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How Hard Is it to Hike Cantwell Cliffs?

Updated: May 24


Don’t be discouraged by people who say Cantwell Cliffs is a difficult hike. You’re in the right place to learn whether the trail is actually difficult, and we’ll share 6 things to make sure you and your brood are ready to hike the most underrated trail in Hocking Hills. Let’s Get Started!



Where is Cantwell Cliffs?


Cantwell Cliffs is northwest of the main park. It’s actually separated into its own section of property about 7 miles north on State Highway 374. Hocking Hills State Park is multiple pieces of land throughout the Hocking Hills Region. You’ll notice driving through the area is part of the splendor of Hocking Hills. The roads are rural and there is varied terrain. The hills and twists and turns convince you to take it slow and enjoy the scenery. As you drive you will see rolling hills of forest and pasture. The Ohio Scenic Byway, much of which is on 374 through Hocking Hills, shares some of the best views from your windshield. It is a vastly different experience than nearby Columbus just a short 40 minutes Northwest. The area is mostly referenced with nearby Logan Ohio. Our Brood stayed at Campbell Cove RV Park and Campground on Lake Logan. Most everything in the region is a 15 - 30 minutes short drive. We enjoyed staying at Campbell Cove and if you want to learn more check out our blog post by clicking here or continue reading below.



Now that we know the location let’s discuss what you will find when you pull in to the parking lot. Later, we’ll discuss who the trail is named after and more importantly the men who built the trail and facilities in Cantwell Cliffs.

There are at least 50 parking spots at Cantwell Cliffs. But because it is a little further away it seems this trail is less busy. It may also be due to the communicated difficulty of the trail. The parking lot has pit toilets available for use and a little log cabin used by rangers in the Summer as a visitors' center. There is also a pavilion and picnic area near the parking lot and trail. At the trailhead there is a sign that says caution cliffs, stay on posted trails, and more importantly throwing objects over the cliffs is prohibited. We’ll discuss the hike difficulty for humans later.



Are Dogs Able to Hike Cantwell Cliffs?


The hike starts at the parking lot and descends into the gorge. This part of the trail is called Fat Woman’s Squeeze. Can you tell why? We got our first look of the steps and were very happy to have left our labs back at the RV. From Rim to Gorge the descent is 150 feet of vertical elevation change. Dogs are allowed, well behaved, and on a 6 foot leash. But, this is the most technical and difficult trail in the park system. We would not recommend dogs on this trail for two reasons. One for the dog's safety. Two, hiking needs to be your most important priority. By leaving your pets at home you allow yourself to have additional focus on your hike, to reduce the risk of injury or death, and enjoy the scenery and beauty of the trail. Here is a post all about dogs and Hocking Hills:




How High are Cantwell Cliffs?


And what can you see on the trail? Cantwell cliffs are hiding Buck Run creek deep in the gorge. The gorge walls are over 150 feet tall. The water flowing through has caused erosion and created the deep gorge over thousands of years. The trees consist of the region's hemlock and black birch. The forest floor is carpeted with ferns and wildflowers including trilliums and hydrangea. This hike, like most in Hocking Hills, is bright green in the Summer and full of vegetation. Through the forest, boulders called slump blocks are randomly scattered throughout the gorge as they have landed from their previous attachment to the gorge walls. The black hand sandstone cliffs provide additional features to help you know this trail is special and may be the underrated hike in Hocking Hills.



Are you enjoying the views of the trail? Comment to let us know how you plan to spend time in the region.


What Gear Should You Take When Hiking Cantwell Cliffs?


The most important gear to take on this trail is good shoes. I hike with the Merrell Moab II hiking shoes. Traction is important and these shoes provide solid footing. Your brood should wear similar shoes if you can. Trekking poles would be helpful if you need the extra support like we used. We hiked a few hikes in Hocking Hills each day so we carried a hiking day pack with a first aid kit and snacks. Don’t forget a treat to motivate you on the trail like fruit chews. With the rocks and roots and steps a first aid kit is a good idea for scrapes and cuts from a trip or stumble. Stay hydrated and take water with you. We really think comfort is the most important and the Teton Sports Hydration day pack is a great fit for hiking the trails.


For examples of the gear we took on our hike check out these links below for more details.


Teton Sports Hydration Pack Video Review: https://youtu.be/KEBrYwp8RQk

Amazon Link: 2021 model https://amzn.to/3SnKcGR


Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E hydration backpack Video Review for younger hikers: https://youtu.be/WbRgZr6C20g


Merrell Moab II Men's Hiking Shoes: https://amzn.to/3Ardw8k


The First Aid Kit we carry: https://amzn.to/3Lcvu2h

Tactical Flashlights: https://amzn.to/3QLY25T


For a deeper guide into Hiking Hocking Hills read this post: You Should Be Hiking Hocking Hills Like This



History is next and later we’ll discuss the hike details and how difficult the trail really is.


What did the Civilian Conservation Corps do in Hocking Hills?


There isn’t a lot of history to this trail. We did find that Cantwell Cliffs is named after Josiah Cantwell, an early settler to the region. But you will also notice the letters CCC often as people discuss Hocking Hills. The Civilian conservation corps improved much of the Hocking Hills trails. The CCC was created by the United States and President Roosevelt during the depression in 1933. The program was used to improve public lands countrywide and Hocking Hills was a beneficiary. Hundreds of men worked the area and constructed trails, bridges, buildings, parking, and planted trees throughout the park. Company 526 worked on Cantwell Cliffs. CCC pay was generally forwarded home to the corpsman's families which stimulated the economy and brought the country back out of despair. World War II essentially ended the CCC as these men transitioned into military service. For 10 more facts to get you excited about Hocking Hills read this post: Is Hocking Hills Worth Going To?



Every hike needs a dad joke.


Why did the girl keep exploring for rocks along the trail? She was sediment-al.


Dad joke books make great gifts. Here are two we like. Dad jokes around the campfire and 600 Funniest Dad Jokes . To view any product mentioned by us in our blog posts, click this link: https://www.amazon.com/shop/campbrood As an Amazon Associate we earn commission from qualifying purchases through these links and Amazon ads and banners on this page, at no additional cost to you.



How Long Does it Take to Hike the Cantwell Cliffs?


We chose to hike the gorge trail and then proceed up to the rim trail and finish that loop back to the parking lot. The trail maps on the internet sometimes show a longer gorge trail loop. We only saw the smaller gorge trail hike and then proceeded up the gorge and finished the rim trail loop back to the parking lot. We think this is a great way to see and hike Cantwell Cliffs. This path took us about an hour from start to finish. So plan about 1.5 hours from the time you pull into the parking lot to the time you leave. Some of your brood may need to use the bathroom and it takes a little bit to gear up and grab trekking poles, packs, and water. The elevation change of about 200 vertical feet is noticeable with all the steps along the trail. There are multiple sets of stairs as you descend and ascend the gorge. To really enjoy all of Cantwell Cliffs we recommend the full loop. Inside the gorge you will enjoy being enclosed by the forest like being in another world. You’ll be amazed that while you are walking you almost believe a dinosaur or Ewok from Star Wars or other creature will peek out from behind a boulder. But on the rim you will be able to look down and see a totally different view to add to your adventure.



What is the Hardest hike in Hocking Hills?


Of the top 6 hikes in Hocking Hills Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, and Rock House are short and easier to complete. Old Man’s Cave which is undeniably the most popular is just a little more difficult. Conkle’s Hollow which may be our favorite for its surprise at the end of the gorge trail is longer and although the gorge has an accessible paved trail, the rim trail takes effort and technical ability. Click the links to read our blog posts to learn more about these hikes. Cantwell Cliffs is the most difficult of these six trails partly due to its length.



How Hard Is It To Hike Cantwell Cliffs?


But, here’s why we think the Cantwell Cliffs Trail seems difficult to most people. As we hiked the trail the steps were uneven. Some of the steps were loose and the wood used to support the steps were oriented like diamonds with the corner of the wood in the air instead of flat on the ground. Significant general maintenance of this trail is required for casual hikers to feel comfortable in Cantwell Cliffs. You will notice the awkward steps as soon as you descend down Fat Woman’s Squeeze. We’ve hiked national parks all over the country with more technical trails and greater difficulty and more risk. However, those trails, although maybe more dangerous, seemed safer as they were well maintained. So, how hard is it to hike Cantwell Cliffs? Cantwell Cliffs is a great hike, the trail is technical and safe to hike and anyone who can navigate uneven steps and walk 1.5 miles will enjoy Cantwell Cliffs. For more on Hocking Hills read one of these posts next.


Read this post to learn what you can spend money on in Hocking Hills to start thinking about your vacation budget


Hocking Hills isn't always great. Read this post for 5 Things You'll Hate About Hocking Hills State Park


If you don't know how many days you want to spend in Hocking Hills read this post to continue your planning How Long Should I Spend at Hocking Hills State Park?


For 7 tips to make the best of Hocking Hills read this next: What Do I Need To Know Before Going to Hocking Hills?


Here is a link to the Hocking Hills website for updates on the park  






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