Hocking Hills State Park is located about an hour south of Columbus, OH, in the town of Logan. The hiking trails are spectacular as they wind through a landscape filled with striking cliffs, rushing waterfalls, massive caves and deep gorges that provide stunning views at every turn. The park also offers opportunities to fish, bike, boat, rock climb, horseback ride, and zipline, making this park the ultimate outdoor adventure. Below is a 3-day itinerary to take you through most of the park!
Entrance Fee: FREE
Lodging: Hocking Hills’ brand-new lodge will officially open its hotel rooms in November of 2022. It looks like the brand-new lodge is going to be gorgeous! Reservations for the new facilities can be made here- Hocking Hills Lodge. There is also one campground on property. The campground offers electric and no electric sites, hike-in primitive camping, and cabin options. Reservations can be made here- Hocking Hills Campground. There are also MANY private lodging options near the park as well. Cabin options hold anywhere from 2 to 22 people and range from luxury to rustic.
Dining: The new lodge will have one full-service restaurant when it opens in November. There are also many dining options just outside the park. Personal recommendations are Millstone BBQ and Hungry Buffalo (both are kid friendly). There are shelters and picnic areas in every area of the park if you would like to bring food with you.
Must Know Before You Go:
1. All trails are marked with letters that correspond to the map. These waypoints will make following the trail so much easier! I wish every park did this😊
2. Apart from the gorge trail at Conkle’s Hollow, a portion of every trail is on a canyon rim. Please stay on the marked trail and keep little ones close.
3. Conkle’s Hollow is technically a state nature preserve within Hocking Hills State Park. It, therefore, follows slightly different rules than the state park. The biggest difference is pets are NOT allowed in Conkle’s Hollow. Pets are allowed on leash everywhere else in Hocking Hills State Park.
4. There is no swimming or wading in the water.
5. The only place to pick up a map is the Visitor Center at Old Man’s Cave. Make that your first stop, even if you are doing this itinerary out of order!
Cell Service: We did not have service in any area of the park, except for the Cantwell Cliffs area. Ironically, we even had service in the gorge at Cantwell Cliffs despite that area being the most isolated. We did not have service even on the main roads elsewhere in the park!
3 Day Itinerary
Visitor Center- The first stop of the day should be the beautiful, informative Visitor Center. It is also the only place to pick up maps for the rest of your trip and where the restrooms are located. You can pick up maps on the upper level.
Old Man’s Cave- Do not start this trail right in front of the Visitor Center. Instead, follow the signs to the Upper Falls area at the far north end of the lot (Waypoint A). Starting this trail from Upper falls makes it approximately 2 miles long, including some exploring in the fall areas. The trail winds through the gorge, past Upper Falls, the Devil’s Bathtub, the “A” frame bridge, Old Man’s Cave and Lower Falls before stone stairs lead up to the gorge rim. *To see Old Man’s Cave, you will need to cross the gorge and take “Waypoint D” to “Waypoint W” before heading back down to “D” to continue to Lower Falls. There isn’t a single second of this trail that isn’t a showstopper. If you only have time for one trail, this is the one!
Choose your own afternoon adventure! Ziplining would be our preference at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours! However, the canopy tours have age and weight limits so they may not work for everyone. Fishing, horseback riding, or boating would also be great adventures. 😊
Ash Cave- The last stop of the day is at the southernmost end of the park, about 5 miles from the Old Man’s Cave Visitor Center. There is a small parking lot on the trail side of SR 56 and a larger lot, picnic area, and restrooms on the opposite side of the street. The gorge trail is completely paved up to the cave for those needing accessibility. If able, I would recommend starting at the gorge trail then hiking up behind the waterfall to the rim trail which is approximately 0.6 miles in length roundtrip. At the top of the stairs (approx. 50), take a right to head back to the parking lot via the rim trail. At over 700 ft in length and 100 ft deep, with a 100 ft waterfall cascading over its top, Ash Cave is absolutely breathtaking in its enormity and a spectacular way to end your first day at Hocking Hills!
Cantwell Cliffs- This is a 1-mile loop trail that takes you all the way down and through the massive cliffs into the beautiful, peaceful gorge and then slowly winds back up the stunning cliffs. The rim portion of this trail is wide but watch small children as there is no railing or barrier on the steep cliff ledges. This trail also has a significant number of stairs, that are ridiculously cool (they are carved right into the rock!), however, many are uneven and slippery so watch your step!
Rock House- The Rock House parking lot is approximately 7 miles south of Cantwell Cliffs. This area has two parking lots. I prefer parking in the upper lot and taking the entire gorge trail (start at Waypoint A, end at C). You will have to take a short walk back to your car because the gorge trail will drop you off at the lower lot. Including the short walk back to your car, this trail is 1 mile in length and moderate in difficulty. There are several sets of narrow stone stairs (roughly 200 stairs in total) on the way into the gorge, and switchbacks on the way out. There are a couple of ways into the cave but the entrance on your left, right before the largest set of stairs, is the easiest way in and out. The cave itself is over 200 ft in length, up to 30 ft wide and has you feeling very small with its 25 ft ceiling. It was quite remarkable! To get the most out of this cave experience, bring a flashlight😊
Conkle’s Hollow- The last stop of the day is one of my favorites! Conkle’s Hollow is approximately 5 miles south of Rock House. This area has two great trails. I recommend doing both, but if you only have time for one or have little ones that are not up for two, my favorite is the gorge trail. It’s also the easier of the two and paved 3/4ths of the way. This is an easy, 1-mile roundtrip trail, if you go all the way to the waterfall. I highly recommend going all the way to the end of the gorge trail if able. There is no other way to describe it, other than it looks like it is straight out of a Jurassic Park movie. Between the massive rock ledges, the bright green moss and fern coverage and the eerie fog rolling through, it felt like you were wandering through a movie set. It was unreal, and is a must stop for us every time we visit Hocking Hills! Next, if your crew is up for it, is the rim trail. The rim trail is a 2.5-mile loop, with some VERY steep ledges and unbelievable cliff views. Our kiddos did complete this, but it may not be safe for all kiddos with the significant drop offs. The upside to this strenuous hike, is by far some of the best views in the park😊
Cedar Falls- This 0.6-mile trail takes you down into the gorge for a short hike to the stunning Cedar Falls. This trail starts in the lot that has both the restrooms and shelter area. The trail ends at the parking lot you pass on the way in, so you will have to make a short walk back to your car at the end of your hike. This trail is moderate in difficulty, with some elevations changes on the way in and out of the gorge. As you approach the falls area, keep an eye out for the turtles hanging out in the water!
Whispering Cave- There are several ways to hike to Whispering Cave, however, because the one-way trails are still in place, the easiest and shortest option is to travel back to the Visitor Center and start at Old Man’s Cave. Start at Waypoint Q (right next to the visitor center) and head down into Old Man’s Cave. Follow the trail towards Waypoint E and head south(left) to stay on the Whispering Cave Loop. Do NOT go over the bridge at Waypoint E. When you come to Waypoint OO, head west(right), to continue the Whispering Cave Loop. Whispering Cave will be at Waypoint VV and is your turnaround point to head north(left), back to the visitor center. This loop is just under 4 miles long. If you were looking for a longer hike, you can start this loop at Cedar Falls. Take the Grandma Gatewood Trail to the OO Waypoint, where you can get on the Whispering Cave Loop. The loop will swing you back around to the Grandma Gatewood Trail right above Old Man’s Cave. From Old Man’s Cave, head south on the Grandma Gatewood Trail and back to Cedar Falls. This longer hike is approximately 5.5 miles roundtrip. The Whispering Cave Loop is far less busy than any other trail here. If you are looking for a peaceful hike to end your trip, this is the hike for you!
Hope you have a wonderful adventure!