Cantwell Cliffs is located a short drive away from the main attractions in Hocking Hills, around 17 miles from Old Man’s Cave for example. That makes it quieter and more exclusive and ideal for the hiker who likes to enjoy the countryside in peace. It still sits inside Hocking Hills State Park, but it the most northern attraction in it.
Despite being an effort to get there, it’s well worth the time. It’s a local favorite, too, I go there a lot, especially in spring and fall because the colors and activity in the forests around the area make for some very interesting days out.
Cantwell Cliffs was created by water erosion from nearby Buck Run. Over millions of years, the water has carved out spectacular niches and passages in the soft sandstone, called Blackhand sandstone by some. The harder, denser rock resisted this erosion, which is why there are so many spectacular formations to see.
Hocking Hills is an area made predominantly of sandstone with plenty of water around to make it interesting. Add in an ice age or two and water has carved us out a spectacular country!
Cantwell Cliffs itself is a horseshoe-shaped cliff that rises up to 150 feet above the floor. You can walk through and around the cliff top, affording amazing views of the Cantwell Cliffs area and Hocking Hills at large. It is these views that make the area a firm favorite and why people make the effort to come out here, even when the weather isn’t great. There are few places in the world that truly make you take stock of human insignificance in the face of nature and this is one of them.
The hiking around Cantwell Cliffs is challenging. The terrain is rough, it either climbs or drops, there are rocks to clamber over and “Fat Woman’s Squeeze” to get through. But when you do, you get to sit on the cliff edge and marvel at what nature has created. The hike isn’t very long, but can feel it at times, making it very worthwhile in our opinion.
In all, there are over 25 miles of trails in Hocking Hills State Park, so if you prefer a much more challenging experience you could hike from Old Man’s Cave for example, up to Cantwell Cliffs and back. Many of the trails join up and there are plenty of local maps showing you the way.
We spent a lovely day hiking from Old Man’s Cave, up past Gibisonville on the trail, to Cantwell Cliffs, then back to Rock House, Conkle’s Hollow and back here to the Cave. It was exhausting, but amazingly satisfying and if you have the stamina, it’s a challenge everyone should try.