Hocking Hills: Hiking Old Man’s Cave Loop

hiking old man's cave, hocking hills ohio

My daughter, Jamie, and I wanted to swing by Hocking Hills State Park in southeast Ohio on a recent road trip to West Virginia. We learned the main attraction in the park is Old Man’s Cave, so that was our first stop.

I’d never hard of Hocking Hills until a friend shared something about it on Facebook. The photos convinced me it was worth taking the time to drive an hour out of our way, and are we ever glad we did!

There’s a large Visitor Center at Old Man’s Cave and a large parking area. Unfortunately, the Visitor Center was closed (presumably still due to Covid restrictions) so we couldn’t pick up any printed info, including a trail map. But the signage makes it easy to find your way for the most part.

Our visit was mid-day on a Tuesday in early May…and it was rainy. So there were very few visitors that day compared to what, I’m sure, would be normal for weekends and during the summer. (The size of the parking lot is a good indication of how busy it can get!)

Why You’ll Love Hiking Old Man’s Cave Loop

We wanted to see things we don’t commonly see in Minnesota, which is why we wanted to focus in on the main cave features of Hocking Hills.

But the cave was just one of the reasons we liked this hike so much…

hiking in the gorge, old mans cave, hocking hills ohio
The trail down in the gorge is lush and beautiful!

It’s Gorgeous

Because it was early May and the columbine were blooming, spring was in the air. The trees and the moss lining the cliff walls were SO green, especially in the light rain. It’s lush with vegetation of all kinds. Mature trees tower over.

I found out later by looking at the map online that there’s also a Gorge Overlook trail. I’m sure it’d be beautiful. We took the one in the gorge, called Grandma Gatewood Trail (I’m sure there’s some history there).

The rock walls of the gorge, the intense greens, the creek and waterfalls and the dramatic cave all add up to almost sensory overload. Not in the way a mountainscape does—grand and sweeping…but in a more intimate way. You feel closed off from the world down inside the gorge.

old mans cave hike, hocking hills state park
Water spilling over the cliff sides and into the gorge

Old Man’s Creek & the Waterfalls

We expected the creek and falls to be higher since we were there in the spring. Whether it’s just a small creek or whether it had been dry for awhile, we didn’t know. But it was very pretty just the same.

The creek water is clear with a greenish tint, particularly noticeable in the pool beneath the Upper Falls. There’s a Middle Falls right beneath Old Man’s Cave, and then a Lower Falls we didn’t get to see because we didn’t know about it (we didn’t have a trail map).

upper falls of old man's creek, hocking hills state park, ohio
Upper Falls of Old Man’s Creek with its beautiful green pool

There’s also a water feature called Devil’s Bathtub where the creek falls into a cauldron and spins into a whirlpool.

devil's bathtub, old man's creek
Looking down to Devil’s Bathtub from one of the cool stone bridges

None of the waterfalls are big or extra amazing, especially by Minnesota standards. But the overall setting in the gorge that makes them so lovely.

There were also several places where water was spilling down over the cliff walls, which added to the beauty and mood of the place.

The Cave

Old Man’s Cave was named after an old man who really lived in it with his two hounds back in the day. It’s a large recess cave above the creek in a particularly beautiful spot in the gorge.

old man's cave, hocking hills state park
Inside Old Man’s Cave, a recess cave up above the creek and Middle Falls

The hiking trail leads right up inside the cave. It’s quite dramatic. As far as caves go, Rock House is cooler…but the hiking loop to get to Old Man’s Cave makes this one the overall winner.

Cool Stone Walls & Bridges

Along with the stone walls of the gorge, there’s several human-made stone walls along the trail, with bridges that cross the creek fairly often. I love things like that so they made the hike even more enjoyable, even if it distracts from it being entirely natural.

What to Know about the Loop

Lots of Ups and Downs

You need good knees for this hike! It’s not long—maybe a mile around the loop—but there are plenty of steps. I wouldn’t call it strenuous, but consider hiking poles if you have knee or hip pain.

It’s a One-Way Trail

We’d couldn’t remember being on a one-way hike before, but it’s really nice! It seems less crowded when you don’t meet people on the trail. And in a few places the trail is simply too narrow to pass.

We did disobey the law once to get back up to the Visitor Center, but no one else was in that area at the time so we felt OK being a bit rebellious. 🙂

hiking old man's cave trail in hocking hills
Why the trail is one way! (Old Man’s Creek below)

Try to Look at the Map First!

We would’ve saved some time and not have missed the lower falls if we’d have had a map. We also might have decided to hike the Gorge Overlook Trail if we’d known it was there. You can find one on this page, and hopefully the Visitor Center will open up again soon for a handheld one.

the trail goes through a tunnel
Another reason the trail is one way—this cool tunnel!

How to Get There

Set your GPS for Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. It’s just over an hour southeast of Columbus, two hours east of Dayton and two-and-a-half hours east of Cincinnati.

Once you’re in the area you’ll see signs for the park, and then look for signs to Old Man’s Cave.

Final Thoughts

It was well worth adding a couple hours to our travel day to swing by Hocking Hills State Park. We knew we only had time to hit a couple of the attractions, and we’re very glad the hike to Old Man’s Cave was one of them.

It’d be well worth spending a day or two at the park. There’s a large campground nearby, although we didn’t stop to check it out. Maybe someday we’ll be back!

middle falls of old man's creek, hocking hills state park, ohio
Middle Falls of Old Man’s Creek, just below Old Man’s Cave

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