Old Man's Cave Hocking Hills State Park
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~ Albert Einstein
OLD MAN'S CAVE - HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK
ABOUT OLD MAN'S CAVE
Old Man’s Cave is located in the Hocking Hills State Park. It is the most popular park in the area. If you have ever tried to visit the park during the summer, you know this is a fact. It can be very hard to get a parking space. If you are planning a trip to Old Man’s cave in the Hocking Hills, if possible, do not go on the weekend. Instead, go early on a weekday.
HISTORY OF OLD MAN'S CAVE
The State of Ohio purchased the first 146 acre parcel of land in the Hocking Hills, in the 1920’s. This purchase included Old Man’s cave. In 1949, the State formed the Department of Natural Resources which is now commonly referred to as ODNR. Eventually, ODNR took control of property.
In 1972, ODNR launched a dining lodge and cabins. In 2016 the dining lodge burned down. The new lodge is set to open in the fall of 2022. As of today, the park offers cabins, a campground, hiking trails, environmental programs, a visitor center with a gift shop, and picnicking.
THE OLD MAN OF OLD MAN'S CAVE
Old Man’s Cave was named for the man that is believed to have lived in the cave. His name was Richard Rowe and he lived in the large cave of the gorge. He was a trapper that moved his family to the area from Tennessee in 1796.
He became a hermit and lived in the cave with his dog Harper. He lived out his life in the cave and was buried beneath the ledge. It is said that Richard accidentally shot himself trying to break through ice. Eventually, other trappers found him and buried him with his dog in the flood of the cave.
Although Richard Rowe is the most famous resident of Old Mana’s cave, others occupied the area before him. Archeologists have found evidence that American Indians visited the area around 7000 years ago. There is also evidence that the Wyandot, Lenape, and Shawnee Indians all lived in the Hocking Hills area during the 1600s – 1700’s. Other residents include two brothers, Nathaniel and Pat Rayon. They erected a cabin just north of the cave entrance. They are now buried either in the cave or near the cave entrance.
THE URBAN LEGEND
It is said that Old Man’s Cave is haunted by the ghost of Richard Rowe. People have said they have seen the old man walking his dog. They also have reported hearing Harper howling.
THE TRAILS AT OLD MAN’S CAVE
Old Man's Cave has five main areas. They are the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Upper Gorge, Lower Gorge, and Middle Falls.
There are several trails in this beautiful park. They include:
Broken Rock Falls Trail .2 mi
Camp Access Trail .1 mi
Gorge Exit Trail .5 mi
Gorge Overlook Trail 2.9 mi
Grandma Gatewood Trail 5.2 mi
Lower Access Trail .1 mi
Old Man Cave Access .04 mi
Upper Falls Loop Trail .6 mi
Buckeye Trail (Find out more about the Buckeye Trail HERE)
You can download the Hocking Hills Trail Map from ODNR HERE.
There are a number of trails in Old Man’s Cave. Several are very short and a couple long ones. The Grandma Gatewood is actually part of the Buckeye Trail. The Buckeye Trail is a 1400-mile loop trail that winds its way throughout Ohio.
A wheelchair/stroller accessible trail runs from the Campground office past the visitor center to Lodge Road. The trail is about ¾ of a mile in one direction. There is an observation deck near the north east end of the Old Man’s Cave parking lot that overlooks Upper Falls.
THE WELCOME SIGN AT OLD MAN’S CAVE PARK
Welcome to Hocking Hill State Park… The Most Exciting Trails in the State
The figure depicted here is a rendition of the massive “Sphinx Head” located on the north face of the cliff just downstream of Old Man’s Cave. Most visitors come here for the spectacular geologic formations carved into the blackhand sandstone. This is a great place to pause and gaze into the main gorge. Old Man’s Cave area is filled with beautiful waterfalls dropping into a stream that snakes its way through a variety of recess caved, rock formations, quiet pools and breathtaking clifftop views. If you look closely enough, you may find many of the better known rock formations throughout the park and maybe even discover a few of your own.
While you stroll along the many miles of trail here at Hocking Hills State Park, make sure to enjoy the wide variety of creatures, plant life and cultural history that make this place so uniquely special. Take a moment and enjoy the diversity of plant life such as the hemlock and black birch trees carried here by the glaciers. Look into the streams for a miniature aquatic habitat of unusual stream fish or wide-eyed frogs. In late summer you might even catch a glimpse of the round-leaf catchfly. A brilliant red flower found blooming along the cliff walls. One of the most popular trails here at Hocking Hills is the Grandma Gatewood Trail encompassing 5 miles of scenic wonderland. The trek begins here and journeys from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls and then on to Ash Cave. No matter where your hiking boots take you today remember, for your safety and the safety of the many rare species of life here at the park, please remain on the trail at all times.
I have enjoyed visiting this park since I was a small child. The park has changed tremendously since then. Years ago, the main trails were rugged and could honestly be quite dangerous. Now there are countless steps and very nice bridges. Even though the park has had a lot of work done to it, the trails can be quite difficult for some people to walk.
As you work your way through the park you will pass by God's magnificent creations everywhere. There’s the large cave, numerous outcroppings, waterfalls, and more. The park is absolutely gorgeous and a must for anyone passing through the area.
I would love to have taken more pictures of Old Man’s Cave to share will all of you, but there were so many people, it was impossible. I was lucky to get these few shots without large crowds of people being in the pictures.
The last time we visited Old Man’s cave it was extremely hot outside. So, the birds were not as active as on other occasions we have visited.
Old Man’s Cave is considered a birding hotspot on eBird. There have been 123 species observed and recorded in the park.
OTHER AMENITIES AT OLD MAN’S CAVE
There is a decent size campground at Old Man’s Cave. The campsite has full hookups, electric only, non-electric sites, and primitive campsites. There are also cabins you can rent.
In December of 2016, the lodge was destroyed by a fire. There is a new lodge being built in its place. It is slated to open in the fall of 2022.
As much as we love Old Man’s Cave and think it is a must visit park for everyone. There are too many people to be able to be able to enjoy the experience and relax. If you are planning to visit, we would NOT recommend going on a nice summer weekend. As far as that goes, you probably will not be able to find a spot to park anyway. Go early on a weekday.
The upgrades, since the 80s, are absolutely gorgeous and they do make it easier to make your way through the park. But these features have also brought in a lot of visitors and made Old Man’s Cave a tourist destination. This park is no longer a place to get away from it all. However, it is still absolutely beautiful.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT OLD MAN'S CAVE
Please note that trail rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Old Man's Cave in the Hocking Hills State Park as of April 2022.
There are bathrooms located in the visitor center.
Bicycles are not permitted in the cave area. However, there are 2 mountain bike trails in the Hocking Hills State Park. The trail heads are located on Nihiser Road. You can find them by clicking HERE.
There was quite a bit of activity during migration.
Several small foot bridges located along the trail. There are both wood bridges and stone bridges.
Concealed carry is permitted.
Dogs are not permitted.
Trail surfaces are concrete, wood and natural. The trails can be difficult. They are not for anyone that has trouble walking stairs or climbing. The trails can be dangerous due to the high cliffs. There is a wheelchair/stroller accessible trail that runs from the Campground office past the visitor center to Lodge Road.
There is a huge blacktop parking lot that fills up fast.
Picnic tables are located near the parking lot.
There are benches located near the visitor center and the parking lot. However, there are no benches on the trails.
A lot of shade.
There is a large shelter house located near the parking lot.
The trails are not marked with paint. However, you can easily see where they are at.
No trashcans along the trail.
Small waterfalls. There are also areas of ponding that often dry up during the summer.
I counted 6 ADA parking spots. There may be more.