Chapel Cave is a large chapel-shaped, recess cave located off a bridle trail in the Hocking State Forest. The cave is also known as Twenty One Horses Cave because it is reputed to be big enough to hold 21 horses (with their riders).
This posting is the last of a series of hikes we took starting at the parking lot for the Rock climbing and Rappelling Area of the Hocking State Forest. The trailhead for Chapel Cave is located on the north end of this parking lot. It’s a bridle trail marked with white blazes.
We hiked to the cave in mid-September on a cool sunny weekend. There were quite a few horseback riders on the trail that day. As we were traveling on foot, the trail was muddy in places and would be very muddy in the early spring.
The trail parallels a small creek in Long Hollow. The hills on either side of the creek are heavily forested with hemlock and in some places beech trees. Exposed rock outcroppings add to the scenery of the trail.
After about a mile, we noticed a large outcropping overlooking a side hollow. The trail splits here (though it’s not clearly marked) and heads up the side hollow towards a box canyon.
Shortly after the trail began running parallel to the rock outcropping, we were able to see the opening into Chapel Cave. As we reached the cave, we noted that it was already occupied. A group of three riders were in the cave on their horses. With a high ceiling the cave is big enough to ride a horse into without dismounting. We exchanged greetings and the riders told us they’d been to Table Top Rock (also known as Balanced Rock) earlier in the day. Together with Airplane Rock and Indian Head Rock, Hocking State Forest is their favorite place for horseback riding. I can see why!
After they left, we explored the cave. For a sandstone recess cave, it was quite tall and went back a ways, but the entrance is easily visible from anywhere in the cave.
We ate our lunch on a nearby rock ledge and returned. From our vantage point we were looking across a ravine. It turns out that there is another trail that goes up these hills on that side. If you’d like you can hike up on that side and view the cave from farther away.
On the way back we spoke to a group on horseback, and learned that the box canyon containing Chapel Cave has a seasonal waterfall at one end in the spring time.
The total distance for the hike was about one and three-quarters mile (round trip).
- TrekOhio: Hocking County Parks and Preserves — This is the county where Chapel Cave is located; check out this page for links to the official site and its resources, and to learn more about nearby parks and preservers.
- TrekOhio: Overview of Hiking Trails in the Hocking Hills