Is Old Man’s Cave the Best Hike in Ohio?

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If someone mentions Ohio, what comes to mind – Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati?  Perhaps you envision a specific college or pro sports team.  

Does hiking cross your mind?  How about southeast Ohio?

Tucked away in a forgotten part of the state, you can find nature’s treasureOld Man’s Cave, the primary attraction in Hocking Hills State Park, is calling your name.  

Let’s explore the question – is Old Man’s Cave the best hike in Ohio?

OLD MAN’S CAVE

Where is Old Man’s Cave?

Old Man’s Cave is located in Logan, Ohio within the beautiful Hocking Hills State Park.

Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills State Park is nestled in the Hocking Hills region of southeast Ohio.  The area boasts lush forests, scenic hiking trails, varied rock formations, recess caves and waterfalls.  

Old Man’s Creek runs through the valley.  The gorge carves through the entire 150-foot thick Black Hand Sandstone.

There are 7 different hiking areas in the park.  Old Man’s Cave is the pinnacle of these hikes.  

With so many great day hikes through the gorgeous Appalachian landscape, Hocking Hills is one of the top state parks in Ohio.

Old Man’s Cave history

How did Old Man’s Cave get its name?  In the 1800s, an “old man” named Richard Rowe supposedly made the cave his home.  The legend has been passed down for generations, and the name stuck.

Old Man’s Cave hiking

Old Man’s Cave is alluring.  The forest canopy provides shade and blocks out noise from the outside world.  Tall, mature trees welcome you with a friendly, light breeze.  You can hear the waterfalls calling in the distance.  No matter the season, this place is breathtaking.

The sandstone varies in composition and hardness throughout these hills.  This gives you a variety of rock formations to explore.  You can see recess caves, cross-bedding, honeycomb weathering and slump blocks all within the park.

Old Man’s Cave offers a cornucopia of features.  As the sights change along the forested trails, so will the terrain.  You will encounter waterfalls, caves, tunnels, stone bridges, wooden bridges and stairs.  

The changing landscapes will delight and challenge you.  There are many beautiful places throughout the state of Ohio.  I gladly challenge you to find another hike in Ohio that offers this many rewards, both visually and physically.

Old Man’s Cave trails

Old Man’s Cave is divided into five sections along the park trails:

  • Upper Falls
  • Upper Gorge
  • Middle Falls
  • Lower Falls
  • Lower Gorge

Trails are well marked and easy to find.  The main route is Grandma Gatewood Trail to Gorge Exit Trail.  Note that this is a one way loop trail system

The full hiking circuit is 1.5 miles long, taking you to Upper Falls, Lower Falls and Old Man’s Cave.  To hike the longer loop, take Exit 2 to begin the Exit Trail.

If you decide to skip Lower Falls, you can take Exit 1.  I do not recommend this, as you will miss a few treasures on one of the best hiking trails in Ohio.  The shorter loop makes this a 1.0 mile stroll.

Most people rate this hike as moderate due to the large number of steps.  I agree with this rating.  It can be slippery in spots, especially after a rainfall.   To make it to the top of the Exit Trail, you will climb a set of steep stairs through a tunnel.

You can find a trail map at the Hocking Hills State Park site.

OLD MAN’S CAVE THINGS TO SEE

Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center

I recommend that you stop at the Hocking Hills State Park Visitor CenterPark maps are available.

The inside of the visitor center is very nice.  It feels like a lodge.  There are educational displays so you can learn more about the history and formation of the area.

You will find restroom facilities and vending machines just outside of the visitor center.  There are picnic tables here if you want to rest or have a bite to eat.

To start your hike, follow the paved path that heads back toward the parking area.  As you walk along the edge of the lot, you will see a sign for the Old Man’s Cave and Upper Falls trailhead.  This is the way!

Hocking Hills Upper Falls

Upper Falls in Hocking Hills
Upper Falls

Upper Falls is easily one of the most iconic spots in the park for photos.  A stone bridge spans the water above the falls.  As you cross the bridge and make your way along the path, you will eventually have a view from below the falls.  

Looking up, you will see water spilling over the rocks below the picture-perfect stone bridge.  It feels like something straight out of a storybook.

Devil’s Bathtub Hocking Hills

Devil's Bathtub in Hocking Hills
Devil’s Bathtub

Continuing along the creek trail, you will encounter a deep, bowl-shaped basinSwirling waters pour into the large, natural tub.  

Legend has it that the tub is so deep that it goes all the way to, well, you know where…

In reality, the basin is several feet deep.  Do not attempt to walk through or swim in the Devil’s Bathtub.  It is virtually impossible to get out.  This is not something any of us should test.

‘A’ Frame Bridge & Curved Stairway

Along the way to the cave, you will encounter a curved stairway.  This is another fun challenge that the short hike offers you.  

As you navigate the steps, you will find a large ‘A’ frame bridge above.  It is striking against the sandstone rock walls that line the wooded gorge.

Sphinx Head Hocking Hills

Sphinx Head rock formation near Old Man's Cave
Sphinx Head

You will soon come to a marker on the trail informing you about the Sphinx Head.  The rock formation resembles its namesake.  This can be difficult for some to spot.  It is easier to locate when the surrounding trees do not have leaves.

Lower Falls Hocking Hills

Lower Falls in Hocking Hills
Lower Falls

Lower Falls tends to be less crowded than the heavily photographed Upper Falls.  It is 25 to 30 feet highWater cascades down the sloped rock until it comes to the ledge and plummets into the creek below.

There is plenty of shade surrounding what feels like a beach with a natural pool.  It is quite welcoming.  You may want to hang out here for a while and soak in the view.

Broken Rock Falls

Broken Rock Falls in Hocking Hills State Park
Broken Rock Falls

Most people unknowingly walk right past the spur tail to get to Broken Rock Falls.  Although near the Exit Trail, it is a mere 0.1 mile detour.  

The spur trail is steep and contains a few sequences of stairs.  In total, there are 91 steps to navigate each way.

Is the detour worth your time?  That is a resounding yes!  Julie and I both found this waterfall to be our favorite.  

It is the most unique waterfall in the park.  Although narrow, it has a height of 60 feet.

The waterfall is aptly named as it cuts through a rock wall and then spills into a pool below.  From there, the water does a slow runoff through enormous rocks below.  

With lots of mosses and ferns, this section is reminiscent of a rainforest.  It is stunning!

Old Man’s Cave

Old Man's Cave & Middle Falls in Hocking Hills
Old Man’s Cave & Middle Falls

Old Man’s Cave is a large recess cave.  It is on a vertical cliff 75 feet above the creek.  

The cave itself is about 50 feet high and 250 feet long.  It is hard to imagine someone living here, but the cave is spacious and has a great view.

Middle Falls

Although not very high, there is a charming waterfall just below Old Man’s Cave.  This is Middle Falls.  

It is not shown on most maps, but this waterfall amplifies your appreciation for the surreal setting.

Best hiking in Ohio

Old Man’s Cave is one of the best hiking trails in Ohio.  With so many waterfalls, various rock formations and different types of terrain, this one way loop trail is an absolute delight.  The sights and sounds of nature will fill your heart and soul as you soak in everything this place has to offer.

As a bonus, we found a couple other waterfalls that were not shown on the map.  We could not find mention of them anywhere.  

There was a nice one between Upper Falls and Devil’s Bathtub.  If you are fortunate to be here a day after it rains, you may stumble upon some additional treasures.

OLD MAN’S CAVE: PLAN YOUR VISIT

Old Man’s Cave address

The Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center address is 19852 OH-664, Logan, Ohio 43138.  You can use the interactive map to obtain directions.

Old Man’s Cave hours

The park is open year-round from dawn to dusk.  It is even open on holidays.

Cost

There are no fees to enter the park.  It is free to explore the scenic trails.  Any naturalist-led programs are also free.

Parking

The Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center has a pretty large parking lot.  With that said, I have seen it completely full on weekends and in the summer.

Best time to visit Hocking Hills

Take the full lot as a sign.  If possible, try to visit on a weekday rather than a weekend.  

Summer travel season gets busy.  Autumn can be pretty crowded during peak foliage.  As you can imagine, this place pops with fall color.

It helps to arrive early in the morning, shortly after sunrise.  The park will be most crowded from late morning to mid-afternoon.  You can also go late in the afternoon.  Just give yourself plenty of time to be off the trails before sunset.

Pro tipGo the day after a good rainfall.  Although the trail may be muddy, you will be rewarded with more bountiful waterfalls.

Hocking Hills dog friendly

Dogs are allowed in the park, but must remain on a leash.

Hocking Hills swimming

Swimming and wading is not permitted in the creeks, waterfalls or natural bodies of water at Old Man’s Cave.  For safety reasons, all visitors are asked to stay on the designated trails.

There are designated beach areas at Lake Logan and Lake Hope State Park where swimming is allowed.

What to bring

  • Hiking shoes with good support and traction.  
  • Water and high-energy snacks.
  • Camera to capture the beautiful scenery.
  • Light layers that you can easily add or shed as needed.  Since you are hiking through woodlands and caves, it is somewhat cooler than the reported temperature.  It can feel a bit cool even on a warm day. 
  • Backpack to store your water, snacks and clothing layers.

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About the author

We are Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey. After nearly 30 years, we took a leap of faith out of the corporate world to enjoy a life of travel and adventure. We hope to inspire you to find ways to travel more and enjoy life now.

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