Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio has everything we look for in a state park. Stunning geological formations include caves, waterfalls, towering cliffs, and gorges. It is a breathtaking park with access to camping, fishing, picnicking, hiking, hunting, and more. The 2,356 acre state park is adjacent to Hocking State Forest with 9,238 acres of boundless terrain to explore. Climbing and repelling opportunities are also available in the state forest.
Below is an excerpt from Hocking Hills State Park website http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/hockinghills#overview :
The hollows and caves of the park complex have long attracted the peoples of Ohio. Evidence of the ancient Adena culture illustrates that man first inhabited the recesses more than 7,000 years ago.
In the mid 1700s several Indian tribes traveled through or lived here including the Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee. Their name for the river from which the park gets its name was Hockhocking of "bottle river." The name comes from the bottle-shaped valley of the Hocking River whose formation is due to its one-time blockage by glacial ice.
After the Greenville Treaty of 1795, numerous white settlers moved into the region and Hocking County was organized in 1818. The area around the park began to develop in 1835 when a powder mill was built near Rock House and a grist mill was constructed at Cedar Falls.
The cave areas were well-known as scenic attractions by 1870. In 1924, the first land purchase by the state was made to preserve the scenic features. This first parcel of 146 acres included Old Man's Cave. Subsequent purchases built acreage while the areas existed under the Department of Forestry as State Forest Parks. The Department of Natural Resources was created in 1949 and the new Division of Parks assumed control of the Hocking Hills State Park complex, which today includes the six park areas. A dining lodge and cottages were opened in 1972. These cottages, together with a campground, provide overnight facilities in one of the most beautiful areas of our state.
The natural history of this region is as fascinating as the caves are beautiful. Here, in these sandstones and shales, one can read Ohio's history from the rocks. The scenic features of the six areas of the Hocking Hills State Park complex are carved in the Black Hand Sandstone. This bedrock was deposited more than 350 million years ago as a delta in the warm shallow sea which covered Ohio at that time. Subsequent millions of years of uplift and stream erosion created the awesome beauty seen today.
The sandstone varies in composition and hardness from softer, loosely cemented middle zone to harder top and bottom layers. The recess caves at Ash Cave, Old Man's Cave and Cantwell Cliffs are all carved in the softer middle zone. Weathering and erosion widened cracks found in the middle layer of sandstone at the Rock House to create that unusual formation.
Other features of the rock include cross-bedding, honeycomb weathering and slump blocks. The first is noticeable as diagonal lines in the rock intersecting horizontal ones. It is actually the cross section of an ancient sand bar in the delta and was caused by changing ocean currents. Honeycomb weathering looks like the small holes in a beehive comb. They are formed by differential weathering which comes about when water, moving down through the permeable sandstone, washes out small pockets of loosely cemented sand grains. Finally, the huge slump blocks of rock littering the streams tumble from near by cliffs when cracks widen to the extent that the block is no longer supported by the main cliff.
Although the glaciers never reached the park areas, their influence is still seen here in the form of the vegetation growing in the gorges. The glaciers changed the climate of all Ohio to a moist, cool environment. Upon their retreat, this condition persisted only in a few places such as the deep gorges of Hocking County. Therefore, the towering eastern hemlocks, the Canada yew and the yellow and black birch tell of a cool period 10,000 years ago.
An archery range with 5 static targets and 22 3-D targets is open from daylight until dark year-round.
The Hocking Hills Dining Lodge Restaurant is now open year round. Winter hours are Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sunday 10:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m. with Sunday Brunch Buffet from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Contact the lodge restaurant at (740) 380-0400.
Fishing is allowed at the 17-acre Rose Lake. Access is off of State Route 374 via a 1/2-mile hiking trail. A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
Hunting is allowed in designated areas of the park and is allowed at the adjacent Hocking State Forest.
Five picnic areas with tables, grills, latrines and drinking water are located at each of the recess caves. Five reservable shelters are available:
- Old Man's Cave
- Ash Cave
- Rock House
- Cedar Falls
- Cantwell Cliffs
Picnic shelters can be reserved online or by calling (866) 644-6727.
All 5 picnic areas are Carry In Carry Out areas. No trash cans are available. Please bring trash bags with you.
A swimming pool outside the dining lodge is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, Memorial Day to Labor Day. It is open to the general public for a small daily fee.
There are miles of hiking trails located throughout the park and adjacent state forest. These trails are beautiful as well as potentially dangerous: Caution and common sense are necessary. Young children should be closely supervised while in on the hiking trails. All park visitors must remain on the marked trails at all times.
Nine hiking trails traverse the park:
- Ash Cave Gorge - 1/4 Mile - Easy - Handicap Accessible
- Ash Cave Rim - 1/2 Mile - Moderate
- Cedar Falls - 1/2 Mile - Moderate
- Old Man's Cave - 1 Mile - Moderate
- Conkles Hollow - 1 Mile - Easy - Handicap Accessible
- Conkles Hollow Rim - 2.5 Miles - Moderate
- Rock House - 1/2 Mile - Moderate
- Cantwell Cliffs - 1 Mile - Difficult
- Buckeye Trail - 6 Miles - Moderate
Two mountain bike trails are also available:
- Purple Trail Loop - 2 Miles - Moderate
- Orange Trail Loop - 2 miles - Difficult
Portions of the Buckeye Trail go through the park and surrounding state forest. A bridle trail also winds through the adjacent forest.
Under the proper conditions, park visitors can enjoy ice fishing.
More to Do
- Special events and nature programs are offered year round
- Visitor center at Old Man's cave features interesting displays and a gift shop
- Rock climbing/rappelling area is available in the adjacent 9,238-acre Hocking State Forest