Old Man’s Cave is one of Ohio’s most popular natural attractions in Ohio, and is one of the six major areas of the Hocking Hills State Park. The cave is a natural formation that has been carved into a gorge by the flow of the Salt Creek and melting glaciers. While the cave is relatively small, the gorge runs for about a half mile, and reaches a depth of roughly 150 feet at the deepest point. The area is marked by five distinct areas: Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls and Lower Gorge.
Archaeologists have been able to document that Native Americans visited the Hocking Hills region for thousands of years before settlers of European descent came to Southeast Ohio. It was in 1795 when brothers Nathaniel and Pat Rayon built a cabin near what would later be known as Old Man’s Cave. The brothers are believed to be buried within or very nearby the cave.
The cave was given its name in the 1800s after Richard Rowe and his family moved from Tennessee to Ohio in the late 1700s. Rowe eventually became a hermit, and lived in the cave. He was known to travel along the Scioto River with his two dogs in search of wild game. It was during one of these trips that he came across the Hocking Hills region. Legend has it that Rowe’s final resting place is within the cave itself.
In 1924, the State of Ohio purchased 146 acres of land in Hocking Hills, which included Old Man’s Cave. The parks was owned and operated by the Ohio Department of Forestry at that time. Then, in 1949, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Division of Parks assumed control of the cave.
For those interested in hiking through the gorge, Grandma Gatewood Trail runs five miles from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave. Along the way, you can enjoy fantastic rock formations with names like the Devil’s Bathtub and Sphinx Head. You can also visit Cedar Falls and other five major areas of Hocking Hills State Park – Ash Cave, Conkle’s Hollow, Cantwell Cliffs and Rock House.
Old Man’s Cave is located just off State Route 664 across from the parking lot at Hocking Hills State Park.