Ash Cave is an amazing aspect of Hocking Hills State Park and the largest recess cave in the state. Carved in a horseshoe shape over 700 feet, the cave measures 100 feet deep and 90 from ledge to floor. It’s an awesome place to visit and well worth the trip.
Ash Cave is in the southern end of Hocking Hills and within easy reach of the rest of the county. As part of the state park, it is undeveloped and left as much to nature as possible. There are two hikes to the cave itself, the quarter-mile Ash Cave Gorge Trail and the half-mile Ash Cave Rim trail.
The gorge trail is accessible and goes from the parking lot to the cave. It is possible to continue the trail past the cave where it joins the Grandma Gatewood Trail, which in turn is part of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail. The Buckeye Trail itself is a 1,444 mile trail that encircles Ohio. The rim trail takes you up onto the cliffs and affords a more challenging, but awe inspiring experience.
Like the many other caves and gorges in the area, Ash Cave was formed by water erosion eating away at the soft sandstone that is predominant in the area. The harder rock at the top and bottom layer has remained, offering some remarkable caves and waterfalls. Queer Creek has a small tributary that provides a waterfall when the levels are high enough, adding another element to the location.
The cave is named after ash piles were found under the shelter. These remnants of early users of the cave were substantial, with the largest said to have been 100 feet long, 30 feet wide and 3 feet deep. There were hundreds of ash piles spread around the entire cave That’s a lot of fires over a very long period of time!
It is believed that the Native Americans used Ash Cave for hundreds of years before the settlers came. There were those hundreds of ash piles and evidence of cooking, arrow making, crafting and skinning within the cave. The location is also part of the main trail joining the Shawnee villages that spread across what is now Ohio and the Mid-west. The trail was used to march prisoners caught in raids along the Ohio river up to villages in the Scioto River. That trail is now SR56.
Ash Cave is an amazing place to visit at any time of year. The forest around always has something to show us, especially in the fall. If the water levels are high enough, the cascade of water down to the pool at the bottom of the cave is an awesome spectacle.