December 10, 2017 – On a chilly Sunday morning, I decided to knock an Ohio Hike off my bucket list. I’ve had my eye on Christmas Rocks for a while but hadn’t
had a chance made time to head down that way. It did not disappoint! A great hike with a great friend and a great beer afterwards at the stunning Rockmill Brewery made for a fantastic day.
Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve is hidden away in Fairfield County, a a little southeast of Columbus. The main feature of this hike is the view from the top of Jacobs Ladder. The hike will take you up a 250 foot Blackhand Sandstone outcropping and reward you with a view out over the Arney Run Valley. Additionally, you’ll see several fantastic rock outcroppings, walk down to the Arney Run creek, and get a good cardio & glute workout as you climb the steep inclines. This hike is on the difficult side with steep ups and downs and a few tricky spots. It is not the best choice for new hikers, small children, or those unsteady on their feet.
To get there, aim here. Google seems to get confused if you have it go by the preserve name. You’ll park in one of the two lots near the covered bridge then walk back to the road to get to the hike. There is an information kiosk at the end of the road that shows you the map and other information about the area. Then start your hike on the old road, going past a few private properties. About 1/2 mile up, you’ll come to the official sign for the preserve and a second kiosk.
We decided to do both loops for a longer hike. If you are want something shorter, the view over the valley is on the orange loop. As you walk straight back to the blue trail, you will be able to get close to the creek to check it out. You’ll then weave up and around on the blue trail with views of rock outcrops along the way. Watch your footing, especially if it is wet or covered in leaves.
When you come back to the main trail, turn right and then go up the small set of stairs when you get to them. This will take you onto the orange trail. After a long, steep climb up to the ridge, you’ll come to Jacob’s Ladder and the view over the valley. After enjoying the view, it is a short walk back to the main trail…. unless you do what we did and somehow backtrack all the way back down the ridge the way you came. We are not sure how we managed to do that, and will need to go back this spring to find the right way back out. As long as you are following the orange markings along the trail, you’ll eventually come back to the main road and can head back down to the car.
Note: Christmas Rocks is a Nature Preserve, no dogs on the trail.
Post Hike Eats & Drinks
After our hike, we knew we wanted to head over to Rockmill Brewery for a beer or two. However, they don’t serve food and we were starving (plus… a beer or two on an empty stomach post-hike sounds like a bad plan). Luckily, downtown Lancaster is on the way.
After a quick bite at one of the many chain restaurants in Lancaster, we headed to the brewery and tasting room on Lithopolis Rd. Rockmill makes Belgian inspired ales in small batches. On an earlier trip, I was told that the location was selected for the brewery because the water that is there mimics the mineral profile of Belgium. All of the beers are quite good.
A few things to note:
They do not serve food or have food trucks, but you are welcome to bring your own food in.
Check their hours/calendar before you go!! They close early many weekends due to private events.
After a flight of their beers on draft, we decided to call it a day and head back home. We both agreed that the hike was great and we need to come back in different seasons to see how it changes; and to find the right way back down from Jacobs Ladder.