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Hocking Hills State Park covers 2,356-acres of Ohio State and is packed edge to edge with beautiful scenery. With a wide range of waterfalls, trails, gorges, caves, man-made structures, and gothic cliff tops – it’s hard to narrow down what you should see first.
The park itself is split into six smaller regions, and each has so much to see that you could easily dedicate several days to exploring each. Sadly, most of you won’t have the luxury of spending weeks wandering around Hocking Hills.
So, we have put together a list of the top 7 things you should see in the area, even if you only have one day to spend in the state park.
7. Moonville Tunnel
Coming in at spot number seven is the Moonville Tunnel. This is an area overflowing with history and local gossip. However, it is a little difficult to find. You will need to use OH-278 before turning onto Hope-Moonville Road.
The Moonville tunnel used to be home to a train track that ran to the thriving village of Moonville, in the mid-1800s. Turbulent economic times in the early 1900s led to the town being abandoned and the railway line falling into disrepair.
Now the local forests encroach on the tunnel from every angle, making it an eye-catching pop of grey in a sea of green.
If you ask the locals they will tell you that both the ghost town and the tunnel are haunted. If you can truly say ‘I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,’ then this site is well worth a visit.
The stonework is gorgeous, and the tunnel really is a work of art. It’s hard to believe that something so grand was built for such a little village.
6. Rock House
Rock House is the only true cave in Hocking Hill State Park. While it is a small cave, it has a lot of unique features that cave lovers should be intrigued to explore. This cave can be found a quarter of a mile along the Gorge Trail.
The cave’s main corridor is over 200 feet long. With lofty ceilings stretching up over 25 feet, and wide moss coated corridors that are as wide as 20 feet in some areas.
It can be found an impressive 150 feet above ground level, in the middle of a Black Hand sandstone (the local rock type) cliff face.
Rock House gets its name from one of its unique geological formations. The larger rooms closer to the edge of the cliffs have an interesting feature. Medium-sized windows have formed in the walls of the cliffs as rain has run down the cliff face.
Locals noted that from afar these windows make the cave system look like a house. These windows offer some great photo opportunities for visitors.
Two shelter rooms and a restroom can be found nearby. Rock House is less than 10 minutes walk away from the nearest parking lot.
5. Cantwell Cliffs
If you’re traveling in Ohio because you’re looking for some challenging hikes, then you have to make a stop at Hocking Hill State Park. The real jewel in the crown of the hikes offered by the state park is the Cantwell Cliffs route.
This route is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work but the views make the thigh burn worth it. It can be found in the Northern section of Hocking Hill (around 17 miles north of Old Man’s Cave).
It is one of the most remote parts of the park, and for that reason, it’s one of the least visited. But, don’t be fooled, it boasts one of the most breathtaking views in Ohio.
The hike is around a mile long. It offers clifftop and valley floor level sections – giving you a really well-rounded view of the area.
You will be treated to sights of ancient moss-covered cliffs, as well as freshly unearth walls of copper red rock. It even has a unique, unforgettable set of slipper stone stairs that cut through a gorge.
4. Cedar Falls
Caves, thick forests, and rushing waterfalls – Cedar Falls is one of the most dynamically beautiful areas of Hocking Hills State Park.
If you’re going to visit our number #1 choice, then you might as well spend another 10-15 minutes walking on to see Cedar Falls. This walk will take you through the Lower Gorge at Old Man’s Cave, through the Queer Gorge valley, before depositing you in front of Cedar Falls.
Formally the site of a 19th-century grain mill, Cedar falls can offer it all. Its cliffs are coated in moss and the ancient hemlock forest makes its way right up to the shoreline. Some trees have even made their homes in the rock beds.
Queer Creek runs over the face of Cedar falls, making it the most voluminous waterfall in the whole park. The falls should really be called Hemlock Falls, however, it was misnamed. European settlers mistook the hemlock forest for cedar trees.
Cedar falls is well stocked with facilities. There is a nice and well-kept picnic area with a great view of the falls. There is also a car park with restrooms nearby. The Falls are reachable by both the Cedar Falls Route and the Buckeye Trail (that leads to Old Man’s Cave).
3. John Glenn Astronomy Park
The John Glenn Astronomy Park sits on the very North-Western edge of the Hocking Hills State Park. The park offers one of the best views of the night sky in the whole of the United States.
This is a spot that shouldn’t be missed. It is one of the only things to do in the area after dark, as most of the other parks are closed at dusk.
While the Park offers a lot of things to do during the daytime, it really comes to its own after the sun goes down. We recommend ending your day in Hocking Hill State Park with a visit to the Astronomy Park.
The park offers a grassy, rooftop observatory where you can relax and set up your own telescope equipment. You can also make the most of the observatory’s 28-inch telescope.
You never know what you will spot at the John Glenn Astronomy Park. In the time that we spent there, we spotted multiple shooting stars and had some unrivaled views of other planets.
You can even take a picnic basket full of snacks and drinks out into the park with you. Don’t forget to bring a blanket, it gets mighty cold out there.
2. Rose Lake
At the center of The Hocking Hill State Park, you will find a picturesque reservoir, dubbed by the locals as Rose Lake. It can be found just north of Old Man’s Cave (see below), both far away from two of the major trails and a reasonably sized car park.
The lake sits along the Upper Gorge trail and is at the exact midpoint between Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls. The lake was created in order to create new fishing locations and more reliable water access for the local area.
Rose Lake is a catfish hotspot, and the fish are available to catch all year round. Panfish are also frequently caught in the area. Small and Largemouth Bass can be caught seasonally in the reservoir. You can check out the local fishing regulations here.
Locals say that the lake is haunted and multiple fishermen have reported seeing a figure pacing along the shoreline, and unexplained lights floating under the surface of the water.
The locals call the reservoir Rose Lake, after the hollow that the reservoir flooded when the dam was formed. The local forests grow right up to the shoreline, and on cool autumn days, a layer of fog hangs across the surface of the water.
1. Old Man’s Cave
Old Man’s Cave is the most visited area of Hocking Hills State Park, and for good reason. This magnificent natural feature is made up of 5 distinct areas: Lower Gorge, Lower Falls, Middle Falls, Upper Gorge, and Upper Falls.
As it is one of the most popular areas of the park, it can be accessed easily from multiple points. The Buckeye trail and the Gorge Overlook trail (which also takes in Cedar Falls) both lead to Old Man’s Cave. There is also a car park within walking distance of the natural wonder.
Old Man’s Cave gets its name from Hermit Richard Rowe, who had made the area his home in the late 1700s. While the hermit himself is long gone, the name has stuck around.
The Black Hand sandstone walls of the gorge offer a closer look at the way the area has developed over the last 4 billion years. The layers of rock offer a fascinating insight into how this area has changed over time.
Old Man’s Cave takes the number one spot on our list. If you can only visit one place in Hocking Hills State Park – make sure it’s this one.
Where to Stay in Hocking Hills
There’s no shortage of accommodations in Hocking Hills. The area offers tons of options from tent and
- Try to locate the places you’re looking at before booking anything to make sure you’re staying somewhere close to all the adventures planned for your trip.
- Pay attention to how many beds are included (and what size/type), especially when booking a vacation rental, not just the number of people it sleeps. Rentals often factor in sleep sofas, futons, and air mattresses into their counts. That’s fine for some, but if that’s not what you want, keep looking for something that fits your family better.
Here are some of our favorite places to stay in the Hocking Hills area.
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What Are Essential Things to Pack for a Hiking Trip to Hocking Hills?
Hiking isn’t the only thing to do in Hocking Hills, but it is one of the most popular activities. If you plan to hike during your visit to Hocking Hills State Park, there are some things you need to make sure to pack for the most enjoyable trip possible for your family.
- The right shoes: Pack shoes that can get dirty, are comfortable and provide ankle support, which is everything on a long hike
- First aid kit: We rarely leave home without a first aid kit, and neither should you.
- Waterproof clothing: The weather can be temperamental when you’re out trekking.
- Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, you are exposed to skin-damaging UVA and UVB rays, so cover up.
Plan a Trip to Hocking Hills State Park
Use the info above to map out your next family adventure to Hocking Hills State Park. You can have an affordable, fun family trip to Hocking Hills if you plan carefully. It’s the perfect time to build a sinking fund to pay for your trip so you’re not scrambling to find money closer to your arrival.
Have you ever been to Hocking Hills State Park? If so, what tips do you have for other families planning a trip? Let us know in the comments below.
Kevin Payne is the co-founder and budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Fox Business, Credible, CreditCards.com, and Student Loan Planner.