Hocking Hills is an Ohio State Park in southern Ohio with some spectacular terrain featuring tall cliffs, deep narrow gorges, huge caves and small waterfalls. There are enough trails and natural points of interest there worth spending at least a weekend there. Possibly even more time there.
Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. The very interesting topography of the terrain of Hocking Hills region is due to the existence of the Blackhand Sandstone in a thick formation over the area. This kind of sandstone is weather-resistant, hence the tall cliffs and deep gorges.
The area’s name comes from a shortened version of Hockhocking River – the Shawnee Indian name. “Hockhocking”, in the Delaware language means “bottle”. Shawnee Indians thought that the narrow creek above the waterfall on the Hockhocking River looks like a bottle’s neck.
Time to Visit
The best time to visit is in the Spring or Fall. During the Summer, the streams are often completely dry, or have very little flow, and the waterfalls just have a trickle of water.
Expect the place to be crowded.
As all other Ohio State Parks, admission to Hocking Hills State Park is FREE!
Hocking Hills State Park Natural Attractions
Ash Cave is probably the most spectacular attraction in Hocking Hills. It is so because of its size. The Ash Cave is 700 feet wide and 90 feet high! But the numbers are hard to imagine, so just look at the pictures.
The cave is located very close to the parking lot – you only have to walk for quarter of a mile along a paved, wheelchair accessible path to get to the cave. From the parking lot, you walk through a narrow gorge filled with hemlock and beech trees.
The name comes from a huge amount of ash found under the overhang. It possibly came from Native Americans campfires.
There is also a rim trail around Ash Cave. It is ½ mile long.
Cedar Fall is the largest, by volume, waterfall in Hocking Hills. The name comes from tall hemlock trees, mistaken by early settlers for cedars. Depending on the amount of water in the creek, it can really be a waterfall, or just a trickle. See the pictures.
The trail to Cedar Falls from the parking area is ½ mile long.
If you like to hike, and would want to make a day of hiking from one attraction to another, there’s a 6-mile trail that starts at Ash Cave and then continues on to Cedar Falls and then to Upper Falls in the Old Man’s Cave area. The trail is called the Grandma Gatewood Trail, and it’s actually part of the much longer Buckeye Trail.
Old Man’s Cave
Old Man’s Cave is the most popular out of all Hocking Hills attractions. Expect the area and trails to be quite crowded in the summer, especially on weekends and also during nice weekends in the spring and fall. In the old Man’s Cave area there are few different attractions that are spread throughout the canyon. The most interesting are the Upper Falls, the Devil’s Bathtub and the actual Old Man’s Cave. They all are located a short walk from each other.
Old Man’s Cave name came from a hermit, Richard Rowe, who used to live there in the late 1700s – early 1800s.
Again, if you like to hike, you can take the Grandma Gatewood Trail and hike to Cedar Falls. One-way it is 2.2 miles.
Conkles Hollow is the deep, rocky gorge. It is actually, one of the deepest in Ohio. When you enter it, you will appreciate it enormous size. The gorge is covered in predominantly hemlock forest, with thick undergrowth of wildflowers and ferns. I’ve been there at times when the humidity inside the gorge is so high that there is a “fog” hanging in the air. Then it get this mysterious appearance and you feel like you are on the set of an horror movie.
The most of the trail leading into the gorge is paved and allow for handicap access. At the end there is a small waterfall.
Rock House is the only real cave in the Hocking Hills region. It was created by water action dissolving the softer rock over the ages. The actual cave is 25 feet high, 20 – 30 feet wide and 200 feet long.
Years ago, it used to be used as a shelter by Native Americans and later by some people outside the law – robbers, horse thieves and murderers. For that reason it used to be called Robbers Roost.
Cantwell Cliffs are located few miles north, away from the rest of the Hocking Hills attractions. They are definitely worth the additional drive. Some claim that they are the most picturesque attractions in Hocking Hills park. Cantwell Cliffs are hard to describe, as there are many different features there. But in general, there are vertical rock walls with narrow passages between them, there are cliffs and overhangs. The hike there can be quite challenging for people who are not fit. There are some exposed cliffs there – so be careful!
- Old Man’s Cave: 1 mile
- Rock House: 1 mile
- Cantwell Cliffs: various trails, around 3 miles
- Conkle’s Hollow: 1 mile, wheelchair accessible
- Conkle’s Hollow Rim: 2½ miles
- Buckeye Trail: (local section called Grandma Gatewood Trail) Cedar Falls – Ash Cave: 3 miles, Old Man’s Cave – Cedar Falls: 3 mile;
- Cantwell Cliffs – from 0.1 mile to about 1.0 mm, but a lot of up’s and down’s.
- There are many other hiking trails in the area. Check the Hocking Hills region maps.
Since it is a very popular tourist destination, you have quite a choice of lodging. There are few hotels/motels in the area and nearby Logan. There are few campgrounds where you can pitch a tent, park a trailer or rent a cabin. Then there is a number of rental cabins.
- Hocking Hills S.P. campground
- The Hocking Hills KOA
- Hocking Hills Jellystone Park
- Lake Hope S.P. campground
- Top O’ the Caves campground
- and more.
- Mostly around Logan.
- all over.
If you have never been to Hocking Hills – they will pleasantly surprise you! This is a unique area of Ohio and should be on a bucket list of any outdoor tourist visiting Ohio or southern Great Lakes area.
However, the region gained a lot of popularity in the last two decades and now is very crowded, especially in the summer. Therefore, I suggest visiting in the off-seasons. The Hocking Hills attractions look really pretty in the fall colors. However, unless you have a wet fall, don’t expect to see waterfalls full of gushing water. If you want to see those in full might, then the spring is your season to visit.
If you visit in the summer, if you can get up early enough, you have probably time from 8 till 10, with relatively few visitors. Later, the area gets crowded. So, visit the very popular attractions – Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave – in the early morning.
The area has plenty of accommodations. However, if you plan on visiting in the summer, planning making a reservation well in advance will give you some choices.
Grab a printed map of local area (available at the Visitor’s Center at Old Man’s Cave, and probably also in the brochure stands in hotels, stores, etc.) because the cell phone reception is very spotty, and therefore you cannot rely on Google maps. If you have a real GPS, you will be fine.
Hocking Hills https://www.hockinghills.com/index.html
Ohio’s Hocking Hills https://thehockinghills.org/index.htm