The Best Things To Do in Hocking Hills, OH: Hiking and More
May 7, 2021
Table of Contents
Hocking Hills is a wonderful state park located in southeast Ohio and comprises 2,000 acres of rocky ledges, mossy caves, stunning waterfalls and lush greenery. The park receives over four million visitors a year and is home to miles of hiking trails. Some of the parks’ trails are paved and are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Directly surrounding the park, there are secluded cabins to sleep in, ziplining adventures, biking trails and more fun things to do. No matter your age or abilities, Hocking Hills has something for everyone and is a perfect weekend escape!
- Hocking Hills, like all state parks in Ohio, is free to enter!
- Hocking Hills State Park is made up of six separate units. Some units connect by hiking trail, but you’ll likely be driving between the different units. The state park is surrounded by over 9,000 acres of the Hocking State Forest, where there are several more hikes to explore.
- There are many waterfalls in Hocking Hills, but the waterflow may completely change depending on recent rainfall. The best time to see them flowing is in early spring.
- Dogs are allowed on most Hocking Hills trails, but they just must be kept on-leash.
- Please leave no trace while visiting Hocking Hills and any outdoor destination. This means packing out all trash, not leaving any markings on trees or rocks and not altering the environment in any way.
- Most of the trails I'm recommending are well marked and easy to follow. However, I highly recommend using All Trails so that you know exactly where you’re going and what to expect.
- Distance: 5.3 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 305 feet
- Restrooms and water available at trailhead at visitor center
Old Man’s Cave is the most popular hiking area in Hocking Hills and is definitely worth exploring. The trail gets its name from the hermit Richard Rower who lived in the cave in the late 1700’s.
You begin by descending down into the “cave,” (which is more like a long gorge). As you take the trail through the gorge, you’ll pass waterfalls, walk beneath towering cave-like walls and see unique rock formations. The trail is a mix of steps, paved areas, tunnels, bridges and rocky terrain.
The entire trail is 5.3 miles but you can choose how far you would like to go. Here are some points of interest you should look for while exploring.
- Upper Falls: This is the first thing you’ll see if you enter the cave from the top entrance by the parking lot. A scenic stone bridge towers above the waterfall, creating a beautiful scene.
- Devil’s Bathtub: Devil’s Bathtub is a unique feature not far from Upper Falls. It’s a bowl shaped basin that is created by a swirling action from Old Man’s Creek. The feature creates a whirlpool before dropping into a lower pool.
- Old Man’s Cave: Of course you can’t miss the main feature for which the trail is known. The trail takes you through this recess cave, which looks like a rock roof over your head. It is located a half mile from Upper Falls or 0.2 miles from the visitor center.
- Lower Falls: This waterfall is about 25 feet tall and located about a half mile from Upper Falls.
- Broken Rock Falls: This waterfall is located on a short spur trail off of the main Old Man’s Cave route. Water flows down through a narrow slit between two large rock faces. Compared to Upper and Lower Falls, you can get right up next to this unique waterfall.
If you just explore one area of Hocking Hills, Old Man’s Cave should be the one. The iconic rock formations fascinate and delight people of all ages.
The trails between Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and Ash Cave all connect. You can either drive between them or hike!
- Distance: 0.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 111 feet
- Restroom available at trailhead
Ash Cave is a quick 0.5 mile hike to a massive horseshoe-shaped cave. A tall and skinny waterfall trickles over the top of the cave wall and creates a small pool of water that is lined with a sandy beach. The cave is massive: 700 feet wide, 100 feet deep and 90 feet tall.
To reach the cave, most visitors take the paved path on their way to the waterfall and a forest trail back to the parking lot. When you reach the cave, there are stairs that climb up the cave behind the waterfall.
Depending on where you stand below the cave, you can hear an echo of someone else’s voice.
- Distance: 0.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 177 feet
- Restroom and water available at trailhead
Cedar Falls is a popular and beautiful 40 foot waterfall. It is the most consistently flowing waterfall in the park due to the volume of water passing through. The falls can be reached by hiking a half mile on the Buckeye Trail and Gorge Overlook Trail from the Cedar Falls parking lot. The trail has some stairs but is easy and doable for most visitors.
At the parking area, there is a nice picnic area where you can enjoy a packed lunch.
This hike is quick and located just a 5 minute drive from Old Man’s Cave, so it’s easy to combine both. If you would like to combine both points of interest on a hike, it will be 7.5 miles round trip.
The steps that lead to Cedar Falls are more fascinating than your typical park stairs. They were designed by architect and mathematician Akio Hizume. The lengths of the individual steps are varied, causing hikers to alternate their leading foot. It’s meant to create a comfortable pace and rhythm and make the climb pleasant and relaxing. The design is based upon the Fibonacci sequence.
- Distance: 0.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 203 feet
- Restroom available at trailhead
Rock House is a fun hike where you can explore a large cave. It’s actually the only true cave inside of the park. There are two parking lots, an upper and larger lower lot. Start the hike at the upper parking lot and you’ll mostly be hiking downhill. The trail will then end at the lower parking lot. The hike begins in the woods and you’ll quickly reach some rocky cliffs. Shortly after reaching the cliffs, you’ll reach the massive 200 foot wide cave that you can explore. Large arched windows allow you to gaze out of the cave at several points. When I visited, there was water trickling down the cave walls and patches of green moss scattered around the walls.
Note that this hike gets quite muddy if it has rained recently.
- Distance: 2.7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 544 feet
- No restroom or water at trailhead
The Rockbridge Natural Bridge hike is located outside of Hocking Hills State Park in the Rockbridge Nature Preserve. It’s a little over 20 minutes away from Old Man’s Cave. The parking lot has just a few parking spots with no bathroom or water available. The hike begins along a field full of grazing cows and then enters the forest. The trail may be difficult for some because there are a lot of up and down elevation changes.
After passing the field of cows, the trails forks to the left and the right. The left loop has the natural bridge and the right loop has a rock shelter.
The natural bridge is really impressive! When you reach it, you can walk across it and underneath it. Multiple little waterfalls cascaded down the rocky ledge just opposite of the bridge when I visited.
The Rockbridge Natural Bridge hike is my favorite hike on this list because it’s a bit more “off the beaten path” and unexpected!
- Distance: Gorge Trail 1.2 miles and Rim Trail 2.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: Gorge Trail 72 feet and 495 feet
- Restroom available at trailhead
Conkle’s Hollow has two trails: a gorge trail that leads back to an interesting rocky grotto and a rim trail that climbs up to beautiful views of the surrounding area. The gorge trail is 1.2 miles and begins paved until a few steps to reach a waterfall at the end. It’s a great easy trail for families.
The rim trail is more of a challenge. The hike is 2.6 miles and has some steep drop offs. It begins with a climb up steps and then you’ll have beautiful views of the area throughout the hike. Throughout the hike, there are tree roots to step over and steep areas. Hikers of most abilities can do this trail but I don’t recommend it if you’re afraid of heights.
Conkle’s Hollow is a state nature preserve and does not allow pets.
I haven’t done these next three hikes yet but they’re high on my list!
- Distance: 0.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 269 feet
- Restrooms at trailhead
Cantwell Cliffs is a short hike that includes rocky cliffs, steep ledges and well worn steps. It’s located about 20 minutes north of Old Man’s Cave and it’s remote location means it receives less crowds. It’s a difficult hike but worth the effort.
- Distance: 4.4 miles
- Elevation Gain: 626 feet
- Restroom located along trail
The Airplane Rock and Chapel Cave Loop is a trail mostly used for horseback riding, which has its pros and cons. You may be one of the only hikers but will have to share the trail with groups of horses and step over horse poop. The views from Airplane Rock are stunning and Chapel Cave has an impressive teardrop shaped entry. These trails are located near the Hocking Hills Rock climbing area close to Conkle’s Hollow. Note that this trail gets extremely muddy after rainfall and can be hard to navigate.
- Distance: 1.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 301 feet
If you hike between Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls, be sure to make a stop at Whispering Cave as well. The trail opened to the public in 2017 and begins at the parking lot where the former Hocking Hills Dining Lodge was located before being destroyed by a fire in 2016. About half a mile into the trail, the path forks between the cave trail and the Hemlock Bridge Trail. When you reach the cave, it features an almost 300 foot wide overhang and a 150-foot waterfall trickling over the edge. If you go left at the fork, you’ll continue on the Hemlock Bridge Trail and reach a beautiful viewpoint of the surrounding pine forest.
If you drive and park at this trailhead, it is located about a mile from Old Man’s Cave.
Hocking Hills Canopy Tours offers a wide variety of adventurous ziplines, from canopy tours to a quarter mile SuperZip that goes as fast as 50 miles per hour. They even have ziplines specifically for kids! It’s a fun place to visit and experience the Hocking Hills forest from a different angle.
Hocking Hills Canopy Tours is located close to the Rockbridge Nature Preserve hike and about 25 minutes from Old Man’s Cave. The company also offers rappelling, off road segway tours and even nighttime zipline tours.
Hocking Hills Canopy Tours had the first-of-its-kind canopy tour in the midwest!
Rock climbing on beautiful sandstone cliffs is available in the Hocking State Forest. There is a climbing area located one mile east of Conkle’s Hollow. If you’re new to rock climbing, there are a few companies that host guided climbing and rappelling experiences. Check out High Rock Adventures for climbing experiences for all skill levels. They will equip you with everything you need.
For a quick and quirky stop near the town of Logan, visit the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum. The free one room museum is home to over 3,000 pencil sharpeners that were collected by Reverend Paul A. Johnson. The collection is categorized by category and you’ll see sharpening animals, forms of transportation, characters and so much more. The museum is also sprinkled with pencil sharpener puns that you can’t help but appreciate. There is never a dull moment here!
The museum is located at the Hocking Hills Tourism Center where locals can give you advice on trails, restaurants and more.
The Hocking Hills Winery is a family-owned business located in Logan. The winery offers flights, charcuterie boards and wine slushies with a large outdoor patio space that often has live music.
Another winery about 10 miles south of the park is Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery. The family-owned business has a beautiful vineyard with outdoor seating, winery pups and snacks like charcuterie boards.
For a flight of locally brewed beers, visit Brewery 33. The brewery has a large dog-friendly patio, sells local Ohio-made snacks and often has food trucks parked outside. It’s a fun atmosphere and there is a good variety of beer. This is the closest brewery to the park but if you’re willing to drive further, there are more breweries in nearby Lancaster and Athens.
The Route 33 Brew Trail includes six breweries along route 33 between Columbus and Hocking Hills, check it out if you’re a craft beer lover.
If you’d like to try some locally made corn liquor, visit Hocking Hills Moonshine. The distillery offers tours and has a small museum area with items from the family's 1800’s era farm. They currently have seven different flavors of moonshine that include 45 proof peach tea and granny apple and 120 proof buckeye lightening.
There are many companies that offer cabins in the Hocking Hills region. Search around vrbo or Airbnb to find something that suits your needs. The spots that I recommend are unique accommodations that are perfect for couples.
The Inn at Cedar Falls is centrally located near popular hikes and has a wide range of accommodation options. They have cabins, yurts, cottages and even beautiful geodomes with peaceful forest views. I stayed in a cottage and was impressed with the level of detail and charming touches. The room included a jacuzzi, cozy bed, fluffy robes, a bottle of wine and some snacks.
The Inn first opened in 1987 and offers extensive spa services, a nice restaurant and a rooftop garden. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast and allow some time to be pampered in between hikes. The Inn at Cedar Falls is the perfect place for a romantic stay in Hocking Hills.
Local winery Le Petit rents out a loft on their beautiful estate. The loft has two private balconies with beautiful views of the property and guests have access to the tasting room, the vineyards and the on-site pond. This is a special and unique place to stay and perfect if you’re looking for a relaxing weekend. The winery is located about 20 minutes south of Old Man’s Cave.
Hillside Retreats is a new property made up of beautifully designed yurts. The yurts are equipped with a kitchen, bed, bathroom, an electric fireplace and a private deck with a hot tub. There is also a pole barn that has games like corn hole, shuffleboard and darts. This property is in a secluded area about 30 minutes from Old Man’s Cave.
Kindred Spirits is the restaurant located at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls. They serve gourmet meals in a log cabin that has been on the property since the 1840s. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and rotates their menu with the seasons. There are only 45 seats in this fine restaurant so reservations are recommended.
The Old Dutch Restaurant is located in Logan and has the option of comforting meals made to order or an all-you-can-eat buffet. The establishment is also home to a large antique store, a petting zoo, ice cream parlor and more. They are known for the coconut cream pie and wide selection of comforting food.
Millstone BBQ is a popular casual spot in Logan that serves a large menu with barbeque and southern cooking. It’s a large restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and sometimes has live music on the patio. I liked how many vegetarian options they had on the menu and enjoyed the cornbread shared among the table.
Rhapsody is a casual fine dining restaurant serving farm to table meals in Nelsonville, Ohio. The food is prepared by students at the culinary school of Hocking College. The menu changes seasonally but includes burgers, fish and chips, salads and decadent desserts.
Fullbrooks is a breakfast and lunch restaurant located in Nelsonville, Ohio. They serve homemade soups and cookies, delicious coffee and a selection of sandwiches for lunch.
Thanks for reading! If you are looking for more couples travel ideas in Ohio, check out my article with over 100 dates ideas in Cincinnati, Ohio!
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