Adventures in Hocking Hills State Forest: A Comprehensive Guide

Hocking Hills State Forest Trails: A Comprehensive Guide

Hocking Hills State Forest offers a variety of trails, viewpoints, and natural wonders for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply looking to enjoy the scenic beauty, this guide will help you explore the best of what the state forest has to offer.

Popular Trails in Hocking Hills State Forest

Conkle’s Hollow Rim Trail

Conkle’s Hollow Rim Trail is a must-visit for those seeking breathtaking views and unique rock formations. This 2.5-mile loop trail takes you along the rim of Conkle’s Hollow, offering stunning vistas of the gorge below. The trail is moderately difficult, with some steep sections, but the views are well worth the effort.

The trail is well-marked and maintained, featuring several overlook points where you can pause and take in the expansive views of the forest and rock formations. The unique geology of Conkle’s Hollow, including its deep, narrow gorge and high cliffs, makes this trail a favorite among hikers and photographers. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes, as some sections can be slippery, especially after rain.

Rock House Trail

Rock House Trail is a relatively short but rewarding hike. The 0.9-mile loop trail leads to a natural rock formation that resembles a house, complete with windows and a door. The trail is shaded and features a mix of terrain, making it a great option for families.

Rock House is the only true cave in Hocking Hills State Forest, with a ceiling that arches 25 feet high and an interior that extends back 200 feet. The cool, dark interior of the Rock House provides a refreshing break from the heat during summer hikes. Interpretive signs along the trail offer insights into the history and geology of the area, making the hike educational as well as enjoyable.

Old Man’s Cave Trail

Old Man’s Cave Trail is one of the most popular and iconic trails in Hocking Hills State Forest. This 1.5-mile trail takes you through picturesque landscapes, including waterfalls, bridges, and the impressive Old Man’s Cave. The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

Old Man’s Cave is divided into five distinct areas: Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls, and Lower Gorge. Each section offers its own unique beauty, from the tranquil pools and cascading waterfalls to the striking rock formations and dense forests. The trail is family-friendly, with several spots to rest and take photos. Be sure to explore the Devil’s Bathtub, a fascinating whirlpool feature along the way.

Scenic Viewpoints

Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls is a stunning waterfall located within the state forest. The trail to Cedar Falls is a 1-mile hike that winds through lush forests and along a scenic creek. The waterfall itself is one of the largest in the region, offering a serene and beautiful spot for photography and relaxation.

The trail to Cedar Falls is relatively flat and easy, making it accessible for hikers of all ages. The sound of the rushing water and the cool mist from the falls create a peaceful atmosphere. Pack a picnic to enjoy by the falls, and take some time to explore the surrounding area, which is rich with flora and fauna.

Ash Cave

Ash Cave is another must-see natural wonder in Hocking Hills State Forest. The trail to Ash Cave is a short, 0.5-mile walk that is accessible and easy for all visitors. The cave is a massive recess cave, providing a unique and awe-inspiring view. The area is perfect for a leisurely stroll and picnicking.

Ash Cave is the largest recess cave in Ohio, measuring 700 feet from end to end and 100 feet deep. The trail to the cave is wheelchair accessible, making it one of the most inclusive trails in the park. The cave’s impressive size and the gentle trickle of the waterfall create a tranquil and majestic atmosphere. Be sure to visit in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom, adding a splash of color to the scenery.

Hidden Gems

Cantwell Cliffs

Cantwell Cliffs is one of the more remote and less-visited areas in Hocking Hills State Forest. The cliffs offer a challenging hike with rugged terrain and steep inclines. The reward is a series of stunning rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding forest.

The trail at Cantwell Cliffs is divided into an upper and lower route, both of which offer unique perspectives of the cliffs and the surrounding forest. The lower trail takes you through narrow passages and past towering cliffs, while the upper trail provides sweeping views of the area. This trail is best suited for experienced hikers due to its challenging terrain.

Whispering Cave Trail

Whispering Cave Trail is a newer addition to the Hocking Hills trail system. This 1.5-mile trail leads to a large recess cave with a cascading waterfall. The trail is moderately difficult and provides hikers with a quieter, less-crowded experience compared to some of the more popular trails.

Whispering Cave is the second largest cave in the park, and its namesake waterfall creates a soothing whispering sound as it falls. The trail features a mix of terrain, including boardwalks, stairs, and natural paths, making it an adventurous hike. The tranquility of the area and the beauty of the cave and waterfall make this trail a hidden gem worth exploring.

Tips for Hiking in Hocking Hills State Forest

  1. Wear Appropriate Footwear: Trails can be uneven and rocky, so sturdy hiking boots are recommended.
  2. Bring Water and Snacks: Staying hydrated and energized is essential, especially on longer hikes.
  3. Respect the Environment: Stay on designated trails and pack out all trash to help preserve the natural beauty of the forest.
  4. Check Weather Conditions: Trails can be slippery and challenging in wet conditions, so always check the weather forecast before heading out.

Hocking Hills State Forest offers an array of trails and natural wonders that cater to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. From the popular Old Man’s Cave and Conkle’s Hollow to the hidden gems of Cantwell Cliffs and Whispering Cave, there’s something for everyone to explore and enjoy. Plan your adventure today and experience the breathtaking beauty of Hocking Hills State Forest.

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