Posted in Hiking, Park review, Southeastern Ohio

Hocking Hills State Park: Old Man’s Cave

Hocking Hills State Park is the most popular park in Ohio, and Old Man’s Cave is the most popular location in the park. Old Man’s Cave is not a cave in the traditional sense of an underground limestone cavern. Instead it is a deep gorge with a large, overhanging lip made of erosion-resistant, blackhand sandstone. The stream that runs through the gorge is marked by a series of waterfalls and rapids. This region is known as “Old Man’s Cave” because one side of the gorge has a recess cave where an “old man” used to live. The old man was an 18th-century hermit named Richard Rowe.

Looking down from under the rim of Old Man’s Cave

The Visitor’s Center will be under construction throughout 2018; don’t enter marked construction zones. Nonetheless all trails will remain open.

The Devil’s Bathtub at Old Man’s Cave
Bridge over Falls at Old Man’s Cave

A trail winds through the gorge crossing the stream with a variety of bridges permitting visitors to thoroughly explore the area.

Old Man’s Cave features a large parking area, and a park building with a gift shop, nature exhibit, rest rooms, and a small (take-out) restaurant / grill. A nearby camp allows visitors to stay overnight. Numerous (private) cabins are available for rent in the area. Most cabins feature decks and hot tubs.

Crowds sizes vary with the site being very busy on sunny summer weekends. However the busiest day of the year is in January when the annual Hocking Winter Hike takes place. As many as 5,500 people take part in this annual event beginning at Old Man’s Cave and ending six, snowy miles later at Ash Cave.

Participants in the annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike

There are two hiking trails that link Old Man’s cave to nearby Cedar Falls about 3 miles away. The lower trail begins at the lower end of gorge in the Old Man’s Cave region and follows the stream to Cedar Falls. This part of the trail is a tiny portion of the Buckeye trail, and it’s marked with blue blazes.

Alternatively you can take an upper trail that starts at a path near the main building and then crosses a wooden pedestrian bridge high over the gorge. The first portion of this higher trail follows the gorge rim, but it eventually brings you to Rose Lake and then on to Cedar Falls. For a shorter hike, you can take this trail to Rose Lake and then immediately return to Old Man’s Cave for a total distance of about 3 miles.

The wooden bridge above is the one to take to follow the upper trail.
Rose Lake
During late summer, Cedar Falls becomes just a trickle

When is the best time to visit? I like to go after a few days of heavy rain in the spring, so there will be lots of water in the waterfalls. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, try going mid-week. And it is surprisingly fun to go there on a sunny day in mid-winter because the gorge walls are decked with huge icicles. To hike safely in winter, I recommend staying away from the icy cliff edges. It’s also helpful to wear footwear that slips over your boots and provides extra traction, such as Yaktrax.

Looking down through bridge while wearing YakTrax over hiking shoes.
Additional Information

  • Address: 19852 OH-664, Logan, Ohio 43138
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.4283173, -82.5408262
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

More on Hocking Hills State Park

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

10 thoughts on “Hocking Hills State Park: Old Man’s Cave

    1. Thank you for your kind words about the photos. I am glad you enjoyed them. Warm weather will be reaching you soon, so you can go on nature paths too. 🙂

  1. Very cool … I’m glad you found my site. I’m from Ravenna originally up near Kent State University and spent lots of time at Nelson’s Ledges growing up. They are not quite as stunning as Hocking Hills but were really cool when your a kid! Being a bird watcher I make an almost annual pilgrimage up to Magee Marsh and I generally spend a day or two around Lodi and visit Clear Creek Park. I went to Old Mans Cave a couple of years ago when I was passing through and found the place amazing! Last year I discovered Shawnee State park but only had half a day to explore it so I think I may spend a whole day there this year. I love reading about all the cool places in Ohio as it still feels like home to me! Tom

    1. I didn’t realize that you were from my neck of the woods. I live in central Ohio, but my daughter is a junior at Kent State University this year, so I am visiting that area a bit more than previously. I haven’t been to Nelson Ledges yet, but I’ll try to stop by the next time that I’m in the vicinity. On my last trip there I visited Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve on the way up, and Jackson Bog on the way back.

      A few years ago I put out a few bird feeders, and I’ve found that I have been (willingly) sucked into the bird watching hobby. Besides admiring the birds in my backyard and at a few Metro Parks where they put out feeders, I have been enjoying going to the Hoover Mudflats Boardwalk (part of Hoover Reservoir that provides drinking water for Columbus). There are osprey that nest on platforms that are easily viewable from the boardwalk, plus any number of water fowl. The spring and fall migrations are particulary awesome because I get to see a lot of birds that aren’t around the rest of the year. I’d love to join the pilgrimage to Magee Marsh, but I’ve been hesitating because I’m not sure how to get involved in that. I figure I’d get up there and wouldn’t know where to go or what to look for.

      At any rate I’m glad you stopped by. I look forward to following your blog. 🙂

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