison Hollow below us. A group of rock climbers appeared coming the other way, waved, and then quickly descended the cliff towards the hollow.
The trail continued onward and turned to the left. We were now on the cliff rim high above another hollow. A somewhat familiar hollow. We were on top of the cliff at the rock climbing area. The trail continues on along the cliff rim and eventually ends up at Township Rd 59. To return to the parking lot, you can backtrack your path (follow the blue blazes) back to Balanced Rock and eventually the foot bridge – or – you can do what we did (not recommended). but that is a story for another time.
Balanced Rock is located in the Hocking Hills. Follow directions for Conkle’s Hollow on SR-374. Turn off for Conkle’s Hollow onto Big Pine Rd (CR-11). Drive past the entrance to Conkle’s Hollow and continue on Big Pine Rd.
Continue on for a mile and turn into the large gravel parking lot on your left. This is the parking area for Hocking State Forest Rock-climbing and Rappelling Area. Cross the street and then the foot bridge across Big Pine Creek. Turn left and follow the blue blazes.
- Hocking State Forest: Rock climbing & Rappelling Area – includes a small-scale map with the parking lot
- Hocking State Forest: Bridle Trail Map
- Hocking State Forest Brochure with large-scale road map
- Hocking State Forest website
- TrekOhio: Overview of Hiking Trails in the Hocking Hills
- TrekOhio: Hocking County Parks and Preserves