Parking: 39.436472, -82.539639
Trailhead: 39.436361, -82.539194
Distance: 1.0 mile loop
Difficulty: Easy (stone steps could be difficult for some)
Features: Upper Falls, Devil’s Bathtub, Blackhand Sandstone cliffs, Stone Bridges, Recessed Cave
To reach Upper Falls, park in at the Old Man’s Cave parking lot furthest from the visitors center. The trailhead is just off the parking lot’s eastern end near a wooden sign and walkway. The trail is well marked by blue blazes painted on trees along the path. This trail is also known as a section of the Buckeye Trail (the 1,444-mile long trail that circles the state of Ohio) and the Grandma Gatewood Memorial Trail (a 6.5 mile long trail that passes through Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and ends at Ash Cave)
*Note* Due to Covid-19 social distancing protocols, Hocking Hills State Park has implemented one-way trail systems for each hike. Follow all directions and avoid the opposite directions.
Starting at the trailhead, follow the path down the wooden ramp and across the footbridge that arcs above the falls. At this point you can start to view the sandstone cliffs that surround the falls and the pool at the base of the falls. The footpath will eventually lead you to a stone staircase. Proceed down the steps and turn right at the bottom to walk over to the edge of the pool near Upper Falls.
To return to your vehicle or view other sights, proceed back to the base of the stone staircase and follow the path down some additional steps that will take you deeper into the gorge. The trail will take you along the creek and sandstone cliffs for a few hundred yards. At this point you will cross a stone footbridge that spans over a feature known as Devil’s Bathtub.
Continuing past Devil’s Bathtub I was in constant awe at the trail’s beauty. I was hiking during early February, so in addition to the Blackhand sandstone cliffs that surrounded the trail, I got to enjoy the ice formations that formed over sections of rock and hung over parts of the trail.
A note about winter hiking: when hiking during the winter months where snow and ice can accumulate, it is important to carry a pair of micro-spikes for your boots. These micro-spikes proved to be a savior during my weekend at Hocking Hills State Park, and I lost track of how many people commented that they wish they also had a pair. The ice that covers the steps and portions of the trails was causing people to slip and fall all around me, including a lady who slipped down an entire stone staircase at the rock tunnel. Thankfully she wasn’t badly hurt. I own, and highly recommend, the Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System from REI.
Not too far after passing Devils Bathtub will you pass a junction in the trail. At this point you can continue on the trail to view the Old Man’s Cave area and the Lower Falls area, or you can turn right and proceed up the steps towards the Old Man’s Cave Visitors Center.