Hiking the Hocking Hills my photos, my words

I live in central Ohio.

It’s not exactly a destination for photographers seeking spectacular landscape shots. There are no mountain vistas, no breath-taking canyons, no sunrises or sunsets over a rocky beach. There are some forests, streams and a few small hills in local parks, but other than that the area is pool-table flat.

Blame it on the Wisconsin glacier that covered Ohio from 85,000 to 11,000 years ago. It flattened the area, but southeastern Ohio (about an hour’s drive from here) was outside the glaciation of the ice age and remained ruggedly hilly and forested.

The same glacier that flattened much of Ohio is responsible for creating one of the most geologically unique – and photogenic – areas in Ohio: the Hocking Hills, a region of that ruggedly hilly section of southeastern Ohio that features gorges, cliffs, caves and waterfalls created when torrents of water from the melting glacier rushed through that area.

Upper falls on the Old Mans Cave trail, Hocking Hills, Logan, Ohio.

According to Wikipedia: “When the glacial torrents found cracks in the hard capstone, the water poured through to flush out the soft middle layer. This left long tunnels where the gorges are today. Eventually, the weight of the tops caused them to come crashing down. The ‘slump rocks’ in the gorges today are what’s left of the hard top layer. In just a few centuries, the rushing waters of the glacier carved the soft middle layer of sandstone into the myriad dimples and wrinkles that decorate the cliffs and grottos today.”

Water from a stream in Hocking Hills State Park flows into Devil's Bathtub, a small waterfall and swirling pool that feeds a second waterfall.

The waterfalls, deep, rocky gorges and towering, forested hills make Hocking Hills State Park one of my favorite areas for photography. It’s about an hour’s drive from my house, but it’s worth the trip.

Moss-covered boulders line a creek bed in Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Hocking Hills State Park is made up of five separate sections – Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs and Rock House (or six sections, if Conkle’s Hollow, a state nature preserve in the Hocking Hills that isn’t part of the state park, is included). Each has its own special features visible from the many hiking trails that access the areas.

Light filtering through the forest, Clear Creek Metro Park, Rockbridge, Ohio.

And it provides a perfect area for a photographer to spend a day.

Steps exit a tunnel carved through rock, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Old Man’s Cave

Old Man’s Cave (named for a hermit who lived in the large recess cave in the gorge around 1800) is a beautiful gorge that features several large waterfalls, a series of rapids and small waterfalls and the gigantic cave that gave the park its name. The cave is located on a vertical cliff about 75 feet above the stream and measures 50 feet high, 200 feet long and 75 feet deep. The trail, like others in the region, is filled with large slump rocks in and around the stream.

Old Man's Cave bathed in sunlight behind bridge on trail, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls features what may be the most impressive waterfall in the Hocking Hills. Water on the 50-foot falls spills down the sandstone, splits, then meets up again before pouring into the pool below. It’s beautiful to photograph and probably even more beautiful after a heavy rain, which – unfortunately – hasn’t happened before my visits. The name Cedar Falls came from a mistake made by early settlers who mistook the large hemlock trees surrounding the falls for cedar trees.

A view of the Cedar Falls area, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Ash Cave

Ash Cave was named for a huge pile of ashes found by early settlers under the massive overhanging ledge and cave shelter. The largest ash pile was recorded as being about 100 feet long, 30 feet wide and three feet deep and is believed to be from Indian camp fires built in the cave over hundreds of years. Ash Cave measures 700 feet from end to end and is 90 feet high and 100 feet deep.

Visitors stand in Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Cantwell Cliffs

Cantwell Cliffs has a deep valley surrounded by steep cliffs, a rock shelter under the cliffs and a trail that winds through narrow passageways created by huge slump blocks that have fallen from the cliffs over centuries. I like the scenery on the valley trail but the rim trail high above the valley provides spectacular views for hikers unafraid of heights.

Steps between cliffs in Cantwell Cliffs, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Rock House

Rock House features the only true cave in the park. The other “caves” in the Hocking Hills are massive overhangs or shelters, but the cave in Rock House has a main corridor that is 200 feet long, 20 to 30 feet wide and 25 feet high.

Trees grow above and below cliffs in Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve, Rockbridge, Ohio, in the Hocking Hills.

Conkle’s Hollow

Conkle’s Hollow is a rugged, rocky gorge thought to be one of the deepest in Ohio, with cliffs rising more than 200 feet above the narrow gorge. The trail along the floor of the gorge is picturesque, with ferns and wildflowers covering the ground and towering trees blocking much of the sunlight. The rim trail atop the cliffs provides amazing views of the surrounding scenery, but hikers must be in great shape, sure-footed and unafraid of heights to complete the 2.5-mile loop.

Haze obscures distant hills in Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve in the Hocking Hills, Rockbridge, Ohio.

Some photos from my collection of Hocking Hills images are in the grid below. Click on a photo to see a larger version.

Steps carved in rock on Old Mans Cave trail, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.
Created By
Pat Hemlepp


All photographs and text: © Copyright - Pat D. Hemlepp

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