Early spring is the perfect time to enjoy waterfalls, and just a few hours away is Hocking Hills State Park.
The park comprises five separate areas: Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs. Old Man’s Cave is the most popular destination of the five, and located in the Upper Falls section is one of the best falls at the park.
Unique features at each of the five sites makes Hocking Hills State Park the most popular travel destination in Ohio for hikers and nature lovers. Last year BuzzFeed included the park on its list of “22 Stunning Under-The-Radar Destinations to Add to Your Bucket List in 2014.” The geological crowning jewel of Ohio was the only site in the United State to make BuzzFeed’s list, which included exotic locales like French Polynesia.
Hocking Hills is fabulous year-round, and the scenery changes dramatically with the seasons. I was just there a few weeks ago when the waterfalls and huge icicles were beginning to melt. The smaller, seasonal waterfalls will be drying up in a few months, so now is the time to enjoy them all.
Old Man’s Cave
Located off State Route 664, Old Man’s Cave isn’t a cave, but rather a large recess in a 150-foot-deep gorge, its name inspired by a hermit who lived here more than 100 years ago.
Besides the large recess, there’s plenty more to see. The site is divided into the Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls and Lower Gorge. Near the Upper Falls is a don’t-miss natural whirlpool called The Devil’s Bathtub.
The Lower Gorge Trail from Old Man’s Cave will take you to Cedar Falls. The largest and most spectacular waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park is here, where the Queer Creek tumbles into the chasm.
A mile or so from Cedar Falls, after turning right on State Route 56, Ash Cave has a seasonal waterfall created by the East Fork of the Queer Creek. There are two trails, an upper and a lower. The lower trail is paved, flat and wheelchair accessible.
Rock House is midway down a 150-foot cliff. It’s 200 feet long and features seven Gothic-like “windows.” American Indians used it for shelter and built ovens in some of the recesses. After European settlers arrived, it became a hiding place for outlaws and was nicknamed Robbers’ Roost. A loop trail gives you two different ways to get to Rock House.
Not for the faint of heart, Cantwell Cliffs is a breath-taking experience. Located on State Route 374, it is the remotest of the five park sites, 17 miles away from Old Man’s Cave.
A rugged trail offers a heart-pumping descent through extremely narrow passageways to get to the bottom of the gorge. The trail will lead to a recess, where there is a seasonal waterfall.
NEARBY SITES OF INTEREST
Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve
Conkle’s Hollow is another woolly place located off State Route 374. Hikers have two trails to choose from: the scenic floor trail and the even more scenic but very challenging rim trail 200 feet above.
The lower trail is pleasant and leads to beautiful waterfalls. The 2.5-mile-long upper trail may take 2 or 3 hours to complete, and the view from the rim is spectacular.
Rock Bridge State Nature Preserve
Located outside the town of Rockbridge, just off U.S. Route 33, Rock Bridge is the longest of several dozen natural bridges in the state of Ohio. The stone arch is more than 100 feet long; 20 feet at its widest and about 6 feet at its narrowest; and 50 feet above a ravine.