Posted in Hiking, Park review, Southeastern Ohio

Hocking Hills State Park: Whispering Cave

There’s a newly opened attraction at the Hocking Hills State Park: Whispering Cave. It is a recess cave that’s nearly 300 feet wide with a drizzling, 105-foot waterfall pouring from its upper rim.

Whispering Cave showing the “ceiling” and gorge bottom

Getting Oriented

The new trail is called the Hemlock Bridge Trail. It begins near the parking lot for the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge which is closed for the time being. You’ll find a kiosk for the new trail toward the northwest end of the parking lot (the end opposite from the lodge).

A path leads into the hemlock forest from the kiosk

Below is an excerpt from the official trail map for the Hocking Hills State Park (PDF).

Excerpt from trail map showing three trails around the Whispering Cave
Hemlock Bridge Trail
Entering the hemlock forest

Although there is still a patch or two where springs bubbling out of the ground make the trail a bit muddy, there are short stretches of boardwalk over many of the wetter areas.

Short stretches of boardwalk made for dry walking through many of the wetter areas

After a short hike there are wood-framed, gravel-filled stairs leading to a lower area of the gorge.

Looking back up the stairs

At the foot of the stairway, there is an overlook enclosed by a log fence.

View from the overlook

After following the trail a ways, you come to another staircase, this one hewn out of living rock. This makes me wonder if this portion of the newly opened trail was actually built during the Great Depression when the Civilian Conservation Corp often carved stairways into rock.

Stone stairway carved into the bedrock
Just beyond the stairs

Impressive sandstone cliffs lie just beyond.

Bob standing near one of the cliffs
On the gorge side of the trail

From the trail head for the Hemlock Bridge Trail to the Whispering Cave Trail and finally to the cave itself is a distance of 0.7 miles, so the round trip is a little less than a mile and a half. There is excellent signage where the two trail diverge, so you can’t miss it.

Bob standing near the cliff to provide scale
Trail signs are near the cliff.
Whispering Cave Trail
A choice of trails

We passed a mini-recess cave on the way to the main attraction.

A little recess cave on the way
Fissure in cliff
One of the earliest glimpses of the recess cave as you approach the stairs
Wooden stairs leading to the floor of the recess cave
Stairs leading into the recess cave

Below is the view from the recess cave, looking out onto the gorge. As I mentioned earlier, the waterfalls is a sort of drizzling falls. If you look into the dark, swirly basin to the lower left in the photo below, you can just make out a bit of the water streaming down in front of the darkest part of the basin. If you look at the upper right of the photo below, you can see a fence. This marks the end of the trail through Whispering Cave.

Dark basin to the lower left is where the waterfall empties
In the eroded groove at the top of the cliff, you can see a bit of white which is the start of the waterfall.
Narrow passage through boulders leads to the far end of the recess cave and the trail

On my outbound trip I navigated this just fine. However on returning I stumbled and fell while going through the narrow passage pictured above. It’s dark under the cave ceiling; the sandy floor gives under foot, and it turns out that the trail descended more steeply than I had anticipated which threw me off balance. So it might be worth taking this section more slowly and cautiously than I did.

And here’s a final look back from the end of the trail.

Whispering Cave viewed from the end of the trail

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has put together a really nice video showing what the area looks like; it appears to have been filmed using a drone.

Additional information

  • Directions: From the Visitor Center at Old Man’s Cave, turn left onto OH-664 and drive for about a mile, then turn left again at the entrance for the Hocking Hills State Park Cabins. Follow that park road to the parking lot for the lodge. The trailhead is at the near end of the parking lot.
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.425878, -82.551861
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

More on the Hocking Hills

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

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