Morel Mushroom Hunting in Ohio’s Hocking Hills

by Chris on May 4, 2010

Morel mushroom hunting is a popular – and lucrative – pastime in Ohio’s Hocking Hills region. What you need to know to start ‘shrooming.

Morels, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Ohio’s Hocking Hills, a rural recreation area about an hour south of Columbus, is known for its natural beauty, and looks nothing like other parts of the flat state. It boasts caves, waterfalls, gorges, forests and nature preserves where you can hike, kayak, canoe and numerous other outdoor pursuits – including morel mushroom hunting.

morel mushrooms, Inn at Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Morel mushrooms are known among chefs and foodies as the gold standard of funghi. These mushrooms, which can grow more than a foot in size, have a honeycomb shaped head and a distinctive earthy taste. You can use them in place of  regular mushrooms in almost any dish, or coat them in a light crumb or cracker crust and fry them up in butter (as one of our hosts, Terry of the Inn at Cedar Falls, is doing in the picture above).

morel mushrooms, Inn at Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Because morels can sell up to $45 a pound, experienced mushroom hunters generally keep their favorite hunting spots under wraps. But we were lucky enough to go on a mushroom hike with amateur mycologist Andrea Moore through Tar Hollow State Park, a gorgeous 604-acre park outside Laurelville.

Amanda Moore, morel hunting, Tar Hollow State Park, Hocking Hills, Ohio

It was drizzling as we started our hunt, but that didn’t stop Andrea from charging through the brush. We gamely followed, stepping through nettles and pushing back underbrush.

Morel hunting, Tar Hollow State Park, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Morels lie off the beaten path, often close to dying or dead Elm trees, Sycamore and Ash trees or in old apple orchards. Andrea told us to keep an eye out for crushed-up cans lying near trees,, as often successful morel hunters will put them down in a successful hunting spot so they can remember it for next year (morel hunters are nothing if not competitive; Andrea removed the cans when she saw them).

Amanda Moore, morel hunting, Tar Hollow State Park, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Andrea also showed us her morel hunting bag, made of mesh. The holes in the bag allow the mushroom’s spores to fall out as you walk, spreading the seeds for future hunts. (Andrea is wearing an orange vest so she’s visible to any turkey hunters who might be in the area).

Morel hunting, Tar Hollow State Park, Hocking Hills, Ohio

In the end, we left the forest empty-handed. No matter; there are enough chefs in the area with their own secret morel spots that I was able to consume my fill.

breakfast at Glenlaurel Inn, Hocking Hills, Ohio

They tasted particularly good in a quiche at the Glenlaurel Inn in Rockbridge. Delicious!

Morel hunting, Tar Hollow State Park, Hocking Hills, Ohio

If you want to do your own mushroom hunt, the Ohio Mushroom Society holds guided hikes, talks and other events during the season (generally March through early May). I kept thinking that mushroom hunting would be a great way to lure couch-bound kids into the woods. It would also be fun for anyone with a foodie bent. You should go out with an expert once or twice, just so you don’t pick the wrong mushroom (the false morel looks quite a bit like its cousin, only it is poisonous).

Have you ever gone mushroom hunting before? If so, where? (I know that several states have different seasons).

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Travel Tips Newsletter May 4, 2010 at 10:25 am

Is the taste worth it? I have never had a Morel. Sounds like its best to pay for the mushroom or have a experienced mushroom hunter by your side.

Reply

Chris May 4, 2010 at 10:59 am

The taste is awesome. If you are going out to hunt for the first time, you’ll want someone with you who knows what they are doing. Or you could do things the lazy way and find a restaurant that serves morels :) They are really good, especially quick fried.

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carol May 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm

We love morels. We find them at our friends tree farm in Eastern Ohio. this year, between us and our friends we probably found 5 pounds.

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Don May 4, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Morels are awesome, and once you see one, there is no mistaking them. We used to hunt for them in wooded areas in Iowa. Although they grow in various shaded areas, they had a tendency to grow around dead elm trees.

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Chad May 6, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Normally I consider myself pretty strong willed, but the site of that makes me ill. I’m happy to hear you Ohioites like them, though. They are all yours! ;)

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jason May 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I love the taste of morels. Great article and great area for morel hunting!

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Linda L. Hettinger February 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm

You show the yellow morels. What about the “black” morels? They make an earlier appearance than the yellow ones. My husband and I think the black morels have the better flavor. I enjoy finding them proably more than eating them. Last year we had a very poor season for the black morels.

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