People come from all over the world to see the beautiful parks and trails of Hocking Hills. Our little slice of the Appalachian basin is home to some of the most enchanting natural rock formations and forest groves in North America. Or at least we’d like to think so.
If you’ve come to hike the Hocking Hills, you’ll have over 60 miles of hiking trails throughout the county and parks. There are an additional 40 miles of bridle trails open to both horseback riders and bicyclists. Some of these trails are fairly rugged terrain, suitable for seasoned hikers looking for a challenge, while others are paved and flat to enable hikers of all ages and abilities to enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest.
Top 5 Trails to Hike in Hocking Hills
The Hocking Hills State Park trail system consists of 7 primary trails, which can all be found here at GoHocking.com. Our 5 favs are;
There are several smaller trails to hike within the parks, as well as a few hidden gems on semi-private land (but you’ll have to talk to the locals about those!).
Old Man’s Cave
Certainly the most famous of the hiking trails in Hocking, Old Man’s Cave offers a range of natural sites. You travel down into the gorge on rocky stone steps and along a lower gorge trail surrounded by moss-covered rock walls and towering hemlock trees. The park has installed some beautiful stone bridges and a decades-old tunnel empties out in the massive sandstone cave with a glistening waterfall and views of the mysterious Sphynx head rock formation. If you only do one trail in Hocking, do Old Man’s Cave.
Ash Cave is a beautiful and leisurely hike along a flat paved pathway from the parking area along Highway 56 to the massive sandstone recess cave at the rear of the gorge. The trail is surrounded by trees and wildflowers and has a 100 foot natural spring waterfall tipping over the rim of the cave.
The hiking trail leading to the famous Rock House is a bit more challenging than others but a rewarding experience when you finally see this enormous natural stone house carved out of the sandstone. Used as a shelter for indigenous Indians for centuries, Rock House has 2 defensible entrances and some natural windows in the rock.
Branching off of the Old Man’s Cave hiking trail, Cedar Falls is a moderate hike down into a streambed gorge that leads back to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Hocking Hills State Park. Hikers and explorers love to get their picture in front of the big crashing white waters before looping back up to the upper trails leading to the rest of the park.
For hikers looking for a bit more of a challenge, Cantwell Cliffs offers a higher terrain for hiking as well as some pretty incredible views of the forest canopy. The towering cliff walls are a great way to appreciate the natural black sandstone rock that forms the beautiful rock formations throughout the Hocking Hills region.
Hiking Tips in Hocking Hills
The trails, parks, and waterfalls of Hocking used to be considered the best kept secret in the Midwest, or certainly in Ohio. But no more. The word is out and the trails are often quite busy throughout the year, but particularly in the summer months. Arrive as early as possible for the smallest crowds, parks open at 9am officially. Remember to bring water and stay hydrated out there. If you’re hiking in the winter, check with the Park Rangers before heading out on the trail because sometimes the ice blocks entire portions of the path and it’s good to know where the dangerous, slippery areas are in the park.
All the parks require hikers to stay on the marked trails and to keep dogs leashed. Sadly, every year a tourist decides he or she is absolved of these rules and wanders off-trail to take a selfie on the cliff and falls, getting badly injured or worse. Please take caution while hiking. It also goes without saying but we ask all visitors to treat the trails as their own and leave no trace by bringing trash and items back to the parking lot waste bins.
- Stay on the Trails
- Keep pets on a leash
- Leave no trace
- Respect the other hikers and Park Rangers
- Drink plenty of water
- Get some great photos (and tag @go.hocking on Instagram)
- Enjoy your hike and the natural beauty of Hocking