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 Hocking Hills State Park

Trail Info

The Hocking Hills State Park and surrounding State Forrest is well known for it's beauty. Multiple trails running through deep, natural sandstone gorges provide a variety of surfaces. Many are suitable for the beginner barefoot hiker but with terrain that can provide a workout for the experienced hiker. Between the high cliffs and the low stream beds expect a wide temperature and humidity variance. This park is unusual in that it is broken up into six separate sections, each with their own distinct trails. Three sections are linked, including by a portion of the Buckeye Trail. What makes this park great also makes it very popular. Expect large crowds near popular attractions. Dogs are permitted in all but Conkles Hollow which is a state nature preserve.

In addition to the main trails listed there are numerous side trails, both official and unofficial. Have fun exploring, but always exercise caution.

Separate park section trails:

Ash Cave Gorge (official trail) - 0.25 mile. This trail has been paved with asphalt over most of it's length. There is a wooden stairway connector at the north end to the Ash Cave Rim Trail.

Ash Cave Gorge (unofficial trail) - 0.25 mile. This unofficial natural gorge trail parallels the official Ash Cave Gorge trail. There is a wooden stairway connector at the north end to the Ash Cave Rim Trail. The trail consists of bare soil, clay, broken sandstone, and sandstone slab.

Ash Cave Rim - 0.5 mile loop. The north end of this loop trail continues north to Cedar Falls. The trail consists of bare soil, broken sandstone, and sandstone slab.

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Cantwell Cliffs - 1 mile loop with multiple gorge and rim options. The book says 1 mile without saying what portions they include. There are literally hundreds of stair steps. This trail has not been evaluated for barefoot suitability.

Cedar Falls - 0.5 mile loop. This trail consists of bare soil, broken sandstone, sandstone stairs, wooden stairs, and wooden bridges. The west end of this loop continues west and north to Old Man's Cave.

Conkels Hollow Gorge - 0.75 mile. This trail has been paved with asphalt over most of it's length. The Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves has a detailed page about Conkels Hollow State Nature Preserve.

Conkels Hollow Rim - 2.5 mile loop. The vertical cliffs near the mouth of the gorge rise over 200 feet above the gorge trail. This means a steep climb to enter and exit the rim trail. Stairs on the east side, stairs and switch backs on the west side. The trail consists of bare soil and sandstone, both broken and slab.

Old Man's Cave - 1 mile. The single most popular trail in the park. This trail links the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and Old Man's Cave. This trail consists of bare soil, sand, clay, broken sandstone, sandstone slab, sandstone stairs, wooden stairs, and wooden bridges. There are three tunnels cut through sandstone. There are many stairs leading to the Lower Falls. The southern end of this trail continues south and east to Cedar Falls.

Rock House - 0.25 mile. Rock House has a short 1/4 mile trail that can easily be underestimated in difficulty. The trail has been "improved" in areas with gravel. Less bothersome, natural broken sandstone litters the entire length of the trail. The worst surface feature is the larger fist sized rocks imbedded in the ground and jutting up, but at least they are well worn sandstone. The best surface features are the large sheets of sandstone and the areas of bare soil. The trail is generally sloped or has stairs either cut into rock or constructed of cut rock blocks. These stairs vary greatly in height. Rock House itself is an interesting recess cave with several entrances, but only one easy to use official entrance. Beginners will probably not like the Rock House trail, however.

 
  Connecting trails:

Ash Cave to Cedar Falls - 2.5 miles. This section of the Buckeye Trail runs from the north end of the Ash Cave Rim Trail to the south side of the Cedar Falls picnic area. The trail consists of bare soil, clay, broken sandstone and stretches of gravel.

Cedar Falls to Old Man's Cave Gorge - 2.5 miles (from Lower Falls, add 0.5 mile to reach parking lot). This section of the Buckeye Trail is one of the best trails this park has to offer. This trail consists of bare soil, hemlock needles, sand, clay, mud, stony creek beds, broken sandstone, sandstone stairs, wooden stairs, and wooden bridges.

 

Cedar Falls to Old Man's Cave Gorge Overlook - 3 miles. It runs along the north and east side of the gorge, across the dam at Rose Lake near the campgrounds. This trail consists of bare soil, sand, clay, broken sandstone, gravel, and sandstone slab. The stretch of gravel at each end of the trail is closing in toward the middle. The north end near the A-frame bridge can be avoided by taking unofficial alternate paths.

One of the best trails is the gorge trail from Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls. It is about 3 miles from parking lot to parking lot. There is a parking lot at each end, so placing a car at each end would allow for a one way hike. Another good 3 mile hike is from Cedar Falls to Ash Cave. There is a parking lot at Ash Cave. Parking cars at Ash Cave and Old Man's Cave allows a 6 mile one way trek from one to the other via Cedar Falls. Combining the Cedar Falls to Old Man's Cave Gorge Trail and the Cedar Falls to Old Man's Cave Gorge Overlook Trail makes a six mile loop. Combining intersecting trails can lengthen any hike.

Additional information including history, geology, and trail maps can be found in the Hocking Hills State Park Hiking Trails book (1998, Ohio Department of Natural Resources) available at the Hocking Hills State Park gift shop located at Old Man's Cave or directly from ODNR Publications. I highly recommend this small book if you want to explore this park.

Directions

All of the following locations are easily found by following the numerous signs found at every intersection in the area.

Head southeast From Lancaster, OH on US Route 33 about 15 miles. Turn right (southwest) on State Route 664 and follow it to Old Man's Cave (about 10 miles). There are multiple parking lots with picnic tables. There are restrooms, water, a nature center, a manned information desk, and a gift shop.

Just before reaching Old Man's Cave is the turn off to Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. At both there are parking lots, picnic tables, and outhouses. There is no drinking water at Cedar Falls.

Just north of SR 664 on SR 374 is Conkles Hollow and just beyond it Rock House. Both have picnic tables and outhouses. Both can be accessed from the north from US 33 via SR 180, SR 678, and SR 374.

Cantwell Cliffs is still further north on SR 374. It can also be accessed from the north from US 33 via SR 374.

Better than my directions, see the Hocking Hills Internet Guide for an area road map, trail maps, topo maps, and other information.

Hocking Hills State Park and State Forest location and trail maps.

The Ohio State Parks division has a page on Hocking Hills State Park.

 

Have questions? Write the Ohio Barefoot Hikers.

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