The Cantwell Cliffs area is quite remote, being a 17 mile drive from Old Man’s Cave. That means it doesn’t get as busy as some of the other areas, but it also means it isn’t quite so evolved as them either. If you like hiking is the real wilderness, with safety never far away, this is the hike for you.
Cantwell Cliffs is one of many rock formations hewn out of the local Blackhand sandstone in the Hocking hills area. The cliffs themselves were worn away by Buck Run, a creek that runs through the middle of the cliffs. Over millions of years, the water has eaten away at the soft sandstone creating the fissure you see today.
The Cantwell Cliffs Trail goes in a loop around the area. From the parking lot it takes you to a cliff edge where you can turn left and go down onto the valley floor or right and walk around the rim. Go right and you will come to a washed out bridge over a stream that feeds a waterfall. If there has been enough rain, the falls is a highlight of the trail.
The trail then descends onto the valley floor near the base of the falls. Follow the trail along the creek bed and it takes you back to the beginning. You will pass the falls, a recess cave and some rock formations before making it back to the start.
There are also opportunities to climb back up the cliff and continue along a different path. One, called “Fat Woman’s Squeeze” is quite narrow, but takes you to the cliff top once more.
The Cantwell Cliffs Trail is short but challenging. Ideally, you could hike this in the morning and move on to somewhere else after a spot of lunch somewhere. It’s ideal for a couple of hours of wandering and exploring the area. If the season is right, the waterfalls are beautiful and can be worth the trip alone.
As this is one of the less formed trails in Hocking Hills, the trail can be rough and difficult at times. The climbs are steep and there are plenty of places to go awry. Hike carefully, stock to the trails and take the proper equipment. You will be so glad you did.