The best adventures are full of good stories for later, and this adventure to Hocking Hills has some great campfire stories to dig up in the future. I had never heard of Hocking Hills until my sister was researching waterfalls in Ohio to see for a weekend trip. The trip had two goals-hike some cool trails and meetup with a longtime friend from Pennsylvania. After seeing pictures of Hocking Hills, we knew that this was where we wanted to go.
The cheapest place around for camping that had anything available was the hike-in, primitive portion of Hocking Hills State Campground called Caves Campground. The fun started when we realized that our hike in was much further than we were told, and we promptly decided that if we were to camp there again we were either going to pack lighter or just camp somewhere else. We had beautiful weather though. Cool at night, warm during the day and no rain. Couldn’t have asked for a prettier weekend to be outside.
We set out hiking mid-morning on Saturday, and quickly discovered that Hocking Hills is a huge tourist destination. Parking filled up quick at the head and end of the trail we were going to hike. We started at the Hocking Hills main parking lot by Old Man’s Cave and headed down the trail toward Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. The trail was wide and spread with gravel with low elevation change for the first portion from the parking lot to Cedar Falls which was our first stop. It was about 2.5 miles to the Falls and all along the way there were some spots you could look into the gorge, and you started seeing bits of the sandstone cliff faces.
Before we got to the falls, we came to a dammed lake that was so serene and calm. The reflections from the sky were crystal clear in the lake. The colors were just starting to turn where we were in OH, but it was still gorgeous. Walked a little further on and came upon Cedar Falls.
We had seen along the way areas where water should have been, so we started to realize that this area was going through a really dry season. So Cedar Falls wasn’t near as impressive as it should have been. Still, the sandstone cliffs towering above you and the scenery all around was beautiful. This was the first of three gorge areas we would walk around, and while it was beautiful, it didn’t quite compare to the next spots. (I’m sure if the water had been to the level it was supposed to be we would have changed our minds.)
After eating our lunch next to the waterfall, we traveled on to Ash Cave. This trail started getting more narrow and you needed to watch your feet to not trip over roots. It also started going more uphill. Still not super strenuous. We saw people from all age groups out there hiking. If you are in good shape, you should be able to hike these trails. We found out that you can park really close to each of these areas that we saw, and just walk in from the parking lot without walking the 4.5 miles we did. We also found that many of the trails are one way, from the parking lots to the hotspots, something to be aware of as you are walking around.
When we came upon Ash Cave, I think all of us uttered the word, “WOW!” The cliffs here are much taller than Cedar Falls and it feels like you’ve walked into another world. It was so cool walking under the huge ledges and seeing all the different colors in the stone. It felt like you had walked into a massive bowl and were just surrounded by sandstone.
The next day was even better. We realized we were running out of energy and time to see Old Man’s Cave on Saturday, so we decided to pack all of our stuff up and hike Old Man’s Cave before we had to leave on Sunday morning. This turned out to be the best idea ever. We got to the trailhead around 9:30, ahead of most of the tourists, and had the trail mostly to ourselves. You start at the main parking lot by the information center and go immediately down into a gorge.
This hike is about a 1-mile loop through a gorge and was by far the coolest of the hikes we did. You walk under cliff faces, there were some areas where we did a little climbing and exploring in crags and a small cave/tunnel. There were two small tunnels on the trail, and it was just generally amazing! If you just do one hike there, this is the one you want to do! Highly recommend getting down there early to avoid the rush of tourists and residents! I’m sure many of the areas would look completely different if there was the full amount of water running in the streams and waterfalls. There should have been a couple of other waterfalls along this hike, but there was nothing. And I can only imagine what it would look like with full fall colors!
All-in-all it was a great and memorable weekend! The area of Hocking Hills is gorgeous and there were other spots we hadn’t even seen yet! Highly recommend visiting even if it is for a short weekend like we did. Already want to do another trip down there in the future. This place will forever live in my mind.
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