Hi Friends! Happy Friday Eve! I’m literally SO excited for tomorrow begins it means this long, never ending, stress filled week is over and I can put on my jammies (footed no less) and SLEEP.
But you didn’t come here to listen to me complain! You came to read my newest Travel Tuesday post… on a Thursday! (Again. Super crazy week over here!)
The last few Travel Tuesdays I’ve been talking about The Hocking Hills. And today is no exception! If I remember correctly, I told you my next post was on my favorite place. But I did some thinking… and decided I wanted to save the best for last. So today, we’re talking about another really popular place in the park… Ash Cave!
Ash Cave is easily one of the most visited spots in the park. I mean… it’s a gigantic cave that you get to walk around in, and you don’t have to worry about bats or bears. Plus, it’s crazy easy to get to! This is the perfect “trail” for literally anyone. It’s the largest cave in the state, and it’s like really pretty. (“So you agree? You think you’re really pretty?” Sorry. I just couldn’t resist!)
Ash Cave, must like a few other popular spots in the Hocking Hills is the kind of place that takes zero effort to get to, but you get a crazy reward at the end. This isn’t like hiking Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, where you’re out of breath two minutes in. On our first trip to The Hocking HIlls (not sure what I’m talking about? Read the backstory here.) we really weren’t sure what to expect. To the point where my Mother In Law purchased a walking stick to take with her incase it was a rough a hike. I mean… we’d seen the pictures. We figured it would take some serious effort to get to a place that looked like that. When we rolled up and saw the “Hike” we couldn’t stop LOLing. Why? Keep Reading!
I call this a hike, but it’s not. It’s not even a brisk walk. This paved trail is so easy to navigate that many Bride to Be’s choose to get married here. (No joke. We had to come back later this time around because a wedding was happening.)
When you begin the trail, you have two option. The Gorge Trail which is 1/4 Mile or The Rim Trail which is 1/2 Mile. I would say, even if you want to hike the rim, start with the gorge!
Not only is The Gorge Trail a super easy trail to navigate, but the walk back is absolutely gorgeous. You wander through a narrow gorge with massive trees, bright colored wildflowers a little stream.
Then, almost as suddenly as the trail starts, it opens up to a massive overhanging ledge that is the top of the cave. This horseshoe shaped cave is HUGE. In fact, it’s 700 feet from end to end.
Now, before you get your hopes up, this is NOT a cave like in the movies. It’s not like a little hole where you walk all the way into the rock and it’s pitch black. It’s actually a recess cave, which is pretty unique to Southeastern Ohio. A recess cave is formed by soft layers of sand sediment being washed away from the undersides of a cliff by glaciers.
I didn’t know this (like I said before, I didn’t know anything about this place because it was a surprise trip for me… so I didn’t get to do all my normal research!) and was like “Ummmm this isn’t a cave?” the first time I saw it. It was really cool, but it wasn’t the cave I was picturing.
As long as you can get out of your mind that this isn’t a typical cave, you’ll be able to appreciate the beauty that is Ash Cave. From the cave you have two options, again. The first? Turn around the way you came and head back to your car (which is what we did on our most recent trip). The second? Head up to hike towards the rim.
We hiked the rim of Ash Cave on our very first trip to the Hocking Hills. If you’ve never done, I’d totally recommend trying it once. It’s a short hike (about a 1/2 mile round trip). However, it is not accessible to everyone like the Gorge Trail is. It’s pretty and it allows you to see the cave from a different perspective.
Ooooh! And if you’re an avid hiker, you can actually hike from Ash Cave to Cedar Falls.
Online, it will tell you that The Gorge Trail takes 30 minutes to hike and The Upper Rim Trail takes you about 40 minutes to hike. I literally don’t believe this AT ALL. If you walk at a normal speed, you will be back to the cave in less than 10 minutes. I think we made it in 5. While The Upper Rim Trail is a bit more rugged, this hike will NOT take you 40 minutes, unless you stop a lot. I would say 20 at the absolute max.
Getting to Ash Cave is super easy! Because it is so popular, it’s really well marked .Once you drive into the park, there are literally signs EVERYWHERE. You won’t miss them. But if you’re still worried, stop by the Visitors Center to grab a map, or download the Hocking Hills app. (The service is pretty spotty once you’re in the park. You don’t need service or wifi to use the app!) This is also one that you can also put right into Google Maps and it’ll take you right there.
Tips and Tricks
Arrive Early! This hike gets crazy crowded, crazy fast. I would say to get there by 10 am. Because otherwise, the parking lot is totally jam packed.
There are bathrooms! If you have to use the bathroom, they have them here.
Bring your fur baby. Pups are allowed, but they have to be on a leash.
Ash Cave is super close to Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls (I’ll talk allllll about that in another post!) which means it’s great if you’re trying to squeeze multiple hikes into one day.
Now can you totally see why this hike is so popular?! It super simple to reach, and really unique!