Hocking Hills State Park is a wilderness area in the Allegheny Plateau region of Southeast Ohio, approximately one hour outside of Columbus. This area is absolutely stunning. The beauty of the park attracts about 4.5 million visitors a year, making it one of the most popular and beautiful state parks in the country. It is filled with waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, caves, gorges, rock shelters and rock tunnels. The state park is spread out and encompasses six different regions: Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Old Man's Cave, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs and Conkle's Hollow.
Note that the forest and park close at dark. This rule is strictly enforced by the park district. Cars in the parking lots are towed, and trespassers are issued citations. Also, swimming is officially prohibited in this park, and signs are posted accordingly. Many visitors ignore these signs and wander off trail and into the water; this only damages the environment that these visitors have traveled to see. Please do your part to keep this area beautiful for future visitors: Stay on the trail, stay out of the water, and practice Leave No Trace principles.
Sections of the Park
- Ash Cave: This is the largest cave in Hocking Hills State Park. During the spring and periods of heavy rainfall, a large waterfall begins to pour over the edge of the cliff. The cave is easily accessible and a great spot to explore the interesting rock formations that surround the park.
- Cedar Falls: This waterfall is the largest one in the park in terms of the volume of water flow.
- Old Man's Cave: This is the most popular and historic section of the park. The cave received its name during the 1800s when settlers found an "old man," Richard Roe, living inside the cave. The cave and the surrounding area is surrounded by tall cliffs, clear blue streams, waterfalls, moss-covered boulders and thick vegetation. This entire area is the main attraction of the park and is where the visitor center is located. As a result, this portion is typically very crowded (especially on weekends).
- Rock House: The Rock House is the most unique site in the Hocking Hills region. The Rock House is a small tunnel of rock that has been carved into the cliff side. You can enter the tunnel through crevices in the rock and explore the entirety of the Rock House.
- Cantwell Cliffs: The Cantwell Cliffs are the tallest cliffs in the park. This area has multiple caves and waterfalls throughout its expansive rock formations.
- Conkle's Hollow: Entering Conkle's Hollow almost feels like an entirely different environment. There are still tall cliffs and waterfalls, but this portion of the park is very moist, filled with ferns, and has thicker and more diverse vegetation than other parts of the park.
There are many hiking trails throughout the park. Each section of the park has at least two hikes that allow people to get a good taste of the unique environments that they have to offer. The majority of these hikes are relatively short and do not take too much time to complete.
- Ash Cave Rim Trail: This approximately half-mile trail stays on top of the cliffs that are surrounding Ash Cave. It starts uphill, but once you reach the top of the cliffs it is flat for the rest of the hike.
- Ash Cave Gorge Trail: This trail is wheelchair accessible and is a short quarter-mile trek. It starts at the Ash Cave parking lot and takes you directly to Ash Cave.
- Cedar Falls Trail: This is a half-mile trail that starts at the Cedar Falls parking lot and leads you to the falls. There are small creek crossings, bridges and opportunities for wildlife spotting along the way.
- Rock House Rim Trail: Similar to the Ash Cave Rim Trail, this trail follows the edge of the cliffs that surround the gorge. It is about 1.5 miles long and is a leisurely stroll.
- Rock House Gorge Trail: This trail is about 1.25 miles long and leads you to the famous Rock House, which is the main attraction.
- Cantwell Cliffs Trail: The Cantwell Cliffs have about 3.5 miles worth of trail that starts on the rim of the cliffs, then leads down below into the gorge where you pass towering waterfalls and tremendous caves.
- Conkle's Hollow Trail: This 1-mile trail is wheelchair accessible and leads straight to the hollow at the end of the trail.
- Old Man's Cave Trail: This is a short 1-mile trail that leads you to the cave. As mentioned before, this is the most popular portion of the park.
- Buckeye Trail: This is the longest trail in the park. It starts at Old Man's Cave, travels 3 miles to Cedar Falls, and then travels 2.2 miles to Ash Cave. The Buckeye Trail serves as a connector between those three sections of the park. This leaves hikers with plenty of options. You can hike the entirety of the trail from Old Man's Cave to Ash Cave (5.2 miles one way), or turn around at Cedar Falls and complete a portion of the hike (3 miles one way). Out of all the trails in the park, this one is the most rewarding. Not only does it connect three of the most beautiful parts of the park, but the trails in between are tremendous. The trail from Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls follows alongside a clear blue stream at the bottom of the Gorge. Along the way from Cedar Falls to Ash Cave takes you through a thicker section of forest with an opportunity to explore an old fire tower. If you complete the whole trail, it is approximately a 10.4-mile hike (round-trip).
Places to Stay
There is no shortage of options in terms of places to stay. There are a multitude of front country campsites in the area, each of which have dozens of primitive camping spots, camping spots for RVs and spots with electric hookups. Although there are many campgrounds, the most popular commodities are the multitude of cabins in the area. The cabins are all well-maintained, isolated in the woods of Hocking Hills and are beautifully furnished. These cabins get booked very quickly, so if you are considering staying at one, it would be wise to attempt to book them as far in advance as possible.
Hiking is the main attraction of the park, but the area has plenty of outdoor adventures available. Some of the more popular attractions include ziplining, canopy tours, canoeing and rope courses.