OLD MAN'S CAVE

Logan, Ohio

OLD MAN'S CAVE

Located in southeastern Ohio, Old Man’s Cave is one of the most popular natural wonders of the Appalachian basin, bringing in thousands of visitors from all over the world every month. Old Man’s Cave 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. Old Man’s Cave is located on Route 664 S, across from the parking lot at Hocking Hills State Park.

A breathtaking sight to behold year round, the park features towering sandstone cliffs, several cascading waterfalls, and deep, tree-shaded gorges for hikers and explorers of all ages. The main cave is a natural formation, carved from the gorge by the flow of the Salt Creek and thousands of years of melting glaciers. The gorge itself runs about 1/2 mile and reaches a depth of 150 feet with cliffs on either side. The area is marked by five distinct areas, including Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls, and Lower Gorge.

Old Man’s Cave is full of hiking trail options, with several connecting to other areas of the State Park. Along the looping trail visitors will enjoy fantastic rock formations such as Devil’s Bathtub and Sphinx Head, as well as 2 artistic bridge constructions and moss-covered cliff faces.

 

 

INFO

Park Office


Park Location

  • Old Man’s Cave
    19988 OH-664 Scenic
    Logan, OH 43138

Hours

  • 7am - 9pm

Park GPS Coordinates

  • Lattidude: 39.437740
  • Longitude: -82.537979

Features

  • Length : 10.8 mi Hike Time : 60-90 minutes Elevation Gain : 1049 ft Route Type : Point to Point Difficulty : Moderate

Hike Old Man’s Cave

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 Old Man’s Cave and enjoy this relaxing walk in nature.

History of Old Man's Cave

Hocking Hills is filled with history and mystery. It is no wonder people love to come visit the hills and see all the splendor and fun activities it has to offer. Curious adventurers will enjoy exploring trails and caves like Old Man’s Cave. This one mile long trail is short which makes it great for families and people who just want a quick trip through history. Find out why people love coming from near and far to hike Old Man’s Cave.

Old Man’s Cave History

Nothing beats the geological and anthropological history of the recess caves in Hocking Hills. During the last ice age, the northern half of Ohio was covered by a mile-high glacier which flattened the land. The southern part of Ohio rests on the Allegheny Plateau, a large plateau spanning from central New York to the north, through Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, to West Virginia in the south. Since this plateau wasn’t flattened by the ice, there are more natural hills and valleys in the region and Hocking County is considered to rest in the Appalachian Basin, at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains region which extend to the south.

As glaciers melted, the water that flowed down from the northern melt and carved into the soft Blackhand Sandstone in the region with centuries of gradual erosion, forming the natural rock outcroppings and unique rock sculptures we appreciate today. The soft sandstone sediment is named Blackhand Sandstone in honor of a black handprint found in the caves around what is now Newark, Ohio, likely left by some of the earliest humans in the area several thousand years ago.

The Old Man

Once known as Retzler’s Cave, Old Man’s Cave was thus named by travelers who wanted to see the bones of an old man found in the cave in the late 1800s laying with an old flintlock rifle. The stories began in the 1870s to 1880s about the body of a man and dog found in a cave near Cedar Grove, Ohio, presumably a trapper. By 1907, the legends had grown to include the trapper’s name as Retzler and his loyal dog, Harper. By the 1960s, the name Retzler had been all but forgotten and the fictitious legal name of Richard Roe was mistakenly given to the trapper of Old Man’s Cave. He had migrated to Ohio with his family from the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee. He eventually settled in the Hocking Hills, and he is purportedly buried in the cave.

historical photo of old man's cave in hocking hills
Two young women descend a rock-cut staircase at Old Man’s Cave, via the Ohio Guide Collection.

According to local historians, someone lived at least briefly in the cave beginning in 1796, either our Retzler-Rowe character or two brothers documented in the area at the time named Nathaniel and Pat Rayon. They built a cabin near Old Man’s Cave, and it is rumored that they are buried either in the cave or nearby. This legend of the cave was almost forgotten but some still find it an interesting piece of lore about Old Man’s Cave, which remains one of the most popular trails in Hocking Hills. It is said that the ghost of the old man and his dog still hang around the creek in the gorge.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that various indigenous groups occupied Old Man’s Cave well before Mr. Rowe arrived. Archaeologists have documented American Indians visiting and inhabiting the region perhaps as far back as 7,000 years ago. The Shawnee, the Wyandot, and the Lenape (Delaware) Indian tribes all occupied the area at various times in the 1600s and 1700s. Evidence at Ash Cave, another feature of Hocking Hills State Park, suggests that these early tribes lived and hunted in and around the Old Man’s Cave region for centuries before European settlers arrived.

In 1924, the State of Ohio purchased 146 acres of land in the Hocking Hills. This purchase included Old Man’s Cave and the other notable landmarks and trails of the area. First owned and operated by the Ohio Department of Forestry, in 1949, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Division of Parks assumed control of Old Man’s Cave.

Trekking the Trail

Old Man Cave is heavily trafficked because it is a short and popular trail. Located near South Bloomingville, Ohio, there is a waterfall that kids and families love to visit. All skill levels will enjoy this easy going trail experience. Hiking and walking are encouraged from April until October and dogs are welcome, as long as they’re leashed. The trail elevation is 42 feet and loops around so people can easily navigate in and back out again. Some people might enjoy taking the trail from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar falls and Ash Cave, part of the Grandma Gatewood Trail that is six miles long. The trail is also part of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail, part of two national systems – the North Country Scenic Trail and America’s Discovery Trail. Those who love longer hikes might consider adding Old Man’s Cave to their walk along with these other amazingly scenic trails.

Five Fun Sections

What people may not realize when they come hiking Old Man’s Cave trail is all the different varieties of scenery they will find. Because of its geological history, there are deep gorges and waterfalls that make it fun for everyone to enjoy. Check them out:

Upper Falls: a famous spot in the cave with a beautiful waterfall and bridge over the top to see it. A great place for a photo or to enjoy the breathtaking scenery

Devil’s Bathtub: where the water goes down, as legend says, all the way to Hades. Signs tell visitors and explorers not to go down because they may not get out

A-Frame Bridge: man-made path under the A-Frame Bridge makes it fun for everyone to explore the trail and views

Sphinx Head: rock formation that is named appropriately (according to some). View it from a distance for the best perspective. There is a trail marker that alerts visitors to this beautiful, natural rock formation

Lower Falls: one of the most famous sites on the trail. The bridge looks so ancient, it could be from the prehistoric age. Adventurous trail hikers are welcome to cross and head down to the water where Lower Falls run over the rocks

Finishing the Trail

Near the end of a hiker’s walk through Old Man’s Cave, there will be a wonderful surprise: a Naturalist Cabin! And who doesn’t love a little cabin after wandering through the woods. At certain times of the day, a naturalist will be there to help answer questions or offer information on the trail. This signals the end of the trail. Congratulations! Welcome back to the Old Man’s Cave Visitor’s Center for special events and exhibits everyone can enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A: Old Man’s Cave is a picturesque hiking trail at the north end of Hocking Hills State Park. This area is made up of eight trail routes. It is possible to access these other trails for a more challenging experience.

A: Hocking Hills State Park is open dawn to dusk for visitors year round. Plan the trip to exit the cave and trail before dark.

A: Anyone is welcome to try this fairly easy and accessible trail. Due to uneven steps and steep inclines, it is not accessible for those with mobility issues or wheelchairs. Great for older children, teens and adults.

A: Dogs are welcome but must be on leash at all times.

A: There are some spots like bridges and look out points that might be tricky for some inexperienced hikers. Along the way are places to view the gorge but going in unassisted is not recommended. Hikers should be mindful of steep inclines, uneven steps and cliff edges. The waterfalls and water areas are not for swimming, just viewing.

A: Wear proper gear when going hiking, including protective shoes for climbing and navigating slippery rocks. A back pack may be helpful to carry supplies like band-aids, water, snacks, and a camera for pictures. The lighter the better when hiking.

Hocking Hills is filled with history and mystery. It is no wonder people love to come visit the hills and see all the splendor and fun activities it has to offer. Curious adventurers will enjoy exploring trails and caves like Old Man’s Cave. This one mile long trail is short which makes it great for families and people who just want a quick trip through history. Find out why people love coming from near and far to hike Old Man’s Cave.