Cantwell Cliffs doesn’t get as much attention as Old Man’s Cave but it has been described as the most picturesque location in the Hocking Hills, with trails containing some of the park’s most beautiful features. It is one of the 7 major hiking trails in Hocking Hills State Park, located in Southeastern Ohio about an hour SE of Columbus on Route 33 in Hocking County.
Towering over 150 feet high, the cliffs overlook Buck Run, a creek that spills over a portion of the cliffs forming a waterfall. Erosion from the waterfall has created the deep valley and rock formations below.
Hearty explorers can access Cantwell Cliffs by way of two trails, the Valley Floor Trail or the Rim Trail. The East Rim Trail offers a breathtaking scenic view of the cliff and rock shelter at Lookout Point. Hikers approaching the rock shelter must squeeze through narrow passageways caused by large slump blocks that have fallen away from the main cliff. It’s one of the more adventurous hikes in the park and a must-see!
HIKE CANTWELL CLIFFS
The Hocking Hills State Park system includes Ash Cave, Old Man's Cave, Rock House, Conkle's Hollow, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs, and Whispering Cave Trail. Each offers something truly unique and wonderful, with over 25 miles of one-way looped trail systems that are open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk. From forested trails to massive natural rock formations, the Hocking Hills region is a breathtaking gem hidden in the upper Appalachian Basin for all to visit and enjoy.
Download a Trail Map for Cantwell Cliffs and enjoy this relaxing walk in nature.
Hike Cantwell Cliffs in Hocking Hills
Cantwell Cliffs can be deceiving at first sight. Though it is a short loop, the adventurous spirits who travel these trails often come for the remote location and challenging climb. Waterfalls will bring awe and wonder to anyone who enters but not everyone is up for the elevation change. Be prepared with the right gear and get ready for the experience of a lifetime once you step foot inside this outrageously beautiful and scenic part of Hocking Hills State Park.
Like many regions of Hocking Hills State Park, this natural wonder did not appear overnight. It developed over millions of years. The cliffs overlook a beautiful gorge where water slowly eroded the infamous sandstone of the region. A ravine was born and because sandstone is very porous, the cliffs emerged over time. The gorge is surrounded by cliffs on three sides, approximately 150 feet in height. Buck Run boasts a waterfall that brings many visitors to the park to experience the awe of this natural wonder.
While the name suggests people may have once ran away from deer, that is simply not the case. Buck Run is actually named after the area’s creek that caused erosion, leading to the waterfall visitors see today. This gorge is one of the deepest in Ohio with a tremendous overhang cave known as rock shelter. An iconic feature is a narrow passage everyone who hikes must go through to get inside the gorge. This passage is named Fat Woman’s Squeeze.
Mind the Gap
A narrow passage named Fat Woman’s Squeeze cuts through the gorge to the interior where visitors can experience stunning views of vegetation growing on its sides. Hiking this narrow passage and even scaling the cliffs is how many visitors like to experience this area of Cantwell Cliffs. Birds and insects are alive and buzzing inside the gorge. The gap can feel like it puts visitors between a rock and a hard place but most people will slip comfortably through. This short but sweet passageway opens up to the gorge and views that will make anyone’s jaw drop open. There will be some steps along the way so sturdy shoes are a must.
Challenging but Exciting
Every trail in Hocking Hills State Park has its own unique personality. Some are long and winding, others are steep while yet others are short and sweet. That’s what visitors to Cantwell Cliffs encounter when they come to hike. The loop takes around an hour or less, depending how long hikers plan to stay on the trail. There are several other trails to choose from but this one is known for being challenging in elevation and ‘putting the squeeze’ on hikers. The fall colors are miraculous to see while spring and summer bring flora and fauna in abundance across Cantwell and beyond. Don’t hesitate to check out this short loop. You won’t regret having tried it.
A: Cantwell is for moderate to experienced hikers due to the elevation changes and stairs. Young children may not be able to climb as well as older children. Dogs are welcome on leash.
A: People come from all over to hike Hocking Hills. This trail is known for its tight passageway and gorgeous cliff views. The stunning gorge is one of the most spectacular in all of Hocking Hills.
A: Cantwell Cliffs is named after the Cantwell family. Like many trails, this family were settlers in the region from Virginia. One of the brothers in this family died in the cliffs. They have other areas in Ohio named after them as well.
A: The Cantwell Cliffs Falls flows over the roof of a large recess cave. Most water on the waterfall will come after heavy rain or during spring snowmelt, making these times the best to see water coming down. The recess cave is worth visiting even when water does not flow over the top.
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