Photos: Old Man’s Cave at Hocking Hills
Old Man’s Cave is by far the most popular visitation site in Hocking Hills. The hike to the main part of the cave is much farther than at Ash Cave but definitely worth the time, as each part brings something breathtaking.
At the start of the hike we walked across the iconic bridge that is attributed to being one of the most beautiful locations for photography in Hocking Hills. On the left is a wide rocky river with small waterfalls that eventually falls over the edge of the cliff into a small pool, known as the upper falls. We walk down winding steps that are once again carved into the rock in order to create paths with as little destruction of nature as possible.
Once you reach the bottom you land on somewhat of a beach overlooking the bridge and waterfall, all nested in a small cove. The water here is unlike the clear river water, it’s a beautiful shade of turquoise that pops against the orange tones of the rock above it. Icicles line the jagged rocky overhangs and the sides of the waterfall, glimmering when hit by the soft sunlight.
Even though Old Man’s Cave is usually a very busy location, when you come at the right time it can be completely empty with only the rustle of pine trees and soft chirps of birds to accompany you.
As we walk across another bridge, we come across one of the other wonders of Old Man’s Cave; the devils bathtub. This bean shaped basin catches all the water coming down from the upper falls and swirls it around creating a whirlpool like effect. This natural wonder is made possible because of its placement in the middle layer of the backhand sandstone found in the Hocking Hills area, which is weaker than most, allowing for constant erosion.
The rocky terrain continues as we walk further, causing the trees in most parts to cling to the edges with their entangled roots. The third bridge that we come across is extremely unique, made of only large slabs of rock. After a large flood in the area completely destroyed the old bridge, they decided to create a structure that could withstand almost anything. Above it is another architecturally interesting bridge, the triangular shape helps it remain steady atop the uneven cliff faces. To finally reach the cave, we descend into a low passthrough carved into the side of one of the rocky hills.
The walk through the tunnel is short and once you reach the other end you are surrounded by the entire cave. Crossing one more bridge leads us to the stairs that ascend up and into the cave itself. Once inside the cave you can see the entire forest and river laid before you. The name of the cave comes from the legend that a hermit named Richard Rowe lived in the cave with his dog and is now buried within the ledge of the cave.
All photos by Lillian Dent.
Disclaimer / Editor’s Note: Columbus Underground was invited to participate in the Comfort Food, Crystal Caves & Moonshine Media Tour in the Hocking Hills area in January 2016, and utilized the opportunity to send photography intern Lillian Dent on a multi-day photo shoot experience to hone her skills as a writer and a photographer. Food and lodging was provided to her free of charge as a part of the media tour event.