Posted in Hiking, Park review, Southeastern Ohio

Rockbridge State Nature Preserve

Rockbridge is a small but scenic nature preserve in the Hocking Hills area containing a natural stone arch. It is longest arch of about a dozen stone arches in the state.

Viewing Rockbridge from underneath: there’s a recess cave to the left, and the bridge is to the right.

Getting to Rockbridge is relatively easy, but finding it the first time… not so much. A small brown “Rockbridge State Nature Preserve” sign on US Rt 33 directs you to a nondescript exit on to Dalton Rd. The road parallels 33 for a short ways and turns to the north. After about 3/4 mile there’s a small parking lot to the left with another Rockbridge sign. You’ll think, “This can’t be it. Where’s the arch?” But you’re in the right place.

Follow the grassy path that’s lined with shrubby brush and wildflowers depending on the season. Soon you’ll be following a dirt path uphill with pasture land on one side and woods on the other. If it’s been raining, this sloping path will probably be muddy and slippery. Under such conditions, a walking stick can make the going a lot easier. The path will turn into a boardwalk through a boggy area, and eventually enter the woods. Soon you’ll reach a fork in the trail. The main trail at Rockbridge is a one mile loop. If you go straight at the fork, you’ll soon reach the Rockbridge. Go left and you’ll also reach the Rockbridge, but only after traversing most of the loop.

Here is a look at some of the wildflowers that grow near the grassy portion of the path.

Amur honeysuckle, an invasive plant
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae angliae)
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Lots and lots of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

After this you’ll have a clear view of the farmland beside the path.

A photo of this path taken when we were heading back to the parking lot. To the right there’s a farmer’s pasture; to the left there’s the wooded parkland.
These cows are grazing near the ridge line of the farm next to the path.

Finally you’ll enter the woods. You might also be relieved that you’re finally going downhill, too.

The wooded trail towards the bridge

The trail (either direction) eventually takes you to a small side trail leading to the rock bridge. A sign contains dire warnings about the dangers of falling off a cliff (not suitable for small unattended children).

Standing on the bridge and looking over toward the far side. The jewelweed edging the path camouflage the sharp drop to the right. Notice the muddy patch ahead.

The bridge was originally a recess cave with a seasonal stream dropping through the cave roof. Eventually the roof collapsed, but not all of it! A length of the former cave ceiling remained as the stone arch. The trail continues and forks with one a short path terminating at the base of the arch and another leading to the bank of the nearby Hocking River. We’ve seen canoers disembark here to take in the bridge. If you like, you can walk across the stone arch to the other side, but be careful because there may be mud on the bridge. And it might be worth noting that there’s really not much on the other side beyond it being another point from which to view the arch.

Standing on the path that’s leading down to viewing point under the bridge. At the top you see the bridge from the side, beyond that water trickling down from the ledge over adjoining recess cave.
This shows the path provided by the park service that leads to a viewing point under the bridge. It also shows a couple of our friends. 🙂

While following the wooded portion of the trail, we have spotted deer. Deb also spotted this unusual fungus. It is a type of coral fungus.

Coral fungus
An animal must have munched on this one.

A side trail labelled the “Rock Shelter Trail” off the main loop offers a view of the nearby Hocking River, two small recess caves and a seasonal waterfall.

Here’s one of the little recess caves on the side trail. To be honest, I thought this trail was kind of “meh”.

You may hear strange sounds in the preserve. They sound like “Zzzzzzzzzip yahoo!!”. The sound is from people enjoying the nearby Hocking Hill’s Canopy Tours zip line.

Rockbridge is a state nature preserve rather than a park. There’s a small parking area, but no restrooms or picnic tables. Pets are not permitted in the preserve.

Additional Information

  • Address: 11475 Dalton Rd, Rockbridge, Ohio 43149
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.566367, -82.499333
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions
© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

6 thoughts on “Rockbridge State Nature Preserve

  1. Wow … you are making it difficult for me to decide which route to take when I go to Magee Marsh. I love your posts and the pictures are great. I really love the Asters and the Coral Fungus … way cool! Tom

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