Everything you wanted to know about Hocking Hills caves and waterfalls
There are so many Hocking Hills caves and waterfalls it’s sometimes hard to keep them straight — or figure out which hike makes the most sense if you only have an afternoon to visit.
To help narrow down the search, ask yourself what you’re looking for. Do you want an easy, short hike that includes a destination waterfall? Do you want a longer hike that ends in a cave? Remember that for the best waterfall-siting you should go during the rainy season. For most of these falls, the wetter the climate that week the better the views.
Here’s the thing: If you are hiking along steep rock face, like most of the hikes in Hocking Hills, you’ll see a lot of water running down. There are so many creeks winding through the Hocking Hills region, combined with so many gorges and cliffs, running water is part of the beauty of the area.
Essentially, if all you are looking for is water falling over rocks, you have the ability to see hundreds of little waterfalls on any of the many hikes through Hocking Hills. However, if you are looking for a “destination waterfall” then you’ll want to check out Cedar Falls or Whispering Falls.
The same rules apply for caves. You'll spy a variety of little nooks and crannies in the sandstone and cliff rock faces of these hikes. But for the real whammies, you’ll want to go to a hike that ends with the area’s most famous caves.
Here’s our list for everything you need to know about Hocking Hills Caves and Waterfalls.
Recess caves: Ash Cave and Old Man’s Cave
Hocking Hills is famous for its caves — but these types of caves may not be what you are visualizing. These are not simple holes in a wall of stone; rather, they are recess caves with overhanging cliffs that jut out hundreds of feet above you. Once you stand beneath one of these beautiful behemoths you’ll never forget it.
Ash Cave is going to be the easiest hike, with a stroller and handicap accessible walk way, 1/2 mile into the woods, leading you to the largest recess cave in Ohio. You’ll find yourself standing underneath solid rock, mesmerized by the massive formation 100 feet above you. This is said to be the largest recess cave in Ohio.
Another recess cave destination is Old Man’s Cave. This hike does not have a built walkway, and you’ll find yourself hiking along a dirt trail and going down rock steps to get to your destination. This massive cave, with its magnificent ledges above and gorgeous details of years of erosion lining the sandstone, shocks even the most seasoned Hocking Hills cave enthusiast. If you are lucky and it’s recently rained, you’ll have plunge waterfalls at both of these caves. A “plunge” waterfall, when water drops from very high down to the stream below, are sights to behold.
The “caviest” cave: Rockhouse
This crowd-pleasing cave destination hike will impress even the most stubborn anti-cavist (if that exists!). A short (but steep) hike through the woods and you’ll find yourself standing beneath the rock ceiling, surrounded by rock walls inside Rockhouse. You can actually imagine native American Indians taking shelter here long ago. Bonus: Kids love it here, and really let their imaginations go wild weaving and in out of the various rock rooms.
The classic waterfall: Cedar Falls
Where a plunge waterfall is essentially water dropping down from high above, Cedar Falls is the go-to for your more traditional cascading waterfall. The short hike is only a 1/2 mile-long trail to the most famous waterfall in Hocking Hills.
Important note: Bundle up and take this hike in the winter. Frozen waterfalls are definitely a real thing, and not just some new dessert. Of all the waterfall viewing in Hocking Hills, seeing Cedar Falls frozen may be even more rewarding than melted water.
Best hike for both cliffs and falls: Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve
Although not inside a cave, it’s pretty neat to find yourself inside a gorge. This steep-walled hike between 200-foot-high walls makes you imagine how moving water shaped the cliffs. There are a few waterfalls along this gorge trail, but the most spectacular comes at the end, where you’ll find a 20-foot waterfall.
Waterfall along-the-way: Whispering Falls
Check out this beauty on your way from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls through Queer Creek Gorge. It’s a beautiful and isolated two-mile hike, with steep inclines and, at times, narrow passageways. Worth the trouble though — halfway through you’ll encounter the beautiful 100-foot Whispering Falls.
Let’s say you go during the dry season? No worries. Head to one of the Hocking Hills recess caves and crouch down in your own little crevasse. Close your eyes, and listen to the echoes the forest sounds make against the sandstone. Take a deep breath. It seems like you could sit under that overhang forever.
Want to see them all?
Looking over the list and realizing you’ve got to take the time to see them all? Check out available cabins in Hocking Hills.