Hocking Hills State Park

Useful Information

Location: Hocking County, near Logan.
From Columbus, I-270, use Lancaster Exit, U.S. 33 East to Logan, Exit on 664 South.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: Speleologyerosional cave, recess caves, Blackhand sandstone
Light: none, bring torch
Dimension: Ash Cave: L=30 m, H=27 m, W=213 m.
Guided tours:
Address: Hocking Hills State Park, 19852 St. Rt. 664 South, Logan, Ohio 43138, Tel: +1-740-385-6842 (Park office), +1-740-385-6841 (reservations), 1-866-644-6727 (camping).
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


7,000 BP inhabited by the Adena culture.
~1750 inhabited by Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee.
1818 Hocking County organized.
1835 powder mill built near Rock House.
1835 16-room hotel built near Rock House by Colonel F.F. Rempel.
1870 caves well-known as scenic attractions.
1877 excavation of Ash Cave.
1924 first land purchase by the state including Old Man's Cave.
07-JAN-1998 flash flood destroys bridges and trains in Old Man's Gorge.


Ash Cave. Public Domain.

Hocking Hills State Park is located in the picturesque sandstone region of southeastern Ohio, a landscape of towering cliffs, waterfalls and deep hemlock-shaded gorges. Rock outcrops are sculptured by the forces of erosion, especially rivers and frost, and form shelters and caves. Such sandstone caves are rare and generally very small. This ones are not small, and there is even a "real cave" called Rock House, which means it is not just an overhanging cliff face, but a passage with walls on both sides. All the caves at Hocking Hills State Park are well developed in terms of picknick areas. However, they are not at all developed as show caves. This is not necessary, as generally a torch is not needed, and hiking shoes are a good idea anyway in a park with so many interesting trails.

The gorges and caves are carved into the Blackhand sandstone, 350 million years old delta sediments of a river. At this point a huge river met the warm shallow sea which covered most of Ohio at that time. The river brought sand with him and deposited it in its estuary. This formed a layer which is today 50 m thick.

Old Man's Cave is located in Old Man's Gorge, a 500 m long sandstone gorge. This gorge starts with the Upper Falls and ends at the Lower Falls, with many nice spots in between, like Devil's Bathtub, the lookout at Sphinx Head or, of course Old Man's Cave. There is a round trip trail on top of the cliff and a trail along the bottom, a frame bridge across the gorge and varios tunnels leading down into the gorge. The Visitor Center is located at Old Man's Cave and is the obvious starting point for hikes.

Old Man's Cave was obviously first known to the native Indians who lived here. Two brothers, Nathaniel and Pat Rayon came to the area in 1795. They built a permanent cabin 10 m north of the cave entrance, both are buried in or near the cave. The cabin was later relocated on the nearby Iles farm to be used as a tobacco drying house. Later Richard Rowe lived in the gorge. His family moved from the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee to the Ohio River Valley around 1796 and established a trading post. He was hunting with his two dogs along the Scioto River, and discovered the Hocking Region on a side trip up Salt Creek. Rowe lived in the area and is buried beneath the ledge of the main recess cave. While he lived here, the cave was named Old Man's Cave because of him.

Ash Cave contained a strange heap of ash, when it was first discovered by white settlers, hence the name. There were several heaps of ash, the biggest was 35 m long and 10 m wide, 1 m high. It is not clear where those ashes originated from, but there are several theories. Some say it were accumulated ashes of Indian campfires, other say the results of smelting silver or lead by the Indians. Another theory say that its a result of making saltpeter in the cave. An excavation of the ash in 1877 revealed various Indian remains like arrows, animal bones in great variety, bits of pottery, flints and corn cobs.

Ash Cave looks very impressive, and is the largest recess cave in the state. It is reached through a 400 m long narrow gorge, which suddenly opens up. The cave is a huge ledge forming a shelter, 30 m deep and 27 m high, continuing for 215 m along the gorge wall. Today the floor is level and covered with sand. The concave geometry of the cave does a special accoustic trick: there are two distant points in the cave where you can talk to someone in the other point by whisper and be understood. This so-called whispering gallery is a result of of sound waves being reflected and concentrated, similar to a lens.

Rock House is said to be the only true cave in the park. It is not a recess cave, but a straight underground passage, 7.50 m high, between 6 m and 9 m wide, and 60 m long. It was formed by water leaking through a joint running parallel to the cliff face, which is visible in the ceiling of the passage. Orthogonal joint, between the cave and the cliff face, resulted in huge window-like openings. The seven windows look Gothic-arched and the massive sandstone columns inbetween support the roof.

The Rock House was used as a shelter for a very long time. Troughs or holding tanks were chiseled out of the stone floor to collect ground water pouring out of the sandstone. Small recesses in the back wall were used as ovens. Later it was frequented by robbers, horse thieves, murderers and even bootleggers, which resulted in the name Robbers Roost, at least according to local legends. In the 19th century it became a famous tourist destination, which resulted in a development of the area. In 1835, Colonel F.F. Rempel erected a 16-room hotel where the picnic shelter is today.

The early tourists left numerous dated carvings in the soft rock. The most interesting one is an open book with the letters ITFBRAR - ITFFAWMTAW written on its pages. This is the abbreviation of In the fall, Buck Run bananas are ripe - in the frost fall, a wise man takes a wife. Buck Run banana is a local slang term for the fruit of the pawpaw tree.