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You Should Be Hiking Hocking Hills Like This

Updated: Jan 27

Hocking Hills is full of beautiful forest, gorges, waterfalls, caves, tunnels and more. But the only way to see all Hocking Hills has to offer is to hike it and you should be Hiking Hocking Hills Like This. We have the best six trails in Hocking Hills to talk about but first Most People Visiting Hocking Hills have the following questions.


Does Hocking Hills have a waterfall?

Does Hocking Hills have caves?

How hard is it to hike Hocking Hills?

What is the most popular cave in Hocking Hills?

What is the easiest hike in Hocking Hills?

Where can I see the most beautiful trail?


We will use the best six trails in Hocking Hills to help answer these questions. Let’s Get Started! To watch a video version of this blog click or tap here:


Here is a table with the main hikes in Hocking Hills. Each one has unique features you can choose from. Keep reading below for more details on these great hikes!

Hike

Distance

Difficulty

Feature

Cedar Falls

1 Mile

Easy

Most Dependable Waterfall in Hocking Hills

Rock House

1 Mile

Moderate

The One True Cave

Ash Cave

1/2 Mile

Easy

Largest Recess Cave

Old Man's Cave

1 Mile

Moderate

Waterfalls and Recess Cave

Conkle's Hollow Gorge Trail

1.5 Miles

Easy

Nature's Beauty

Conkle's Hollow Rim Trail

2.1 Miles

Difficult

Great Viewpoints

Cantwell Cliffs

2 Miles

Difficult

Technical Fun Hike

Whispering Cave

4.5 Miles

Difficult

Recess Cave

Does Hocking Hills have a Waterfall?


Hocking Hills has many waterfalls. In fact, every trail on this list has a waterfall. Cedar Falls is the most reliable waterfall in Hocking Hills. So reliable in fact there was a Grist Mill located here in the 1800s. Funny to us is that the early settlers named the falls incorrectly. They called the Falls after all of the Cedar trees that surrounded the area. But, what they thought were Cedars are actually the hemlocks we can see today.




Cedar Falls trail is one of the easiest in Hocking Hills. When you drive down Ohio highway 374 there is a small parking lot of about 7 spaces. Continue South and turn into the main parking area. After you pull in you will see a larger parking lot. This is where the ½ mile hiking trail to Cedar Falls ends. Continue further to the smaller parking lot where you will find the bathrooms and the trailhead. Park where you can but head to the bathrooms to start your hike. The trail descends from the parking lot into the gorge and you are immediately surrounded by forest. The trail comes to an intersection.



Here you will discover that the Ohio Buckeye Trail also travels through Hocking Hills. The Buckeye Trail is 1,400 miles and has a rich history beginning with a newspaper article in 1958. The trail goes around Ohio from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. But in Hocking Hills in addition to Cedar Falls you can hike the Buckeye near Ash Cave, and Old Man’s Cave.


Taking the One-way trail to Cedar Falls will lead you to a bridge. Here an amazing view of the gorge wall and black hand sandstone is revealed as you hike over Queer Creek which is flowing from Cedar Falls. While you are hiking along the water keep on the lookout for wildlife including turtles like this one.



Cedar Falls is unveiled from behind trees and we will share more of it here. The water cascades over the sandstone and falls about 50 feet to the pool below. This is the best hike for dogs in Hocking Hills. Old Man’s Cave is the other hike we recommend. If you like hiking with your dogs check this post: Are Dogs Allowed in Hocking Hills ?





On the way out of the gorge pay attention to the steps. These steps are special and have a name “Democracy Steps for Cedar Falls 1997”. These steps were designed to provide the best experience for hikers and will be the best trail steps you’ll hike in the park.



On to our next question and later we’ll share what gear you should take with you on your hike.


Does Hocking Hills Have Caves?


Rock House is the only real cave in Hocking Hills State Park. We’ll start with the trail this time. From the trailhead the hike is a 0.8 mile loop with 200 feet of elevation gain. The change in elevation is handled with about 200 stairs going both down into the gorge and then also on the way out after Rock House. The gorge trail ends at the larger parking lot with the picnic pavilion that used to be the location of the Rock House Hotel.



The Rock House Hotel was built in the 1830s by Levi Friend. The hotel had 16 rooms, a ballroom, post office, and stable. Pictures of the Rock House Hotel show a large balcony as well as a full porch along one side and can be seen at the trailhead information board. Prohibition may have caused the demise of the hotel and the eventual demolition of the building in the 1920s. Now let’s discuss Rock house and later we will show you the rim trail.





Rock House is a 25 feet high x 200 feet long cave of black hand sandstone. The Rock House has also been called Robber’s Roost as it has been a hideout for robbers, thieves, and murderers. The cave provides lookouts through windows and is suspended above the gorge and below the rim on the cliff wall. Rock House is generally hidden from above. The rock has been carved by erosion via water running through it over centuries. Water continues to run when there is rain. If you have a fear of birds, beware. They look like pigeons to us. Don’t feed them but they are friendly and generally keep their distance.





As you explore the cave look for the features native americans, the original residents of the cave, left for us to discover. Shaped in the cave walls are ovens used for baking food. In the floor handmade cavities were built so that when rains came the cavities filled providing residents with a store of fresh water. But, also notice all of the inscriptions carved in the sandstone. Most of these are from guests of the Rock House Hotel. As you move to the end of Rock House you will notice a man made wall of stone.



We hiked when Rock House Trail was almost empty. As with Cedar Falls the trails at Rock House are one-way. However, we chose to hike the rim trail back to the gorge trail and return up the gorge trail back to the trailhead parking lot. If the trails are too busy you can hike from parking lot to parking lot using the road. Plan on about 40 minutes to hike Rock House Trail. For more on Rock House read this next: What Is the Only True Cave in Hocking Hills - Rock House


Next up we’ll discuss what many believe is the most difficult hike in hocking hills and later we’ll cover the most popular hike.


How Hard is it to Hike Hocking Hills?


Cantwell Cliffs is generally understood as the most difficult in Hocking Hills. If you can get through this hike you can hike all of these trails in Hocking Hills. The rest of the hikes on this list, except the Conkle’s Hollow rim trail, only require people to be able to walk about 1 mile and ascend and descend stairs. Cantwell Cliffs is more difficult. You will notice the awkward steps as soon as you descend down Fat Woman’s Squeeze and the difficulty continues throughout the hike. You will need to hike at least an hour to finish this trail and plan on 90 minutes. Some of the steps on the trail were loose and the wood used to support other steps were misplaced over time in awkward positions. Significant general maintenance of this trail is required for casual hikers to feel comfortable in Cantwell Cliffs.



The trail was improved during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. 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. Hundreds of men worked the area and constructed trails, bridges, buildings, parking, and planted trees throughout the park. Company 526 worked on Cantwell Cliffs and the stone steps and shelters are two of the most noticeable CCC contributions.


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. 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.



As Cantwell Cliff is the most difficult hike in Hocking Hills, now is a great time to discuss what gear you should take with you. Make sure you hike with 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 or gummy worms. We really think comfort is vital and the Teton Sports Hydration day pack is a great fit for hiking the trails. With the rocks and roots and steps a first aid kit is a good idea for scrapes and cuts from a trip or stumble even on the shortest trail. It’s so important we carry two with our group. The trails are marked and there are maps at waypoints. But it is always best to take maps with you to keep track of your progress. Carry a compass, too. A compass will help you understand your direction but it is also a great educational tool and helps when kids are bored on the trail. The rim trails have a level of risk we’ll discuss later. But, packing a rope can help you rescue someone who has slid off the rim and needs a lift. Rope can be a life saver. Pack a flashlight for Rock House and also if you end up hiking after dark. Stay hydrated and take water with you.


Here are amazon links to the gear we used in Hocking Hills.

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 are dad joke books for great gifts: Dad Jokes Around the Campfire: https://amzn.to/3JinFJ2 600 Funniest Dad Jokes: https://amzn.to/3EPGv7D To view any product mentioned by us in our videos, click this link: https://www.amazon.com/shop/campbrood As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases through these links and Amazon ads and banners on this page, at no additional cost to you.


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. Click here to read more about Cantwell Cliffs


Let’s take a break from hiking and discuss a great place to stay while hiking Hocking Hills.


If you are looking for a great campground and full hookup RV resort close to Hocking Hills check out our post here for full details on Campbell Cove Campground in Logan Ohio. The park has a lot of activities for kids, including a playground, bounce pad, swimming pond and fishing. But the park is dog friendly, too and has great sites for all camping setups from tents to cottages to big rigs. The bathhouses are clean and private with separate rooms that include a toilet, sink, and shower. Also located on site is an arcade and campground store.



Now back to the hikes.


Can you guess the most popular trail in Hocking Hills and Coming up later we’ll discuss the largest recess cave East of the Mississippi.


What is the Most Popular Cave in Hocking Hills?


Old Man’s Cave is the most popular for a reason. From the beginning the trail amazes hikers and it only gets better after that. Upper Falls is the first waypoint which reveals a wonderful surprise. The bridge we just went over is actually above the upper falls which is about 20 feet tall and this is one of the more photographed spots in Hocking Hills. The bridge above the falls and the pool below surrounded by black hand sandstone make it a unique feature of Hocking Hills. But that’s just the beginning. As we continue, notice the hike is through walls of black hand sandstone flanking the trail and Old Man’s Creek.



But there’s more. As we travel along the creek Devil’s Bathtub comes into view. It’s a cool water feature made better by its memorable name. Part of the treasure of Old Man’s Cave Trail is walking through steps and trail features constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s like these. But, other improvements have been made like this cool new step bridge to resemble skipping stones. And then this tunnel takes you back to the past leading you to a bridge and finally Old Man’s Cave. But your not finished yet. There is a view of the sphinx facing profile on the trail and a little walk further through the forest down more stairs is Lower Falls which cascades 25 feet into the pool below..


Why is it called Old Man’s Cave?


Old Man’s Cave got its name because an old man lived here. Richard Rowe, a hermit, lived in the recess cave during the early 1800s. A marker in the recess cave provides additional details that he discovered the area with his two hound dogs while he was hunting. The recess cave is part of a 75 foot wall of black hand sandstone above Old Man’s Creek. The recess is about 250 feet long and 50 feet high. Down at the Creek Level there is a waterfall as the creek takes a step lower below the cave. The creek then flows beyond a man made stone wall.



Old Man’s Cave is kind of a choose your own adventure. There is a quick route. This would be the short loop that is 1.0 mile. The hike will allow you to see the Upper Falls, Devil’s Bathtub and Old Man’s Cave. The 1 mile loop will take you about 30 minutes to an hour. But, If you would like to travel a little further like we did, add another ½ mile to see the Sphinx Head and Lower Falls before returning to the parking lot. Adding this distance would provide for a full hike time of an hour to 90 minutes. If the trail is busy it may take longer. read more about Old Man's Cave Here


With all these waterfalls and pools you might be wondering


Can you Get in the Water at Hocking Hills?


People have an attraction to water. Lower and Upper Falls have pools beneath them. But, the water is off limits everywhere in Hocking Hills 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.



The Ohio Department of Natural Resources built the Visitor’s Center at Old Man’s Cave Trail in 2019. It is located on the Southwest side of the parking lot. This is the central hub of Hocking Hills State Park. Here you will find modern bathrooms, a gift shop, information center, and interpretive center to learn more about the park, it’s history, geology and how to stay safe hiking in the region. Now Let’s go down the road a little bit and answer the question


What is the easiest hike in Hocking Hills?


Ash Cave is a ½ mile loop trail that takes about 30 - 40 minutes to complete. The time to complete any of these hikes depends on your ability, how busy the trails are and how much time you want to spend exploring each location. 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. In Hocking Hills you can see Trillium, Wild Geranium, and Blood Root. Mosses and Lichens also carpet the stone and forest.



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. The other gorges were created this way, too. 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





Ash Cave got its name in a very simple way. In the 1800s settlers came to the land and discovered the cave. 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. 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.


Ash Cave appears as you are hiking the trail. Perspective is provided when you see people under the rock. 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.


How Big 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. From the front lip of the overhang to the back of the cave is about 100 feet. 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. A Nature Preserve is next and later we’ll let you know where to find toilets in Hocking Hills.




Where Can I See the Most Beautiful Trail in Hocking Hills?


Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve is in the Hocking Hills Region. The preserve is in existence to protect the wildlife, plants, and other nature stuff. The Gorge Trail and Rim Trail are there to share the preservation efforts with the public. Where the State Parks are more geared towards human recreation. The preserve is open year round and it is open to the public ½ hour before sunrise and closed ½ hour after sunset and we found the State Park is the same. The hollow is named for W.J. Conkle, who scribed his name and the year 1797 into the sandstone within the Gorge.





Made of Black Hand Sandstone the gorge in some places is only 100 feet wide and the walls can rise as much as 200 feet above the gorge floor. Black hand sandstone is only visible in Ohio and the material that forms the sandstone likely came from the Appalachian Mountains to the East. Here in the Gorge you can see the rock elevations up close and at a distance. Along with the rock you will see a variety of plants and trees. As you walk you will be amazed at the ferns and flowers and moss below while also admiring the birch, hemlock and other trees towering above. These views are just the beginning. Just wait until you see what is at the end of the Gorge Trail.


As we mentioned before the preserve has two hikes. The Gorge Trail is the easier and shorter of the two. If you only have time for one we recommend this hike. The gorge trail takes a ½ hour to complete. 90% of the 1.5 mile round trip trail is paved and wheelchair and stroller accessible. At the end of the accessible trail is an unimproved hike that takes you to the waterfall that eroded the gorge and a beautiful horseshoe hollow with the waterfall and pool as its centerpiece. The waterfall in Conkle’s Hollow Falls at a height of 25 feet. Although not viewable from the paved trail this part of the hike is the most amazing and surprising.



The Rim Trail is a 2.1 mile loop that has almost 400 feet of elevation gain. Most of the elevation is at the beginning and end of the trail. Here at the trailhead there are steps to ascend to the rim. The stairs are the first measure of difficulty to the rim trail. At the top, the hike generally levels out. But, the focus changes to a trail surface of roots and uneven rocks. Wet or icy conditions will make the trail more difficult. But now you are on the rim edge and standing upwards of 200 feet from the gorge floor. The edge of the rim is unlevel ground. In many places the trail width on the rim is only 3-4 feet. So, in order to stay on the trail you need to walk between trees and the rim edge. So, why are we spending so much time talking about the risk of the rim trail? Every year 1-2 people die hiking in the Hocking Hills Area. Recently a hiker, 45 years old, fell 60 feet to his death on the Conkle’s Hollow Rim Trail. So, recognize each trail has its risks and hike safely.


The rim trail adds to the gorge trail by giving you a view of the Preserve from above. There are many overlooks where you can see down into the gorge and across the gorge and further. These really give you a different perspective. We were surprised to notice that you really can’t see down into the gorge very far. Looking across the gorge you can see the rim trail on the other side in some places. These views help you witness how tall the forest is and the overall height of the preserve.



We know Hocking Hills can be busy. Our only congested trail was Ash Cave and it wasn’t too bad. With Columbus, Akron, and Cincinnati close by it’s best to hike Hocking Hills on a weekday and either in the morning or evening. We hiked Monday and Tuesday morning and as you can see we had Old Man’s Cave to ourselves.


Every hike trailhead has toilets. The Visitors center and Cedar Falls have the best facilities where Cantwell Cliffs has pit toilets. Ash Cave is getting improved facilities, too.



We recommend two days to hike Hocking Hills. But, if planned correctly you might get through all these hikes in one day. On Day one we would hike Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls. These are the most popular and the can’t miss hikes in Hocking Hills. On Day two hike Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs and Conkle’s Hollow. To make the first day a little longer hike from Lower Falls to Whispering Cave and then back to the Old Man’s Cave Parking lot.



Hocking Hills isn't always perfect. find out what we mean here: 5 Things You'll Hate About Hocking Hills State Park? (campbrood.com)


Here is more history about Hocking Hills and some items to get you excited about your trip: Is Hocking Hills Worth Going To? (campbrood.com)



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