No visit to Hocking Hills would be complete without a visit to Ash Cave and the Ash Cave Gorge Trail is the best way to see it.
There are two Ash Cave Gorge Trails in Hocking Hills, the official one and the unofficial one. Both are easily walkable and one offers wheelchair access. They form part of a much wider network of trails that includes the American Discovery trail. That trail links 15 states from the east to west coasts.
The Upper Rim Trail is half a mile long and is quite rugged. It includes stairs and other challenges, but repays your efforts with some amazing scenery even before you get to Ash Cave itself. The lower Gorge Trail is the accessible trail and the one we would recommend if mobility is an issue.
The lower Ash Cave Gorge Trail begins with a sign reading “Ash Cave Trail for the Physically Challenged. Dedicated to the millions of Americans whose lives are challenged by physical disabilities.”
The surface has been smoothed over and now has a hard surface, which is why it is wheelchair friendly. The quarter mile trail leads from the sign, through some amazing forest areas full of trees, flora and fauna and the odd wild animal if you’re lucky. The trail follows a stream bed to Ash Cave is a meandering kind of way, providing a tranquil atmosphere from which to enjoy the outdoors.
The Ash Cave Gorge Trail is a testament to the region’s awareness of accessibility and testament to an increasing effort to make some of our most beautiful outdoor areas accessible to all without compromising the character of the trails, or the challenges required by fully able-bodied hikers.
At the end of Ash Cave Gorge Trail is, of course, the cave itself. Ash Cave is massive, 700 feet from one end to the other, with a roof over 90 feet high. The name is apparently derived from Native Americans who named it so because of the amount of ash left over from camp fires held underneath the shelter. Ash Cave was used by settlers too as a church, meeting place and somewhere to shelter during inclement weather. It is possible to get married in the church itself if you wanted somewhere different but charming to hold your service.
As Ash Cave is horseshoe-shaped, it is very light and airy and is a fascinating sight to behold. It also means you can make the most of the cave even if you’re claustrophobic!