– Parking lot at trailhead: 39.540361, -82.575750
– Trailhead Location: 39.540361, -82.575750 (north end of the parking lot)
Distance & Type: 1 mile loop trail
Elevation change: 195 foot elevation gain
Difficulty: Moderate due to steep steps and fast elevation gain.
Dog Friendly: Yes – Leashed
2 Recessed Caves
Buck’s Run and Falls
150 foot tall cliffs
Fat Woman’s Squeeze rock formation
Note: Trail conditions change over time. If you discover any inaccuracies with this post during your visit, please comment below to let me know.
Cantwell Cliffs is located around 12 miles north of Old Man’s Cave. Because of the additional travel time, Cantwell Cliffs receives a fraction of Hocking Hills total visitors each year. This trail may not be as popular as Old Man’s Cave or Ash Cave, but that doesn’t mean it is any less photogenic.
Cantwell Cliffs offers two hikes: The Rim Trail (red blazes) and the Gorge Trail (yellow blazes). This guide will focus on just the rim trail as most of the area’s features are located along that trail. The gorge trail is an extension to the rim trail hike that branches off just past Fat Woman’s Squeeze and offers you an additional mile of hiking trails in addition to the rim trail hike. The gorge trail hike will be covered in a later article.
The rim trail is a mile long trail that will take you down a narrow stair hallway almost 150 feet near the base of the first overhang cave with Buck Run flowing from the top. Near the bottom of the stone hallway is a rock formation known as ‘Fat Woman’s Squeeze’. The trail will then snake its away northeast to another overhang cave before gaining elevation back to the top of the cliffs. The trail begins to gain elevation after passing the second overhang cave, but be sure to look around during the climb back to the top to see views of a stone bridge that arcs above the cave and the 150-foot tall cliffs.
The rim trail may only be one mile long in length, but I rate the hike as moderate due to the numerous steps and elevation gain during the hike. I hiked the rim trail in early February and discovered most of the trail and steps were covered in ice. Fortunately I packed my microspikes and was able to quickly, and safely, make it through the hike. Hiking without the spikes, especially on the steps down the stone hallway, would have been too dangerous.
Trail conditions wasn’t ideal for my hike, but the ice formations hanging off the cliffs and caves added another level of beauty to the hike. The added distance from Old Man’s Cave means few people visit and hike this trail, which is a shame because the Cantwell Cliffs are just as beautiful as Ash Cave and Whispering Cave areas.
Mile 0.1 – Proceed from the north end of the parking lot to the trailhead. Hocking Hills has implemented one-way trail systems for each hike in the park including the Cantwell Cliffs Rim Trail. Proceed down the trail past the picnic area to the top of the stone hallway.
Mile 0.2 – Proceed down the steps using caution. Steps can be slick during summer months if wet or ice covered during winter. I highly recommend brining a pair of microspikes on your trip to Hocking Hills if going during the winter months.
The rock feature known as Fat Woman’s Squeeze is located near the bottom of the steps to your right. Also located in this area is the viewing area for the first overhang cave you will see on the Rim Trail hike. The water flowing from the top is the runoff from Buck Run.
Mile 0.2 – After viewing the overhang cave and returning to the trail, you will come across a trail intersection. Follow the Red Blazes for the Rim Trail as it snakes its way along the cliffs until you reach the next overhang cave.
Mile 0.4 – The second overhang cave features a stone footbridge above the cave that crosses over a seasonal stream. Follow the trail to your left to start the climb to the top of the cliffs.
Mile 0.6 – The trail will pass a shelter and benches that look out from the top of the cliffs.
Mile 0.9 – Follow the trail back to the parking lot. Note: Most maps show the trail passing through the Fat Woman’s Squeeze area again and up the narrow steps, however the trail was rerouted during 2020 to make it a complete one way trail system. The trail will lead you into an open field next to the parking lot.