A popular destination for day hikes, camping, climbing, and horseback riding, Hocking Hills State Park and the adjacent Hocking State Forest captivate the imagination with deep gorges, waterfalls, and recess caves. A short hike to Old Man's Cave, Ash Cave, Rock House, or Cedar Falls will make you feel like you cannot be in Ohio anymore, transporting you to a world that feels like something out of a fantasy novel.
The Hocking Hills received their name from the Hocking River, which passes several miles northeast of the park through the town of Logan. The river's name came from Shawnee words that translate roughly into "bottle river".
Old Man's Cave was named for Richard Rowe, a hermit who lived in the gorge during the mid-19th century. The gorge became a scenic attraction by 1870, and was purchased for preservation by the State of Ohio in 1924. Old Man's Cave along with five other non-contiguous state-owned areas became Hocking Hills State Park in 1949. Cottages and a dining lodge were opened in 1972.
A six-mile section of the Buckeye Trail (from the Upper Falls at Old Man's Cave to Ash Cave) was a favorite of famous hiker Grandma Gatewood.
Southeast Ohio is covered by the foothills of the Allegheny Plateau, making the land rocky and rugged. The moderately wet climate has formed this geology into spectacular gorges with large recess caves, tall cliffs, and beautiful waterfalls.
Flora and fauna
The temperate and moderately wet climate of Southeast Ohio lends itself to a huge diversity of trees. The large number of hemlock trees were mistaken as cedars by early settlers, and provide a green backdrop for many gorges all year long. The abundant broad-leaf trees throughout the park offer a canopy of shade in summer and make for brilliant colors each fall.
It's not uncommon to see white-tailed deer in and around the forests. A wide variety of birds nest in the park, with the beautiful sounds of birds such as the hermit thrush enhancing the fantasy world feeling of the park's hikes through scenic gorges and past plentiful waterfalls.
Southern Ohio has four seasons, with moderately snowy winters, wet springs, hot humid summers, and mild autumns. Daytime temperatures from June to September usually range between 70 and 95 °F with overnight temperatures ranging from the 50s to low 70s. Daytime temperatures can slip below freezing from November to April, while overnight temperatures can drop below freezing from October to May. Hiking through the gorges can be rewarding no matter the time of year. Cool rocks and shade from trees moderate summer heat. Water flowing into the gorge freezes into interesting ice formations during the winter.
Most of Hocking Hills State Park and Hocking State Forest is located along State Route 374. Old Man's Cave is the park's most popular destination, which is also where the park's ranger station, main campground, and visitor center are all located.
From Columbus, follow US-33 South to either State Route 374 South (for Cantwell Cliffs, Rock House, or Conkle's Hollow) or State Route 664 South (for Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls, or Ash Cave).
From Athens, follow US-33 north to State Route 664 South or follow State Route 56 West to State Route 374.
Fees and permits
There are no entrance or day use fees to enjoy Hocking Hills State Park or Hocking State Forest. There are reservable picnic shelters and campsites available at modest fees.
As public transportation options are nonexistent, only a car and/or your legs will allow you to explore the park. Most of the park's attractions are located directly on State Route 374. Many major attractions are also connected by hiking trails throughout the park as well.
- 1 Old Man's Cave. Daylight Only.
- 2 Ash Cave. Daylight Only.
- 3 Rock House. Daylight Only.
- 4 Cedar Falls. Daylight Only.
- 5 Conkles Hollow. Daylight Only.
- 6 Whispering Cave. Daylight Only.
- 7 Cantwell Cliffs. Daylight Only.
Because of all of the cliffs, Hocking Hills State Park is only open during daylight hours. Rangers take staying on marked trails and out of restricted areas very seriously, issuing expensive citations to violators especially at the most popular areas of the park (the Old Man's Cave gorge, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, and Conkle's Hollow). Often this is to prevent crowds of people from continuing to trample delicate flora or for pure safety reasons. While the park has gone to great lengths to make the trails extremely safe, people have suffered extensive injuries or death from falls off of the park's many cliffs. You may see a lot of people go off-trail to get a better view, climb on a rock or jump into the water, but it's not worth the very real risk of serious injury or getting a ticket!
Trails especially at the Old Man's Cave area are composed of bare sandstone. This provides excellent traction when dry, but can prove extremely slick when wet—so use extreme caution. Waterfalls are common sights and sounds on gorge trails in the spring, but some dry up or slow to a trickle late in May or in June. A good strong rain rejuvenates them for several hours.
- 1 Rose Lake (Park at "Fisherman Parking" on State Route 374 2 miles south of Route 664 and hike 1 mile, or state park campground guests can drive past the group sites in Old Man's Cave Campground). Daylight Only.
- 1 Camp Store, 19852 State Route 664, Logan, OH 43138-9537 (At the park/campground office at Old Man's Cave Campground), ☏ . Souvenirs, groceries, firewood, ice, etc. are all available at the same place where you check in at Old Man's Cave Campground. Beware that firewood sells crazy fast here, and as a result a lot tends to be green.
- 2 Old Man's Cave Visitor Center Gift Shop (At the end of the Old Man's Cave parking area off of State Route 664). Shirts, books, mugs, etc. at the Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center at Old Man's Cave.
- 3 Grandma Faye's, 20507 State Route 664, Logan, OH 43138 (3 miles west of Old Man's Cave on State Route 664/374), ☏ . Souvenirs, groceries, camping supplies, firewood, and a little eatery are all here. Firewood here tends to be less expensive and a little bit less green than at the camp store.
- 1 Old Man's Cave Visitor Center Concession (At the end of the Old Man's Cave parking area off of State Route 664). Open seasonally. It's a basic stand with basic American staples, drinks, and ice cream. $.
- 2 Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, State Route 374 (About 1 mile north of Cedar Falls on State Route 374). Bed & breakfast with a full restaurant and bar that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. $$$.
- 1 [dead link] Hocking Hills State Park Cabins (11 miles west of Logan and 1 mile west of Old Man's Cave on State Route 664), ☏ . Check-in: 3pm, check-out: 1pm. 40 fully-furnished cottages offer real beds for up to 6 people if you aren't in the mood for camping. Includes a living room, full kitchen, dining room, screened deck, bathroom, 2 bedrooms, and cable TV. $140-60 per night.
- 2 Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls (1 mile north of Cedar Falls on State Route 374). Bed & breakfast with several guest rooms and cabins for rental year-round. Rooms include breakfast.
Hocking Hills State Park
- 3 [dead link] Old Man's Cave Campground (Hocking Hills State Park Campground), 19852 State Route 664, Logan, OH 43138-9537 (Off of State Route 664 near Old Man's Cave, 10 miles west of US-33 in Logan), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PM. 146 reservable sites, 86 with 20-, 30-, or 50-amp electric hookups, 13 with no hookups, and 47 with full hookups. An additional 23 sites have electric hookups and are reservable only in-person on the day of arrival. Few sites are level for tents or RVs, and some sites are small and right next to the road with little privacy, while others are more spacious and private. Flush toilets and showers are available from April to October. Fills almost every weekend and holiday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Includes pool, playgrounds, and basketball court. Hiking trails connect directly to Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls, and Rose Lake. $24/30/40 per night for nonelectric/electric/full hookup site. +$1 for weekends, +$2 for holidays.
- 4 [dead link] Hocking Hills Family Hike-In Campground (Located on State Route 374 1 mile south of State Route 664), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 1PM. A quieter and more secluded campground on the edge of the park with 28 sites reservable 6 months in advance and 5 sites that are reservable only in-person on the day of arrival. Cars park in a lot at the end of the campground and are not permitted on the access road, making this campground much quieter for tenters. Water is available at the parking lot, and pit toilets are located throughout the campground. Showers are included, but are only available inside Old Man's Cave Campground. The park's bicycle trails are located nearby, and there is a trail to the main campground. $22 per night, +$1 weekends, +$2 holidays.
Adjacent commercial campgrounds
- 5 Top O' The Caves Campground, 26780 Chapel Ridge Rd, South Bloomingville, OH 43152 (Follow State Route 374 2 1/2 miles south of State Route 664 or 3/4 mile south of Cedar Falls and turn west on Chapel Ridge Road), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM-9PM, check-out: 2PM. At the edge of the park with tent and RV sites. Connects directly to Cedar Falls and Ash Cave via the Buckeye Trail. $25-60 per night.
Overt crime is uncommon throughout the Hocking Hills, so exercising basic common sense should keep you safe from other people. There are no animals of concern, although campers are wise to keep their food from being stolen by raccoons overnight.
The greatest dangers posed to life and limb are due to two things:
- Motor vehicles, as many parking areas ironically are not that pedestrian-friendly, and
- Rocks, and specifically cliffs. People have literally died getting too close to the edge, and most of those people were not on marked trails when doing so.
Rangers take staying on marked trails and out of restricted areas very seriously, issuing expensive citations to violators especially at the most popular areas of the park. You may see a lot of people go off-trail to get a better view, climb on a rock or jump into the water, but it's not worth the very real risk of serious injury or getting a ticket!
Campers at Old Man's Cave Campground are also wise to obey the 10 mi (16 km) speed limit. Besides rangers using radar guns to catch and cite violators, the campground is loaded with pedestrians and small children playing in the road.
- Logan, home of the annual Washboard Festival and the nearest Walmart, just north on State Route 664 along US-33
- Athens, a trendy and hip little college town, just south on State Route 374 and east on State Route 56 near US-33.
- Lancaster, home to General William Tecumseh Sherman, a few small museums, and most major shopping, 35 minutes away and just north on State Route 374 or 664 and US-33.
- Columbus, the nearest major city and Ohio's capital, one hour away and just north on State Route 374 or 664 and US-33.