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What is the Easiest Hike in Hocking Hills? Ash Cave Trail

Updated: Jan 27

Ash Cave is one of the most popular trails in Hocking Hills. Come with us to learn about this natural feature that spans two football fields and has provided shelter to many for centuries. Let’s Get Started! If you would like to see more of the hike and watch the video version of the blog post here it is:




Let’s first discuss the location of the trail and later we’ll share trail details.


Where is Ash Cave Located?


Ash Cave is located in the Southern Portion of Hocking Hills State Park off of Ohio Road 56. The road is deep in the forest and is a cool journey with turns and hills that slow you down and help you enjoy the landscape. From Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave is just 5 miles away just past Cedar Falls. The whole area is pretty close with no more than a 15-30 minute drive to all of the attractions and trails, Hocking Hills has to offer. We’ll discuss more about the facilities at the trailhead later but first you may have wondered. Map below from Google.




Why is Ash Cave Called Ash Cave?


Ash Cave got its name in a very simple way. In the 1800s settlers came to the land and discovered the cave. Presumably when they walked in they noticed a length of ashes, long and wide, almost 100 feet long and 30 feet wide and 3 feet deep inside the cave. They named the area Ash Cave due to this feature. A little more on the history is next and later we will share the hike details.


Pin this post to Pinterest as you are planning your vacation to Hocking Hills!


large recess cave with waterfall falling down to a pond with people standing near the pond.  trees left and opposite the cave.


So, What is the History of Ash Cave?


According to the park, the cave was used by native americans. An excavation and study of the ashes discovered various materials for fire, animal bones, arrows, pottery, and other items. There are more assumptions of why the ash pile was so high, long and deep. But, this was a perfect natural shelter and could be assumed a great place to handle the activities of life including preparing food, storing items, sleeping, and more. Trails along Queer and Salt creeks have been used by travelers for hundreds of years and was known as a route during the frontier wars. Later settlers used Ash Cave for a church and gathering place. Today of course people hike the cave daily but did you know the Columbus Symphony Orchestra uses the acoustics of the cave to put on one of a kind musical performances in a unique natural habitat.



What is the Easiest Hike In Hocking Hills?


Ash Cave is thought by many to be the easiest trail in Hocking Hills. However, Conkle’s Hollow Gorge Trail may compete for easiest trail. Check out this post for more on Conkle’s Hollow. Ash Cave Trail is paved at the beginning. There are benches along the trail to relax and enjoy the scenery. While you explore, look for the ferns and wildflowers that cover the forest floor. Even though the trail is a one way loop with stairs after Ash Cave I expect people with strollers and wheelchairs and other people who need to use the paved accessible trail could walk it back to the parking lot. Using the paved trail would make it easier than continuing up the stairs on the other side of Ash Cave. To plan for the trail it’s helpful to have good shoes. We choose to wear hiking shoes but any shoe built for activity will work. If you want to stay at the cave longer, bring water and a snack. It’s a short hike and you don’t need much.



So, How long does it take to hike Ash Cave?


Ash Cave is a ½ mile loop that takes about 30-40 minutes to complete. The time to complete depends on your ability, how busy the trail is and how much time you want to spend exploring Ash Cave. Ash Cave appears as you are hiking the trail. At a distance you can see it peek through the trees. As you get closer you begin to realize the height and expanse of Ash Cave. Perspective is provided when you see people under the rock. If it is busy you will have a hard time stopping and recognizing the magnificence of what you are witnessing. From the accessible trail you can only see about half of Ash Cave. Only when you get under the rock can you notice that the Cave extends around the corner behind trees, and ferns and boulders blocking your view. Speaking of trees you will be amazed at the forest of hemlock, beech trees, and other tall hardwoods. Let’s talk more about Ash Cave and later we’ll let you know why dogs may want to stay off this trail.



How Tall is Ash Cave?


The expanse of the shelter is larger than life. The U shaped cave is 700 feet wide from end to end and 90 feet tall. So, Ash Cave is over 2 football fields in length. From the front lip of the overhang to the back of the cave is about 100 feet. Ash Cave could be the largest recess cave in the entire Eastern United States. If you slow down you’ll notice boulders on the ground. If you think a little more those came from somewhere, probably from above. Now, people every day trust that while they’re hiking under Ash Cave a boulder won’t fall on them. Just something to think about as you explore the cave.





Every Good Hike Needs a Dad Joke?


Every good hike needs a dad joke. While Hiking Ash Cave, I met two stones. One was big and shy, but the other was boulder.


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.


Here are some items we recommend for hiking in Hocking Hills State Park.


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


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


Now, let’s get back to Ash Cave and we’ll let you know whether to bring your dogs but first....


Can you Get in the Water at Ash Cave?


People have an attraction to water. There is a waterfall over Ash Cave that comes from a tributary of Queer Creek. The water flows over the lip of the cave and cascades into a pond at the bottom of Ash Cave. We saw a steady flow of water even though at first it was hard to see where the sound was coming from. With heavy rains it flows much better. You will see people put their feet in the water at Ash Cave and explore the Pool. But, the water is off limits and entry into the water is prohibited by the Ohio Park Service and DNR. There is a safety reason for this rule. 1. You may slip on a rock or other hazard and cause injury. 2. The waterfall can carry debris over the ledge and as the water can fall on you so can logs and other debris from above. For these reasons stay out of the water. When you think about why getting into the water is prohibited, it’s a good idea. We’ll tell you later how water played a part in forming ash cave.



We welcome your comments. What hike are you looking forward to in Hocking Hills?


Is Ash Cave Dog Friendly?


Ash Cave is one of the easiest hikes in hocking hills. Dogs are allowed on Ash Cave trail as they are on most trails in the region. Due to the popularity of the trail make sure they are friendly and on a 6 foot leash. But there is a design feature of the trail that is painful for dogs and leads us to recommend that dogs avoid Ash Cave Trail. As you can see we took our labs. But, after Ash Cave the trail continues up a series of steps. These steps and platforms are decked with metal grates. The grates have ridges in them for traction. And the grates are painful to our dogs feet and probably yours as well. If you have a small dog and can carry them this is not an issue. For larger dogs you will notice their pain as they ascend the stairs. It sucked. The trail is one-way at this time and therefore we continued up the stairs hoping each set of steps would be made of wood. Unfortunately, there are a lot of metal steps. Our dogs were super happy to get off the metal and back on the dirt trail. We didn’t notice any blood after the steps and there were no long term effects. They just had a very unpleasant couple of minutes and the experience is not something we want to repeat. This is the only place in Hocking Hills where we found this design was used.


For more dog friendly trails in Hocking Hills read this.



How Was Ash Cave Ohio Formed?


Ash Cave was formed through erosion. The softer material that was under the current Ash Cave was washed away by years of water flowing through the region. The creek continues the erosion process today. When heavy rains cover the region the water flows significantly and represents more clearly how the water can erode sandstone over time. You can actually see the creek flow next to the trail, too. Now let’s briefly discuss the facilities and an important question



Are there bathrooms at Ash Cave?


Ash Cave is a very popular trail. there are a couple of bathroom options. There are more modern toilets at the parking lot. At the trailhead you will find pit toilets. There is more parking here than anywhere else other than Old Man’s Cave. However, due to it’s popularity you may not find a parking spot on busy days. At the parking lot there is also a pavilion with tables for your use.



If you are just starting your planning for Hocking Hills, Ash Cave is in the top five of best locations\hikes in the area. Our favorites and the popular trails include Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs. These are all short hikes of moderate difficulty including stairs, unlevel stone and wood steps, rocks and roots and views of Blackhand Sandstone, waterfalls, trees, plants, wildlife, and spectacular views!


To continue learning about Hocking Hills read the below posts next



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