After an hour long drive from Columbus, my boyfriend and I arrived at the Hocking Hills State Park in Southeastern Ohio. It was a partly cloudy, mild temperature day; perfect for tromping around and exploring the area and taking pictures of the fall foliage. I had done some light research before our day trip to get an idea as to what the state park had to offer.
I decided we would make our way to four famous locations (Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, and Rock House) within the park by car and hike around each to photograph and take in the sights. We stopped in to the camp registration at the entry to Old Man’s Cave to collect some pamphlets and a map of the area. There is a visitors center too, but it’s closed until the summer months.
My first thought as we approached the trail was that this area really reminded me of a trip I took in Scotland to a place called The Burn. Burn is a Scottish term for stream and it is an incredibly wooded, lush, and green, just like the Hocking Hills area, but instead of the hard grey stones in Scotland, most of the caves and cliffs are of santstone. I was a little worried about keeping warm, but a sweater, vest, scarf, pair of jeans, gloves, and boots did just the trick.
Old Man’s Cave is named after it’s dweller Richard Rowe, where he spent the remaining part of his life.
It’s not so much of a cave as it is a recess into the Earth with a creek flowing through. There are several rock bridges that span across the cliffs where the upper and lower falls flow. Steps are carved out of the rock leading down to each area.
Continuing down we came to a modern self standing stone bridge. It’s design made me feel like I were walking on floating triangular stones.
Old Man’s cave is the first stop for most visitors and really depicts what is in store for the rest of your excursion.
We drove to the Cedar Falls parking area where we set out our packed picnic and had lunch before our next jaunt. There are plenty of benches and tables to sit around and several spaces with covered seating and bathrooms (your basic latrine).
Cedar Falls should really be called Hemlock Falls as most of the trees are hemlock – easily mistaken for cedar apparently. I can’t say I have ever seen a Hemlock tree, but all I could think of was being incredibly prepared if we came across a werewolf.
We came to a a beautiful cascading waterfall after walking down an awkwardly spaced staircase that lead to the bottom of a sort of valley where you follow the stream up to the fall. The sun even started to peek out as we admired the sandstone and fall.
Next, we made our way to Ash Cave, a popular place for Native American’s (Shawnee) to meet and have discussions around camp fires. These fires left a deep layer of ash along the recess cave’s floor, thus the name given, but today all you will come across is a sandy beach. It actually really reminded me of Mesa Verde in Colorado (Anasazi).
It’s shape is like an amphitheater which creates a great space for acoustics. When we first arrived at the entry, we noticed how loud and echoey the waterfall was. Another plus to holding meeting under the cave recess. Today, people still gather for township meetings there.
Rock House is certainly a bit of a trek away from the three sites listed above, but it is worth the trip if you have the time! We arrived to a completely empty parking lot. The fall colors were incredible in this area with oranges and yellows. The trails are poorly marked, but connect in a sort of loops so you can’t really get lost. We made our way down, around, and back up to the Rock House.
This is an actual cave and it’s size really surprised me. It’s long and narrow with several openings on either end and along the side that looks over the cliffs. The cave provided shelter for Native Americans to bake. If you look closely you can see there are two square troughs cut in the cave floor that were used to hold rain water. This was probably the most interactive location as you could walk through the entire cave.
It was a full day of taking in the quiet space of nature, shooting artsy photographs, and reconnecting without the hustle and bustle of ‘city’ life or distractions like cell phones (there is no cell reception throughout most of the park). I would certainly return, maybe in the spring or early summer, to get the full effect of the waterfalls.