Hocking Hills Hiking: 7 Unforgettable Trails

Southern Ohio boasts a wealth of natural beauty, and hiking is the best way to experience the area’s rugged rock formations, deep gorges, and abundant waterfalls. Discover our favorite trails in Hocking Hills State Park in this handy guide.

Emily Trostel Avatar
Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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The Hocking Hills region of Ohio is the state’s best-kept secret for out-of-towners. While the state is flat for the most part, the geography of the southern portion of Ohio is more similar to rugged West Virginia than its northern plains. 

Hocking County and Hocking Hills State Park are known for their extraordinary geology and beautiful falls. Deep gorges, caves, and cliffs formed from the area’s unique, 300-million-year-old Black Hand Sandstone, make this area a sight to behold at any time of year.

Ready to explore it for yourself? Read on to discover our 7 favorite trails in the area!

1. Rock House

Rock House
An occasionally steep but otherwise moderate trail to one of the area’s most impressive rock features.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 1 mile
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Rock House is the only true cave in the Hocking Hills and is located halfway up a 150-foot cliff of Black Hand Sandstone. The hike to reach it is short and sweet at just a mile long, but rated moderate for sections with a steep gradient and rocky steps.

Hikers can enter from both the upper and lower parking lot. Both trails meet at the Rock House, which has windows looking out over the lush valley below and soaring ceilings that resemble a natural cathedral.

RELATED READING: For more outdoor adventure, finding more great hiking in Ohio is easy with our guide.

2. Cantwell Cliffs

Cantwell Cliffs
A short but hugely rewarding hike through fairytale scenery.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Located in the northernmost section of the state park, about 10-15 miles from the other areas, the Cantwell Cliffs Loop is one of the least crowded of the hiking trails on our list.

The highlight of this hike is the 150-foot sandstone cliff over which a pretty waterfall flows from Buck Run in the spring and summer months. 

Park visitors often call the towering cliffs the most picturesque section. Others are happy to simply satisfy their curiosity by checking out the, um, quirkily named Fat Woman’s Squeeze, a narrow slot canyon near the trailhead.

Expect a sharp climb or two, fascinating geology, uneven stairs, and washed-out portions of trail. 

3. The Ash Cave Gorge Trail

Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park
A family-friendly and accessible hike through a simply stunning gorge.
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: .5 mile
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ash Cave Gorge is a unique destination for the whole family and is arguably the most impressive feature in the park. This massive, horseshoe-shaped cave is 700 feet long and was used as a shelter by early inhabitants and travelers. 

The Gorge Trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible and follows an easy path through a narrow gorge lined with hardwood trees. In the spring and early summer, you’ll see plentiful wildflowers and a misty waterfall. Just past Ash Cave, the Gorge Trail connects to the more challenging and rugged Rim Trail.

4. Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls
Another family friendly-hike with a fantastic waterfall finish!
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 1 mile
  • Difficulty: Easy

Just under a mile long, the Cedar Falls Trail is another of the more popular areas for families to hike. This short hike along Queer Creek connects to the longer Gorge Overlook or Grandma Gatewood trails for those who want to prolong the fun.

Cedar Falls is the greatest waterfall in the area and is accessed by an easy walk through a beautiful hemlock forest. The falls stretch 50 feet skyward, and in the winter months freeze to create an otherworldly winter wonderland.

5. Old Man’s Cave Trail, Lower and Upper Falls

Old Man's Cave
One of the best waterfall hikes in the state.
  • Type: Out and Back 
  • Length: 5+ miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

This route was named after a man who lived in the main (and impressive) recess cave of the gorge carved by Old Man’s Creek in the 18th century. The trail begins at the visitor’s center and flanks the creek beneath tall Blackhand Sandstone Cliffs, passing multiple waterfalls along the way. 

With easy connections to Upper and Lower Falls, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave via the Buckeye and Grandma Gatewood Trail, the Old Man’s Cave hike is a popular option for those looking to rack up more mileage.

The area is one of the most visited in the park. It can get crowded, especially if you visit on weekends during the summer and fall. 

6. Whispering Cave Trail

Whispering Cave hocking hills
This mini-adventure is sure to appeal to all the budding Indiana Joneses!
  • Type: Loop
  • Length: 5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Whispering Cave/Hemlock Bridge Trail features a swinging bridge, waterfall, steeper terrain, and airy cliff edges that make it the ideal adventure for hikers seeking a bit more of a thrill. 

Park at Old Man’s Cave, then take the Old Man’s Cave Trail to the turnoff. Alternatively, many hikers choose to combine this trail with Cedar Falls for a popular 6-mile loop through the woods, where you’ll find plenty of other rock features, narrow passageways, and landmarks to explore along the way.

The loop is currently one-way and must be completed as a full 5-mile loop. 

7. Conkle’s Hollow Gorge and Rim Trail

Conkle's Hollow hocking hills
Waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and dramatic cliffs are just a few of the highlights of this thrilling little loop.
  • Type: Loop 
  • Length: 1-2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Conkle’s Hollow is one of the deepest gorges in Ohio and one of the top attractions in the area. 

There are two trails here.

For an easy waterfall hike, check out the mile-long, out-and-back Gorge Trail, a mostly flat, easy-going hiking that’s suitable for all hiking levels.

For a more challenging hike, check out the popular Rim Trail, a 2.5-mile loop that follows the cliffs and serves up view after view of intriguing rock formations. The upper trail also passes many rocky outcrops that make for the perfect spot to watch a sunset! Because there are some sections with steep drops, this hike is not recommended for young children.

Further Ohio fun:

Hocking Hills Hiking: A Family-Friendly Destination Like No Other!

Hocking Hills is, without a doubt, one of the best destinations for outdoor recreation in Ohio. With beautiful scenery, soaring cliffs, waterfalls, fabled caves, gorgeous rock gorges, and hiking trails for all abilities to be seen and explored, this is one area that any Midwest hiker won’t want to miss! 

Have you done any great Hocking Hills hiking trails that we missed? Let us know in the comments box below! And if you’d like to share this post with your friends, share away!

Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Emily Trostel Avatar

Emily is an adventure travel professional, writer, and former educator. Growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, Emily’s wanderlust and love for the outdoors took hold early—she was a total summer camp kid, and spent four semesters studying abroad in college.

After moving to Wyoming to earn her MFA, she spent the next few years backpacking, hiking, and rock climbing throughout the western United States while working as an English teacher, outdoor educator, and trip leader.

Now based in Vermont with her wife and three dogs, Emily has combined her passion for travel and the outdoors into a career – she scouts and develops hiking trips around the world, including the Camino de Santiago, Peru’s Sacred Valley, and throughout the Alps. She also loves food, wine, literature, and open water swimming, and will always say yes to hot springs, saunas, and bluegrass music.

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