5 Things to do in Hocking Hills State Park on a Day Trip

I would never have guessed that there are so many things to do in Hocking Hills State Park, especially for a day trip there but because my time was that short when I visited, I had to quickly figure out the best places to see and I’m happy to report that this is exactly what I did and if you are also in a similar spot and planning a trip there, this article is going to help you do the same.

My Hocking Hills day trip explained:

things to do in hocking hills state park new 07

Visiting Hocking Hills State Park was a trip I’ve been trying to make for many years and in mid September 2021, that chance arrived and of course I took it.

While my visit to Hocking Hills State Park was for only one day, it was also actually the last stop on a longer 10 day road trip I took and despite seeing some truly stunning areas in those 10 days (Finger Lakes and the North Shore Coast to name a few spots), in many ways, the best was saved for last as Hocking Hills was what I decided to check out as the last stop on my trip.

However, being that it was my last day on the road trip, it would have to be a short day trip there. Fortunately because I’m used to having day trips to amazing areas, I’ve also become pretty good at sorting out where to go to get the most out of these day trips and so after stopping at the visitor center of Hocking Hills, I quickly planned a short, but amazing itinerary in the short time I was there.

The good news is that whether you’re like me, who is usually in a rush to see as many places as possible, or have more time on their hands, the same 5 things I did, you can do too, either quickly, or take your time with! Either way, I’m certain you’ll enjoy your experience in this park more than you can imagine, because this place definitely surprised me with it’s beauty (and I don’t say that often).

Here are the 5 things to do in Hocking Hills State Park Ohio:

hocking hills state park map of things to see

  1. Start by exploring Conkle’s Hollow.
  2. Check out upper falls near Old Man’s Cave.
  3. Hike through Old Man’s cave trail.
  4. Hike the short but pretty Cedar Falls.
  5. Finish up by exploring Ash Cave.

All of these spots are part of Hocking Hills State Park and are designed to be explored from the north end of the park to the southern most end (where the best part of Hocking Hills is at and that’s Ash Cave in my opinion).

I have also included a Hocking Hills State Park map for your reference so you know where each place is (some of them you can input into your GPS, but just know the cell phone reception in this park is awful):

For me, since I didn’t know about any of these spots before going there, I had to go there blind and then figure out what to visit first, so you have all the research done for you.

Now with these 5 spots I just listed, it took about 6 hours to explore all of these spots which is more than enough for a day trip if you start early and while there was much more this park had to offer, these 5 spots are absolutely stunning and will give you a great exploration of this amazing park.

1) Conkle’s Hollow:

hocking hills state park conkles hollow

Conkle’s Hollow is one of the northern most hiking spots of Hocking Hills State Park that I highly recommend you explore first.

There is a large parking area and 2 hikes available:

1) The first hike is a short 1 mile trail (in and out) that takes you inside a gorge with a waterfall at the end of it.

2) The second hike is over 2 miles and takes you to the top and around the gorge area.

For me, I took the shorter hike because for me, being inside a gorge presents better views and the walk there was pretty easy to do.

In addition, it was a hot day when I came here, and it’s much cooler to explore the gorge.

There are many scenic views and places to take pictures at there including this one that is underneath one of the gorges.

2) Explore upper falls near Old Man’s Cave:

hocking hills state park upper falls image

Old Man’s Cave is pretty much the feature attraction in all of Hocking Hills State Park, but before you go in there, there is a beautiful waterfall you can explore nearby called Upper falls.

It is located by the Old Man’s Cave parking lot at Hocking Hills State Park (see location 2 on the map I put above).

There is a nice stairway down to the beach to get a great view from it, and a nice trail that continues south to Old Man’s Cave:

You can choose to follow that and do the long loop trail, or return to the parking lot and enter Old Man’s Cave a bit further down which will make the overall trail shorter.

When I first came to this park, this was actually the last location I explored and this is because no one could tell me where exactly this spot was on the map.

After I found the name of it, a person told me it’s location (right by the parking lot).

3) Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills:

old mans cave hocking hills new 02

There is a main trail that takes you through most of the park and that is the Old Man’s Cave trail. The good news however is that if you don’t want to do the full trail, you can do a shorter loop which is what I did there.

You can start near the visitor center, and do the 1-2 mile loop hike down and into Old Man’s Cave. The views there are breathtaking and honestly, just being there for the first time truly shocked me.

To me, this area of the park looked like Daniel Boone National Forest times a 100 in beauty (and I love Daniel Boone National Forest by the way). But this was the most packed part of the park (you may have to walk in a slow line down there).

You’ll see waterfalls, gorges, beautiful rock formations, and pretty much the best of what Hocking Hills State Park has to offer (well most of it that is) is in Old Man’s Cave.

The “cave” area itself is just a tunnel you walk through which wasn’t a big deal to me (unless there’s a different one I don’t know about), but the scenic views down there will truly stun you (it did for me and I have high standards for that).

4) Do the Cedar Falls hike:

hocking hills state park cedar falls

Cedar Falls is further down the Hocking Hills Park area and you can elect to drive there and take the short hike down to the falls, then back up to the parking lot.

Then there’s also taking the connecting trail from Old Man’s Cave trail there yourself (if you have more time in the park, I suggest the longer trail).

That would take you several miles to do though, so keep that in mind.

But Cedar Falls is a small, but beautiful waterfall you can explore, with more gorges at this park. When I was there, it was pretty dry, but that didn’t take away from the overall beauty surrounding it.

Walking back out to the parking lot also presents some beautiful areas you can stop and take pictures at.

As far as the hike goes, if you’re doing the parking lot option (shorter one), it’s about a 20 minute walk altogether.

I would recommend you take the time to stop and enjoy the sights because every spot in Hocking Hills State Park deserves it!

5) Ash Cave (One of the best Hocking Hills day hikes):

ash cave hocking hills new 05

If you Google the name of Hocking Hills State Park, there’s a good chance that the first image you’ll see is actually Ash Cave and it is a giant cave you have to hike down to which takes about 1.5 miles.

The good news is that despite being the most beautiful area in the park (in my opinion), there aren’t that many people there because there is a longer hike to get down to the cave.

But if you do get there (and I highly recommend you do), you will be floored by the beauty there. Ash Cave is huge and there is a giant “beach” area underneath it, with a small trickling waterfall there.

Ash Cave really impressed me in ways that are hard to describe and I have to admit, I have never seen anything like it until I entered this spot. I enjoyed Old Man’s Cave hike but Ash Cave was a lot better in my opinion.

I did see the pictures before hand, but being there is a whole other experience.

Here’s another cool feature of Ash Cave:

hocking hills state park waterfall

Another thing you may want to explore is the fire tower right by the start of the Ash Cave trail.

It’s about 100 feet high and a cool little feature of the trail you can explore. If you enjoy fire towers, every state has them, but so far, I have a list of Fire Tower hikes in New York you may find interesting (Over 15 Fire Tower hikes covered so far in that post).

Note: Ash Cave actually has a waterfall during certain times of the year you can check out (it’s another one of the reasons why this place is my favorite in all of Hocking Hills).

In my case, when I went here (late summer), there was hardly any water there, but it was still a beautiful sight.

I would if you wish to see the waterfall peak times, it would be during winter to early spring seasons and it’s likely you will also find Hocking Hills State Park to be less crowded during that time period.

Which Hocking Hills day hikes to prioritize:

hocking hills day hikes 04

Since these 5 locations are hiking trails and I like to go fast, if you only have time to do 2 or 3, then this is how I would prioritize it:

1) Ash Cave should be the top hike to check out without question. Even if this is the only trail you do on your day trip, it’ll be the best thing you can do in Hocking Hills.

2) Second, Old Man’s Cave is the next best hike to see. If you can do this first, and Ash Cave second (or as your last hike so it’s the last best one, that’ll be better).

3) Third, there is one giant blue trail from the north part of the park which begins at Upper Falls (near Old Man’s Cave) goes there, and actually goes through every hike on this list, except for Conkle’s Hollow, meaning you can do 4 day hikes as one on this list.

However, do note that this will not be a loop trail so unless you turn around, you will need to have someone pick you up at the last place you stop at, which would be Ash Cave (if you’re starting at Upper Falls that is).

More questions about Hocking Hills State Park:

hocking hills day trip new 09

Why is Hocking Hills State Park closed?

Hocking Hills State Park was closed until March 2022, but has reopened. It was closed due to bad weather conditions like snow on the trails and occasionally closes when similar conditions arise.

How much is it to get into Hocking Hills State Park?

Hocking Hills State Park is actually free to enter.

Why is Hocking Hills so popular?

Hocking Hills State Park is just an amazing area to explore, from Ash Cave to Old Man’s Cave, there are a ton of breathtaking areas in the park to check out.

What is the closest city to Hocking Hills State Park?

The closest official city to Hocking Hills State Park is Logan. The closest major city near the park is Columbus.

Can you drive through Hocking Hills?

Yes there are at least 5 different roads that take you around and through Hocking Hills State Park. Some of them include roads 374, 664 and Buckeye trail road.

What type of gear should you bring to Hocking Hills State Park?

For most of the hikes, any regular clothing will do, but if you do hikes like Ash Cave, I’d recommend decent hiking or trail running shoes:

5 more things to do near Hocking Hills:

things to do near hocking hills new 08

If Hocking Hills State Park impresses you (and it will) as much as it did me, then I have a few other places to recommend seeing that are near that park:

1) Cuyahoga Valley National Park would be my first choice and it is a gigantic park very close to Hocking Hills. It isn’t as beautiful, but there are more variety hikes there and things to see (including a train tour). There are also many people who compare Cuyahoga Valley vs Hocking Hills and I give my take on that in the article I linked.

2) Daniel Boone National Forest. It is south of Hocking Hills and is an even bigger region to explore than even Cuyahoga Valley. I would say Daniel Boone National Forest actually has more things to see and do and you will likely need several days to explore it’s best places (Red River Gorge, Skybridge and more).

3) Rock House. This is an attraction about 20 minutes from Hocking Hills and it’s basically a series of beautiful caves. There are also similar places several hours away like Maquoketa Caves State Park that look similar to this.

4) Chapel Cave. I missed this spot, but it’s very close to Conkle’s Hollow and is technically outside Hocking Hills too, but near enough to also visit it and it’s very close to the road.

5) Wayne National Forest. Great area for hikes, kayaking and more and it’s near Hocking Hills too.

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8 thoughts on “5 Things to do in Hocking Hills State Park on a Day Trip”

  1. If you visit Hocking Hills state Park and you do not visit the Rock House portion of the park, then you are missing out on a very important feature. It is one of the areas true caves and one of the most unique features of the area. and don’t forget to visit Ash Cave it is handicap accessible via a level smooth sidewalk all the way to the cave. Ash Cave is astoundingly large and very impressive.

    Reply
    • Yeah you’re right Luke. I was looking to revisit Hocking Hills and noticed the Rock Garden attraction you mentioned and did update the post, among other places!

      Reply
  2. Hocking Hills looks really nice. I haven’t been on a proper hike in ages, so I wouldn’t be too interested in something intense or highly involved. The loop going to and from Old Man’s Cave sounds like a great way to a get a feel for things before branching out longer and deeper into the park.

    You mentioned that crowds can be huge here – does that apply to the whole park? I wouldn’t mind meeting a group or two, but are there times or days you would recommend to help avoid crowds?

    Reply
    • So my advice for avoiding crowds is to come early and on a weekday (I went there on a Saturday because I had no choice given the logistics of my trip). 

      Aside from that, most of the hikes in this park are easy and besides Old Man’s Cave (the short one), I would recommend you try the Conkle’s Hollow hike (very short, very easy) and also check out upper falls (the area I showcased above with the bridge). 

      All of those areas are easy to reach. And of course there are more spots across the park, but these 3 will be pretty simple for you to hike through (Old Man’s Cave might be the toughest but it’s also pretty easy in hindsight to the other options I listed like Ash Cave).

      Reply
  3. Hi Vitaliy. Thank you for very interesting article. I never been in Hocking Hills State Park (which is a shame as its quite close to me) but after reading your post, definitely this is a place I need to visit. I love the pictures and climate of wild nature, and especially the falls looks spectacular. Looking forward to see other locations you recommended!

    Reply
  4. I do a lot of trail runs at the Washington state and federal parks. The hikes you mentioned look amazing at the Hocking HIlls State Park. I do a lot of traveling and the next time I am in the area I will definitely have to go for a run along these trails. I particularly like the Ash Cave and the Conkles Hollow trails.

    Reply
    • I love Washington Coast and will be exploring the more inland parts of that state when I get the chance Al. I also know you’ll enjoy Hocking Hills State Park as it’s completely different than anything you’ve seen in Washington 🙂

      Reply

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