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Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills is a Breathtaking Hike

Hocking Hills is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Ohio! When hiking at Old Man’s Cave you will encounter some of Ohio’s most stunning scenery including water falls, caves and cliffs! 

Old Man’s Cave is one of the most popular destinations in Hocking Hills. My family recently hiked this area and we were blown away by how beautiful it is! In this post I will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about hiking at Old Man’s Cave and give you an overview of some of the major landmarks to keep an eye out for you as you hike the trails! 

This post was updated on June 15, 2023.

hiking trail with bridge at Old Man's Cave

What is Old Man’s Cave?

Old Man’s Cave is a hiking area at the north end of Hocking Hills State Park and is made up of eight major trail routes. The main trail route in the area is Grandma Gatgewood Trail to Gorge Exit Trail and depending on where you exit it is 1 or 1.5 miles. Access to other trails is available along this path if you are looking for a longer or more challenging hike.

boy hiking in the cave recess at Old Man's Cave

Old Man’s Cave is just one trails of Hocking Hills State Park but it is one of the most popular – and for good reason! The area is just full of beautiful sights and scenery. Old Man’s Cave trail a challenging but doable hike for families that will take at least an hour.

Who Can Hike the Trails at Old Man’s Cave?

two boys in front of the Old Man's Cave sign at Hocking Hills

My family first did this hike when my boys were 6 and 9 years old and they were able to do the hike without complaint! There are a lot of stairs and just one short but memorable ledge that did not have a railing.

I’m going to edit this post here to add that when we did this hike in 2023, I noticed that the ledge pictured below now has a railing! It didn’t register with me until we had crossed over it and I looked back! I didn’t even get a good picture to replace this one, so it will keep this one here as a memory!

family hiking on a cliff edge in Hocking Hills, Ohio

If you have a toddler you will want to keep them close. I do not recommend taking a stroller on this hike unless it is very light and you are prepared to carry it. There are a LOT of steps and uneven patches. We saw at least one abandoned stroller on our hike from someone who had given up using it along the way.

How did Old Man’s Cave get its name?

Old Man’s Cave was named after Richard Rowe, a man who reportedly lived for a time in the cave in 1796. He is supposedly buried in the cave. There have been stories reported of other people living in the cave, even before Richard Rowe. There is evidence that a few Native American tribes occupied the area in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Two brothers reportedly lived in the area in 1795. 

trees and rock formations in Old Man's Cave

What is there to see at Old Man’s Cave?

We’ll spend a lot of time in this section because this is where the magic happens. There is so much to see in this part of the park. What follows is a list of some of the most popular sights to be seen at Old Man’s Cave. I’ve put them in order from the Trail Entrance at the Visitor’s Center.

1. Visitor’s Center

Visitor's Center at Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills

The most logical place to start is the Visitor’s Center. Start by picking up a map of the Trails of Hocking Hills State Park which will be a necessity when hiking the Old Man’s Cave area. Additionally, there are restrooms and vending machines here.

Inside the Hocking Hills Visitor’s Center are educational displays and information about each of the main areas of the park. This is a great place to start to get a lay of the land! You can also read my list of fun things to do in Hocking Hills to get an overview of other trails at Hocking Hills State Park!

Also, there are some interactive elements for kids inside the Visitor’s Center including a cave they can walk inside, a 3D model of Old Man’s Cave and an area that looks like a walking trail (pictured below) that contains educational information about Hocking Hills!

There are also picnic tables here in this area. You won’t find any other picnic areas along the trail so this is a great place for your picnic lunch or sit-down snack. Plus you can return items you don’t want to carry with you to the car. There are also informational stations here so you can learn about Hocking Hills and Old Man’s Cave before you begin your hike.

picnic tables in the Visitor's Center area

Start on the one way trail here and walk north east along the edge of the parking lot.

trail markers in the park

2. Upper Falls

Upper Falls at Old Man's Cave

One of the most famous sights to be seen at Old Man’s Cave is Upper Falls. This stunning waterfall with a bridge over top is a worth a stop for a family photo.

bridge over Upper Falls

3. Devil’s Bathtub

standing over top of Devil's Bathtub

Devil’s Bathtub has formed here because the water has no where to go but down. How did Devil’s Bathtub get it’s name? Devil’s Bathtub has been said to go all the way Hades itself. While that might not be exactly true, the sign next to it says climbing out is “virtually impossible”.

Devil's Bathtub from a distance

4. ‘A’ Frame Bridge Over Gorge

A Frame Bridge Over Gorge with people hiking underneath

I love the man-made pathway here under the A Frame Bridge. This is another very picturesque area. You just want to stop and breathe it all in!

Dad and two boys hiking underneath the A Frame Bridge at Old Man's Cave

5. Sphinx Head

Sphinx Head from a distance

The Sphinx Head is a rock formation that looks like . . . wait for it . . . a sphinx head. If you look at the map, the Sphinx Head is technically further along the trail, but to appreciate it’s naturally formed shape, you view it from a distance. There will be a marker on the trail that will prompt you to look up and find it!

6. Lower Falls

bridge made of stone with surrounded by fall leaves

The Lower Falls is another of the most famous sites at Old Man’s Cave. Cross over this bridge that looks like it came out of The Lord of the Rings and head down to the water where The Lower Falls run over the rocks.

Lower Falls at Old Man's Cave

As with most Ohio waterfalls, what you will see will highly depend on the amount of rainfall we have had in recent days and weeks. I’ve seen pictures with the falls MUCH fuller than what you see pictured here. 

two boys walking in front of the Lower Falls

Shortly after Lower Falls is where you will transition briefly to the Broken Rock Trail. There are a lot of steps here. (You can also branch off for a hike to Broken Rock Falls.) Then you will head back towards the Visitor’s Center on the Gorge Exit Trail.

7. Old Man’s Cave

people hiking in the Old Man's Cave recess

The specific area where the “Old Man” is said to have lived is a recess that was naturally carved into the rock in the gorge.

There are lots of steps into the cave area!

The Old Man's Cave with steps and overlook above

8. Naturalist Cabin

The Naturalist's Cave at Hocking Hills, Logan, Ohio

When you get to the Naturalist Cabin, it will be a sign that you are coming to the end of the trail and back to the Old Man’s Cave Visitor’s Center. Events and special exhibits are held here.

two boys approaching a bridge in the gorge of Old Man's Cave

FAQ’s about Old Man’s Cave:

Where is Hocking Hills?

Hocking Hills State Park is in southeast Ohio, in the city of Logan. The official address of Hocking Hills State Park is 19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138.

An interesting fact I learned from a sign in the park is that the name Hocking Hills comes from the Wyandot Indian word “hockhocking” and refers to the bottleneck shape of the gorge near Lancaster, Ohio.

How far is Old Man’s Cave from Columbus, Ohio?

Old Man’s Cave is 59 miles from downtown Columbus, Ohio. From downtown it will take you a little over 1 hour to drive from Columbus to the Old Man’s Cave Area of Hocking Hills.

two boys heading into a cave in Hocking Hills

How long does it take to hike Old Man’s Cave?

If you search the general internet for how long it takes to hike Old Man’s Cave, the most popular answer is 1 hour. However, we are talking about hiking with kids here. We took a couple of breaks a long the way, especially at the waterfalls. I’d say we were in the gorge for 2 – 2.5 hours.

Can you swim at Old Man’s Cave?

Swimming and wading are not allowed in the waterfalls and creeks within Old Man’s Cave.

Is Old Man’s Cave free to hike?

Old Man’s Cave is part of Hocking Hills State Park and all of the park is free to enter. Parking is free in designated lots.

steps heading down into a tunnel in Old Man's Cave

Are dogs allowed at Old Man’s Cave?

Dogs are allowed on the trail when on a leash.

What hours is Old Man’s Cave Open?

You can visit Hocking Hills State Park from dawn to dusk. The park closes at dark. You should plan your trip so that you will be sure to be out of the park before dark!

man and two boys inside a cave at Hocking Hills in Ohio

What should we bring on our hike in Old Man’s Cave? 

It is important that you wear protective shoes when hiking at Old Man’s Cave. I would not do this hike in sandals or flip flops! There are a LOT of steps on this hike and most of the step areas are made of rock that can get slippery when wet. The park is also open during the winter and trails can get icy. 

man made steps heading up the side of the gorge

I would recommend bringing a back pack so that you can carry water bottles and a snack. But don’t plan on carrying anything too heavy unless you are used to hiking with a heavy pack. You won’t need too much more than water and a snack. Don’t forget sunscreen and/or a hat! 

man and two boys heading into a cave tunnel in Hocking Hills

I hope you enjoy hiking Old Man’s Cave as much as we did! I can’t wait to go back! If you’re planning an extended trip to Hocking Hills, check out my list of family-friendly restaurants in Hocking Hills to round out your trip!

If you’re looking for more things to do in Ohio try one of these posts:

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Hiking Old Man's Cave with Kids!

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Bernice mccall

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

Been going to old man,s caves for 70 year With our three children and the with our seven grand children who is going to old mans cave them 10 great children are going plus my sister and brother and there kids go family from Indiana. Plus all our friend. After that some on ELSIE will have to take them. But I will be in haven watching them continue our yearly get together. So many memory's that keep growing

Julie Miller

Thursday 7th of October 2021

It sounds like you've made a lot of great memories!