Picture Ohio! – Big Pine Pillar, Hocking State Forest

Big Pine Pillar, Hocking State Forest
Big Pine Pillar, Hocking State Forest

Big Pine Pillar, also known as Balanced Rock, is one of the most impressive rock pillars in the Buckeye State. The pillar, which is 30-35 feet tall, is the remains of a slump block that was originally part of the neighboring sandstone cliff. The softer base of the pillar has eroded more quickly than the harder, upper section, creating the balanced rock on top. Eventually, the softer rock at the base of the balanced rock will weather away and the rock will topple off its pedestal.

There are many tall trees surrounding the pillar, and on a sunny day they cast shadows on the rock, creating a scene that is visually very complex and difficult to compose well. I suggest visiting the pillar on a cloudy day or early/late on a sunny day so that the tree shadows are eliminated. There are several viewpoints on top of the cliffs, and you can also scramble down to the base of the cliff, which leads to a dramatic view of the pillar from its base. From this angle, shown in the photo below, the top rock appears to be truly balanced on the pillar, ready to fall at any time.

Big Pine Pillar from Below, Hocking State Forest
Big Pine Pillar from Below, Hocking State Forest

Big Pine Pillar is on a hillside south of Big Pine Road in Hocking State Forest. It is accessed from a large parking lot on the north side of Big Pine Road (County Road 11), 1.1 miles east of State Route 374. Cross Big Pine Road and follow the path over Big Pine Creek on a metal bridge. When you reach a kiosk, where rock climbers must register, turn left, and follow the bridle trail east. The trail parallels Big Pine Creek, crosses a stream, passes near a house with a red roof on the left, then climbs a series of steep switchbacks up the hillside to a cleft bordered by tall cliffs of sandstone. Follow the trail through the cleft to the top of the cliffs, and after a few more yards you will see Big Pine Pillar on the left, just beyond the edge of the cliffs. The pillar is about ¾-mile from the parking lot.

GPS Coordinates: 39.459208N 82.55844W (Parking Area) 39.457784N 82.551938W (Pillar)

There is another balanced rock on the east side of Crane Hollow, an extensive hollow that lies north of the parking area on Big Pine Road. Crane Hollow is privately owned, and a permit is needed to visit this area, though you can hike without a permit north from the parking area as far as Airplane Rock, a large rock outcropping that provides a great view from the top.

If you would like to learn more about Ohio’s rock pillars and arches, a great book is Rainbows of Rock, Tables of Stone: The Natural Arches and Pillars of Ohio, by Tim Snyder. published in 2009 by The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Granville, Ohio. This book is a detailed guide to 83 rock arches and 18 stone pillars in the Buckeye State.

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