March 13, 2016

Exploring the trails at Old Man's Cave

I mentioned in my last post that we recently visited the Old Man's Cave area of Hocking Hills State Park. This is arguably the most scenic attraction in all of Ohio, and it is accessed by a network of trails that features tunnels, stairways, bridges and narrow pathways. We have lived in Central Ohio for 30 years, yet until this year we had only been there once before quite long ago. I think we avoided the area for several reasons--the trails can be quite crowded, it isn't a very good area for seeing birds (our main hiking priority for many years), and wildflowers are scarce in the surrounding hemlock forest. We rediscovered it this winter and found this magnificent gorge to be well worth our attention. In fact, we have hiked the area twice in the past 2 weeks.

We began the trail above the upper falls, where a series of cascades barely hints at what hikers will see in the gorge:

The upper falls are beautiful right now; later in the year the area will be nearly dry:

The trail through the gorge leads by steep cliffs that were covered with icicles on our first visit:

We encountered several bridges as we made our way down the stream:

This one was covered with ice and quite treacherous on our first visit last week:

The sandstone bedrock has been sculpted over time into cliffs, caves, and this nearly circular formation:

Named for a hermit that lived in the area in the early 1800s, Old Man's Cave is a deep recess in a magnificent sandstone cliff:

The cave isn't easy to photograph but here is another view:

The trail system gives access to many interesting rock formations and small waterfalls:

I loved the blue-green pool at the base of the lower falls:

The trail continues about 3 miles down the gorge to beautiful Cedar Falls:

Very little sunlight reaches the floor of the gorge so we didn't see even a hint of a spring wildflower there. Along the rim, though, coltsfoot was just starting to bloom and added a welcome spot of color:

The Old Man's Cave area is extremely popular and can get crowded at certain times. The scenery is fantastic, though, and I'm glad we have rediscovered it!


  1. The cave pictures reminded me of the Girl Scout camp where I worked in the summer of 1968. I just spent some time searching online to try to remember the name but it must be closed because I couldn't find it. There was a cave where we camped on a backpacking trip that overlooked a lake. Do you remember where it was? I know it was south of Chillicothe. These photos are all lovely -- so glad you and Bill went back after all those years.

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