Ohio is known for being a significant agricultural and industrial part of America’s Heartland. However, tucked into the southeastern corner of the state is a mountainous paradise known as the Hocking Hills.
This area is part of the Appalachian Mountain range, located in the region known as the Allegheny Plateau. This landscape is the perfect backdrop for gorgeous Hocking Hills hiking trails.
Visitors will find that high cliffs, deep gorges, meandering rivers, and thick forests are all part of the breathtaking scenery throughout Hocking Hills. Better yet, the area is teeming with excellent hiking trails that bring people face to face with its natural beauty.
Here are some of the best hiking trails of the Hocking Hills to explore. We’ve even included some hidden treasures on the list!
This half-mile trail is popular because it’s easy to explore, particularly for visitors who might have a tough time hiking for long distances. The lower tier of the trail is relatively flat with a paved walkway that is wheelchair accessible.
Ash Cave hikers that are looking for more of a challenge can transcend the stairway to see more of the trail’s upper levels. This trail can either lead right back to the parking lot or toward the Cedar Falls hiking trail.
Note: During rainier seasons, there is a beautiful waterfall that serves as a great scenic payoff.
Although the Cedar Falls hiking trail is only a half-mile long, it could be a tougher course for hikers looking for an easier path. There are some steep stair paths along the trail and a less-defined dirt path to explore. However, a cave and waterfall reward these efforts for those who can navigate the steeper paths.
Along this trail, visitors will find a true cave (as opposed to the recessed rock hollows of other areas). This hiking course actually runs along the Hocking State Forest bridle trail, a popular wooded trail for horse rides and trots.
Foot hikers are permitted and encouraged, but keep in mind that this trail is a favorite for horse riding. Sturdy boots are highly recommended hiking gear in these parts. The trail is also unpaved, so brace for muddy conditions if it’s raining.
Old Man’s Cave
Hikers have a choice to diversify their paths because there are two exits at Old Man’s Cave. Therefore, the hike could either be a half-mile or 1 mile long. This trail truly is of the choose-your-own-adventure variety.
Hikers who just want to spend an hour covering a mile can end their trek at the visitor’s center, also called the Naturalist Cabin.
Seeking adventure beyond the 1-mile point? Hike the steep hill past the first path to Lower Hills. You’ll still end up at the Naturalist Cabin, but the hike will take an extra half-mile and about another 30 minutes.
Split Rocks Trails Near Camp Oty’okwa
To get to this trail, you’ll have to drive through Camp Oty’okwa and park near the Split Rocks trailhead. This trail represents some of the best visuals of natural rock formations in the Appalachians, and visitors will find them at the trail’s end.
The hiking path is easy to follow because trees form a trail wall. It can be a bit of a challenge, particularly if you want to explore the lower area beneath the trail. Split Rocks is one of the hidden treasure trails, and like any treasure, it is very rewarding to see.
Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve consists of two trails. The lower trail is a leisurely three-quarter-mile hike that only takes about an hour to explore. It is wheelchair accessible and not particularly strenuous.
However, the upper trail is a different story. It is about 2 miles long and is not recommended for children, people with certain health conditions, or unseasoned hikers. The trail reaches higher elevations that have steep, dropping cliffs.
Unlike many Hocking Hills hiking trails, Conkle’s Hollow does not allow pets. Also, hikers are not permitted to leave the hiking trail while traveling through the nature preserve.
Part of the Hocking State Forest bridle trail, this path is often used by horses and their riders. If there are horses, remember to wear sturdy boots. In fact, it’s a good idea to sport a solid pair of hiking boots in any forested area, especially in this region.
The top of the Airplane Rock trail affords visitors an incredible view of the valley and hills beneath it. As with any trail that culminates with a sky-top view, keep in mind that it can be a steep climb and, therefore, a bit challenging.
It is possible to connect the Airplane Rock trail with Chapel Cave.
Whispering Cave is a hiking trail, but it’s also an experience. It’s one of the longer trails in Hocking Hills, ringing in at 5 miles long. There are two starting points that visitors can choose — the Upper Falls or the Visitor Center.
The terrain on this trail can reach steeper terrains and might not be comfortable for hikers who are seeking shorter paths. Well-trained pets are allowed to accompany their humans but must stay on leashes.
Because of the miles-long duration and terrain that the trail involves, younger children and people with certain health conditions are discouraged from taking the Whispering Cave trail.
Park officials stress that hikers be prepared to endure this one-way system. Once you start, you have to keep going.
While Cantwell Cliffs is only a 2-mile trail, it is also considered the most remote and physically rugged trail in the Hocking Hills State Park system. That is part of the reason why it is also the least populated trail in the park.
However, that may afford some advantages to visitors who can navigate the challenging terrain. Steep rock cliffs and walls drop to a stunning body of water that is covered at a point by a natural land bridge.
There are two 1-mile loops on the trail, and it generally takes between an hour and nearly 1.5 hours to traverse each trail. Pets are allowed on the trail if they are on leashes and well trained.
The Rock House trail is only 1 mile long, and visitors can access it from two entry points. Both access areas are actually parking lots, so this is a nice trail to explore when you want to go straight to a trail from your car and right back to the vehicle from the trail.
Like other Hocking Hills hiking trails, it’s a visually appealing path. There is a nice terraced rock wall that is actually great for resting, posing, or just observing. Whether visitors enter from the upper or lower parking lot, all will exit at the park’s shelter house.
Rock Stalls Near Camp Akita
Head to Camp Akita to head down the leaf-lined trail toward Rock Stalls. When you can spot the scenic gorge and multiple waterfalls, you’ll know you’ve reached a Valhalla in the Hocking Hills.
When spring sets in and the snowmelt starts, water spills over the rock wall into a riveting wildflower bed at the gorge base. It is natural beauty at its best. Sights like this are what cameras are made for, and you will want to capture the moment.
Tips for Being Safe While Hiking
The Hocking Hills area is astounding to behold, but it is also wilderness, so always keep safety in mind. Here are a few tips that you should consider before taking on the trails.
To start, while many of the trails are well known, some are off the beaten path. So, it’s a good idea to let a trusted friend or family member know about your Hocking Hills hiking trail plans.
Also, remember to keep your phone charged because, like most remote areas, mobile phone reception can be spotty at times. And, always travel with a survival pack — flashlight, compass, fire-starting gear, first aid kit, utility knife, etc.
Keep in mind that daylight is your friend when traveling the Hocking Hills hiking trails. If you can see the path ahead and behind, you have a better chance of making it back to your starting point.
Plus, if you plan on engaging multiple trails, consider booking a camping spot or one of the many cozy cabins at some of the trail sites. Otherwise, make a point to check some (or all) of these places out. It’s pure paradise on a lush, green mountainside.
Plan Your Hocking Hills Hiking Trails Adventures
If you’re thinking about indulging in the Hocking Hills hiking trails, you’ve already taken a big step toward some of the most scenic hikes in the United States. Everything you could possibly want out of a mountain trail is there. The scenery is a seriously rewarding bonus!