Rock Bridge State Nature Preserve

Rock Bridge State Preserve

Rock Bridge’s natural arch bridge is more than 100 feet long and 10 to 20 feet wide, 5 feet thick, and elegantly spans 50 feet above a gorge. It is the largest natural bridge in Ohio.

Hocking Hill State Park

Directions

From Logan, travel northwest on US Route 33 for 4.6 miles and turn right onto Dalton Rd. Continue on Dalton Rd for 3/4 mile, first travelling southeast and parallel to Route 33, and then head north to the parking lot on the left side of the road at the entrance sign. From the parking area a 2.75-mile trail system extends to the Rock Bridge.

Address: 11475 Dalton Rd. Rockbridge, OH 43149

GPS Coordinates: 39.566463, -82.499127

A close up of a map

Map of Rock Bridge Preserve and Trail system
Map of Rock Bridge Preserve and Trail system
Satellite view of Rock Bridge State Nature Preserve
Satellite view of Rock Bridge State Nature Preserve
A panoramic view of the rock bridge
A panoramic view of the rock bridge

The Rock Bridge Trails:

Parking Lot Connector Trail:

.4 miles, Easy


To get to the main park’s trail system, you take a short trail into the preserve. The trail begins at the park’s only lot and follows a slim strip of protected land into the preserve.

A half-mile trail through rolling pastures is hiked to reach the main preserve.

A board walk section of the trail into the Rock Bridge State Preserve
A board walk section of the trail into the Rock Bridge State Preserve
A mowed section of a filed that is part of the connector trail into the Rock Bridge State Preserve
A mowed section of a filed that is part of the connector trail into the Rock Bridge State Preserve

When you reach the end of the half-mile you arrive at a fork. Both ways go to a loop trail leading to the rock bridge. Going right also reaches the Rock Shelter Trail, which features a limited trail to another rock shelter house and then a short loop beyond that.

The preserve is situated on hills overlooking the Hocking River. These woods are older fields that are now recovering woodland.

Rock Bridge Trail through the woods to the hill top
Rock Bridge Trail through the woods to the hill top
Rock Bridge Trail through the woods to the hill top
Rock Bridge Trail through the woods to the hill top

The trail system here is rugged and lesser maintained than others in the Hocking Hills area, but it’s hike-able by using caution in just a few areas. The rock bridge is worth the trip. From the rock bridge, a spur trail allows one to approach the nearby Hocking River, where many kayakers gain access to the rock bridge.

The Hocking River from the Rock Bridge Access Area
The Hocking River access area to the Rock Bridge

Most hikers return using the loop trail back to the connector trail they hiked in on and this one passes the turnoff for the Rock Shelter Trail along the way.

The Return Trail with sign post for the various trails through here
The Return Trail with sign post for the various trails through here
The Return Trail with sign post for the various trails through here
The Return Trail with sign post for the various trails through here

Rock Shelter Trail

1 mile, Moderate

The Rock Shelter Trail passes by the southern portion of the preserve, making a loop and going by rock formations and an overhang cave known as the Rock Shelter.

Rock Shelter Sign on return trail
Rock Shelter Sign on return trail

Rock Bridge’s natural arch or bridge is more than 100 feet long and 10 to 20 feet wide, 5 feet thick, and elegantly spans 50 feet above a gorge. It is considered the largest natural bridge of more than 12 in Ohio.

Rock Bridge with Hiker to show perspective size
Rock Bridge with Hiker to show perspective size

Rock bridge was created hundreds of millions of years ago, as Ohio was under a shallow warm inland sea. Rivers flowed into this vast sea, carrying both fine- and coarse-grained sands which settled to the sea bottom.

Over the millennia, the gathering sand condensed, compressed and formed the solid sedimentary rock known as the Black Hand Sandstone. Over a great expanse of time, enormous pressure from beneath the earth’s surface caused the land in eastern North America to rise up, becoming the Appalachian Mountains. The inland sea drained away and exposed the rock layers to persistent erosional processes. The natural rock bridge began to develop its distinct appearance. Wind, rain and percolating groundwater combined their erosive forces together for centuries, carving a deep cave-like alcove in the softer midportion of the Black Hand Sandstone. Gradually, erosional forces developed along a natural joint fracture plane some distance behind the threshold of the cliff. Over centuries, this continual process widened the crack, with only the remains of the overhanging ledge forming the narrow rock arch.

Rock Bridge from the under side looking up
Rock Bridge from the under side looking up
Looking at Rock Bridge straight on at the path across
Looking at Rock Bridge straight on at the path across

Rock Bridge has long been a favorite spot for picnicking and visitation, especially during the late 1800’s, when the Columbus, Hocking Valley, and Toledo Railroad ran nearby.

A pencil drawing rendition of the Rock Bridge in 1889 by Howe in 1907.
A pencil drawing rendition of the Rock Bridge in 1889 by Howe in 1907.

Rock Bridge as it appeared in 1889 (from Howe, 1907).

DustyBlues captures impressive image art of the Hocking Hills and beyond. Please check our portfolios at www.dustyblues.com or stop by our convenient gallery on the road to Old Man’s Cave. Open Daily.

Enjoy the memories!

Dusty & Val

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.