5 Short Hocking Hills Hikes that will Blow Your Mind

Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

I’ve lived just a couple of hours away from Hocking Hills in Ohio for over a decade now. And I’m officially kicking myself for not visiting sooner!

I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I would like to visit. I mean, I had heard plenty of other people say great things about the Hocking Hills hiking trails! And they had even told me about the short Hocking Hills hikes (which sounded right up my alley!). I just hadn’t made the trip out there…until recently, that is!

My husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary by unplugging a bit and heading to Hocking Hills State Park. Let me just preface this by saying, I’m not a hiker. I’m more of an “I’ll-hike-as-long-as-I-can-see-some-pretty-scenery-and-views” type of person. You feel me?

Well, let me tell you…these Hocking Hills hikes lived up to that! It felt like I was transported to a different world while exploring each of these trails. I know it seems like hiking in Ohio wouldn’t be anything too spectacular, but I’m here to tell you…spectacular is actually an understatement.

They were pretty easy hikes, and they were short enough to not feel exhausted afterward. But they were packed with amazing scenery. Perfect for families with kids, people with mobility issues, or someone like me who enjoys the outdoors but isn’t a big hiker.

While there are tougher and longer hikes within Hocking Hills State Park, we happily stuck with the shorter ones.

So, let’s talk about them! My top 5 short Hocking Hills hikes (think 40-60 minutes each and mostly because you’ll want to stop to take 1000 photos). And as the title promised, these will blow your mind!

Disclosure: You may see affiliate links throughout this post, which means these are the things I handpicked! If you purchase something through these links, I will get a small commission at absolutely no extra charge to you. And that sure means a lot to me, so thank you in advance!

Man hiking on short Hocking Hills hikes

Top 5 Easy Hocking Hills Hikes:

Ash Cave

Distance: 1/2 mile

Time: 40 minutes

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Note: Handicap accessible, pets allowed

This was the very first hike we did on our trip to Hocking Hills. And we actually did it while waiting for our geodome to be ready, so we didn’t even have hiking clothes on. (Yes, you read that right! We stayed in a geodome on this trip and it. was. awesome.)

While there were a few parking spots located right off the trailhead, those were full, so we parked in the large parking lot right across the street. We did this hike in the afternoon and had no trouble finding parking.

There are also picnic tables, a shelter, and bathrooms here. But I have to warn you, the bathrooms do not have plumbing, so it’s basically a glorified porta potty (AKA go to the bathroom before you come!).

The first part of this hike is handicap accessible as you walk on the Ash Cave gorge trail. Once you get to Ash Cave, you’ll see the cave curving over the top of you and a towering waterfall as the centerpiece. At this point, the ground becomes sandy, so wheelchairs would not be accessible past the paved path.

If you want to stick with the handicap-accessible route, you’ll turn around and head back the way you came. Otherwise, you’ll follow around the cave, behind the waterfall, and up several flights of stairs. From there, you’ll return to the trailhead by taking the rim trail.

Old Man’s Cave

Distance: 1 mile

Time: 60 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Note: Pets allowed

For this hike, we parked at the Hocking Hills State Park Visitor Center. Once you get out of your car, follow the sidewalk toward the left (away from the visitor center building). Then you’ll see the trailhead.

At the beginning of the hike, you’ll come across Upper Falls, complete with a picturesque bridge. Before continuing with the hike, make your way down by the water to get a great view of the falls.

Upper Falls during hike to Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills

Next up, let’s talk Devil’s Bathtub Hocking Hills. This is an area where the swirling water has turned the sandstone into a bathtub shape over time. There is a sign next to it that talks about how dangerous the area can be, as the tub is several feet deep. It warns people not to swim or wade in the stream, stating, “climbing out is virtually impossible.”

As you continue on, you’ll see a huge open area (where my husband snapped one of my favorite pictures!). Going down there to explore is a lot of fun, so take a second to do that before moving on to the next part.

Woman walking on stepping stones across shallow creek in Hocking Hills State Park

Ok, you’re getting close to Old Man’s Cave now! Before you’re able to go into Old Man’s Cave, you first go through a tunnel. I’m not going to lie to you, I thought that tunnel was taking us into an actual cave. Ha!

Old Man’s Cave is actually similar to Ash Cave in that it hovers over the top of your head…you don’t go into an underground cave. (I know all of you reading this that have been to Hocking Hills before are laughing at me right now. But in my defense, there were two ladies near us that were confused about it too!)

After you make your way through Old Man’s Cave, you have the option to continue your hike or head back to the visitor center. We chose the latter so that we could hop back in the car and go to our next stop, Rock House.

Before leaving, we made sure to check out the Hocking Hills Visitor Center. It was built in 2019 and wow, did they do a great job on it! This huge lodge has all sorts of information and exhibits. We were able to grab a really helpful map of the local trails. There are also nice bathrooms (with changing tables for little ones!).

When we left after completing the hike, the parking lot was filling up. And when we passed it on the way back to our geodome after hiking at Rock House, cars were parking along the street and across the street. So we were definitely happy that we started our day with this hike and that we were able to experience it with fewer crowds.

Rock House

Distance: 1 mile

Time: 60 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Note: Pets allowed

After Old Man’s Cave, we headed straight for Rock House. Now, choosing a favorite hike in Hocking Hills is tough, but I think I’m going to go with this one!

There are two parking lots here. The first one you come to will take you along the rim trail to Rock House, then back on the gorge trail. The second parking lot will take you along the gorge trail the whole time.

We parked at the first parking lot, so we got to do both the rim trail and part of the gorge trail. As we hiked, we came across stairs that brought us down to meet up with hikers on the gorge trail. From there, you head over to Rock House.

It’s hard to put into words how spectacular Rock House really is. It’s Hocking Hills State Park’s only true cave, and it’s situated about halfway up a 150-foot cliff. When you get to it, head inside to see the tunnel of Blackhand sandstone. But watch your step because it’s pretty dark in there! Mix in a little rain from earlier in the day, and it was also a little slick.

Not only does it look somewhat like a house with windows, but it’s also been home to many different types of people over the years including Native Americans and even burglars.

Once you finally decide to leave Rock House (which is hard to do given how awesome it is!), you’ll continue on the gorge trail. At the very end of the hike, there’s a pretty strenuous grade to get back up to the parking lot. But it’s totally worth it for all the cool things you get to see on this hike.

Conkle’s Hollow, Gorge Trail/Lower Trail

Distance: 3/4 mile

Time: 60 minutes

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Note: Handicap accessible, no pets allowed

There are two different Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve hikes: the rim (upper) trail and the gorge (lower) trail. While the photos I’ve seen of the rim trail look amazing, we only had time for one and decided to go with the gorge trail. And we were so happy we did! (This hike was a VERY close second after Rock House when it came to choosing my favorite hike.)

The Conkles Hollow gorge trail starts with an easy hike. In fact, it’s a paved, handicap-accessible path. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of ferns. And you’ll see the grotto (a small cave you can explore) and “slump” or “float” rocks scattered around, which are huge rock formations that have fallen from the cliffs to the ground due to erosion over time.

When you get to the end of the paved path, if you’re able, you NEED to continue on. It’s like as soon as you cross the small bridge after the paved path, you’ve officially entered a completely new world. It’s so serene and beautiful, full of trees and rock formations and ending with a waterfall.

Once you’ve done all the exploring you want, you just head back the way you came since this trail isn’t a loop.

Cedar Falls

Distance: 1/2 mile

Time: 40 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Note: Pets allowed

Cedar Falls actually got its name by mistake. On a sign near the waterfall, it tells the story of how early settlers in the area mistook the hemlock trees for cedar trees. Add in the big waterfall that you see on this hike, and you get the name, Cedar Falls.

The beginning of this hike was nice and relaxing. For me, though, the real magic of this hiking trail was just after the waterfall.

After you see the waterfall, continue on your way and you’ll come across the coolest rock formations. If you follow my blog or Instagram, you know how much I love Disney. And let’s just say, I think I found the real-life Pandora (World of Avatar).

We spent most of our time during this hike marveling at these incredible rock formations. They even had trees growing out of them! Since we were visiting in the fall, it was a little drier, so we were easily able to walk around this area and explore. I’m guessing this area would be quite wet in the springtime.

The end of this trail has a boardwalk and stairs to lead you back to the parking area.

Hocking Hills FAQ

How difficult are the hikes in Hocking Hills?

The difficulty of each hike in Hocking Hills varies. In this post, I reviewed my top 5 short Hocking Hills hikes. Each of these hikes have an easy to moderate difficulty level. Some of the trails can be combined for a longer and more difficult hike.

Are there stroller-friendly hikes in Hocking Hills?

There are stroller-friendly hikes in Hocking Hills! Conkle’s Hollow Gorge Trail and Ash Cave both have paved paths. If you want to complete the full trails or hike on other Hocking Hills trails, though, I recommend bringing a carrier.

What are the easy trails in Hocking Hills?

The easiest trails in Hocking Hills are Ash Cave and Conkle’s Hollow Gorge Trail.

Can you hike Hocking Hills in one day?

Since there are several short Hocking Hills hikes, it’s easy to knock out a few hikes in one day when visiting Hocking Hills. While you may not see all that the state park has to offer in one day, you will be able to enjoy quite a bit.

Can kids hike Old Man’s Cave?

Kids can definitely hike Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills. In fact, you’ll likely see plenty of families along the trail when you visit. The Hocking Hills Visitor Center is also located near the parking area for this hike, which includes bathrooms with changing tables if you have your little ones with you.

What time of year is best for Hocking Hills?

Each season brings along something unique to Hocking Hills State Park. You’ll find the most comfortable temperatures for hiking in the late spring and early fall. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the waterfalls in all their glory during the springtime and the beautiful foliage in the fall.

Where is Hocking Hills located?

Hocking Hills State Park is located about an hour southeast of Columbus, Ohio. Make sure you have your offline maps downloaded onto your phone because once you get close, you’ll lose service.

Where’s the best place to stay in Hocking Hills?

There are so many unique lodging options in the Hocking Hills area (such as this geodome!). While there are some hotels located in nearby towns, I recommend staying in the heart of Hocking Hills. That way, you can unplug a bit and enjoy being surrounded by nature.

Wrap Up: 5 Short Hocking Hills Hikes

You won’t be disappointed by visiting Hocking Hills State Park and enjoying these scenic Hocking Hills hikes. From waterfalls to rock formations to towering trees, you’re bound to find a hiking trail you fall in love with here.

Next time we visit Hocking Hills, we will definitely bring our kids, especially with how much they loved hiking during our trip to Canada! But it was such a great couples’ getaway, too.

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