Posted by: kerryl29 | June 10, 2014

Hocking Hills, Introduction and Day 1

For a variety of reasons, my hopes/plans for a photo trip of significance this spring evaporated somewhere in the vicinity of late November of last year.  Things stabilized, relatively speaking, by the beginning of May, so I took the opportunity to squeeze out a brief trip (three full days plus an evening and a morning) to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio.  The park is located in rural Hocking County, about an hour southeast of Columbus.  I had never been there, but it has been on my to-do list for quite some time now.  The park is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Indianapolis, and I’d been hearing about the place for years, primarily from contacts in the Cleveland area.

My decision to sneak off to Hocking Hills was made on fairly short notice–about a week’s time, which for me is in incredibly brief.  I had little time to plan; I downloaded some maps from a website and viewed a few images on-line, but that was about it.  I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants.

What I already knew about Hocking Hills is that the park is divided into six distinct sections:  the Old Man’s Cave area, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Conkle’s Hollow, Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs.  (Conkle’s Hollow is technically not a part of Hocking Hills State Park–it’s a state nature preserve–but it abuts park property and is typically regarded as an informal part of the park.)  The principal attraction here is a series of waterfalls, set amongst fairly deep gorges and copious, dense forest settings.

Beyond that, I didn’t know much when I set off for Hocking Hills late on the morning of Sunday, May 18.  I arrived at my place of lodging in Logan, Ohio, mid-afternoon, and after a settling in a bit, set off for the Old Man’s Cave area of the park–the best known and most popular section of Hocking Hills–at about 5:30.  It’s about a 12-mile drive from where I was staying to Old Man’s Cave on a winding, hilly two-lane road.  It was around 6 PM when I arrived at my destination, roughly 2 1/2 hours before sunset.

Since I’d never been to the park before, I figured I’d spend most of my time scouting the area, though I did bring my gear with me (naturally).  From the large parking lot, which was perhaps half full, I followed the signs to Old Man’s Cave itself.  The Old Man’s Cave area of Hocking Hills–so named because of the large cave in the center of this particular gorge that was (legend has it) inhabited by a hermit back in the 19th Century–is a mile-long gorge that can be easily traversed either along the rim or through the gorge itself.  The eponymous feature–Old Man’s Cave–is roughly halfway from the head of the gorge to the foot.

All of the waterfalls at Hocking Hills–not just the ones in the Old Man’s Cave area–are fed by runoff, not by permanent creeks or rivers–so the park itself can be mostly or entirely dry in the summer and fall.  But in the spring, the falls are almost always running.  It’s no accident that I decided to visit the park during the spring.  I was lucky that there had been a fair amount of rain in the area during the week leading up to my time there.

I made my way to Old Man’s Cave from the rim of the gorge, and wandered down the steps to the cave’s base, along Old Man’s Creek, an ephemeral waterway, which was flowing pretty nicely when I was there.  There were still a fair number of visitors when I was there, which made photography fairly frustrating.  I did a bit of shooting but I mostly just looked around, sizing up some shots that I could take upon returning to the area when it would (presumably) be less crowded.

I did scramble over some boulders and make my way all the way down to the base of the cascade-fed waterfall (Middle Falls) that lies immediately below the huge, arching cut out that is Old Man’s Cave.  With some patience, I managed to get a shot devoid of people.

Middle Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Middle Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After noting some potential perspectives–in the cave, near the falls and around the cascades immediately above the falls–for a return visit over the next few days, I followed the gorge trail downstream to the area around the Lower Falls.  After descending a long staircase to the lower falls area, I took the time to photograph the impressive stone bridge that crosses the creek at the point where the Lower Falls can be accessed directly.

Bridge to Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Bridge to Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Despite the late hour–it was now well after 7 PM–there were still a fair number of people milling about the Lower Falls, so, again, I did more looking than shooting.  I still managed to make a couple of images.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I had not taken my rubber boots on this hike–it was, after all, mostly a scouting expedition–but I resolved to wear them on the return trip to both the Old Man’s Cave and the Lower Falls.  They would allow me to explore additional, more photogenic (in my opinion) perspectives that wouldn’t be possible without some waterproof footwear.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After producing a few shots, I climbed back out of the gorge and hiked all the way to the head of the canyon, where the Upper Falls area is located.  I noticed some potentially interesting shots in the gorge, between Old Man’s Cave and the Upper Falls, but with the hour growing late I resolved to examine them more closely when I returned.  I didn’t encounter anyone on the trail on the way to the Upper Falls, but when I got to the Upper Falls area itself, I found several people who were clearly shooting a music video.  There was no way I could do a thorough exploration of this section without getting in the way of this group, so I poked around the periphery, to avoid interfering with the production.  I took no pictures, however.

By the time I climbed out of the gorge for the final time and returned to the parking lot, it was dusk.  There were only two or three other vehicles in the parking lot (which contains at least 200 spots).  I resolved to return to the Old Man’s Cave area the following morning, first thing, to do some shooting in the Upper Falls area.  I anticipated fewer people.  I turned out to be correct.

Next:  Hocking Hills, Day 2:  Upper Falls, scouting Ash Cave and Cedar Falls



  1. I grew up near here. It’s a beloved park, and I’m enjoying your images.

    • Thanks very much; I’ll have a lot of additional images from Hocking Hills over the next few weeks.

  2. This is on my to do list as well 🙂 Your images are inspiring me to go soon as I can.

    • It’s a terrific place to visit. If you want waterfall action, it’s critical to visit either in the spring or after a stretch of very heavy rain…or both.

  3. That first image took my breath away. Utterly beautiful and so serene.

    • Thanks very much, Gunta.

  4. The patience paid off, the images are wonderful.

    • Thanks very much!

  5. I had never heard of this park and how absolutely stunning these captures are. Totally worth the unexpected trip and thank you so much for sharing your secrets.

    • Thanks very much! Outside of the region, I expect Hocking Hills is all but unknown. Be sure to check back, I’ll have a lot more images from this park in my next few posts.

  6. I would say what an awesome place, but having photographed a few of the same locations that you have, I know that it’s your skill as a photographer that makes your photos so outstanding, more so than the location itself.

    I love how you capture the subtle nuances of a scene!

    • Thanks very much–that’s really high praise. Honesty compels me to report, however, that when the conditions are right, Hocking Hills is a pretty remarkable place.

  7. beautiful shots! i went to college down in that area and this makes me want to plan a visit.

    • Thanks. Hocking Hills is a terrific location for photography when the water’s flowing.

  8. Beautiful!

  9. […] quality time at the Upper Falls–where a music video was being shot on the evening of Day 1–I was out the door roughly 30 minutes before sunrise to make the 12 (ish) mile drive to the […]

  10. Beautiful shots, Kerry (just catching up on your posts!) This park must be pretty close to W. Pa, as we are only 3 hours east of Columbus. When I get back to shooting nature shots again, I’ll have to plan a trip here. I love the soft greens and the creamy color of the rocks.

    • Thanks, Lynn. Yeah, Hocking Hills is in SE Ohio, not too far from the West Virginia and Kentucky state lines; it’s probably about the same distance from Pittsburgh as from Indianapolis (three hours, give or take).

      If you do plan to go, and you want the falls flowing, it’s almost certainly best to time your visit for some point in the spring, and the wetter the spring the better.

      • Thanks for the info, Kerry; good to know. Although we have had so much rain here in W Pa that most of the waterfalls and vernal streams are flowing freely.

        • If you have the freedom to go on a whim, I think the best time of all might be during fall color after a couple of days of rain.

  11. Are you photographing in a overcast day or using a fantastic HDR tecnic?

  12. […] first two days of my time in the area.  During the limited opportunities I had on the evening of Day 1, I had noted several potentially interesting shots, but was limited in my ability to get what I […]

  13. […] as usual.  I quickly made my way to Middle Falls.  There was a shot that I’d found on my first day at Hocking Hills but couldn’t execute successfully that day.  I’d set up on that […]

  14. Reblogged this on rasimair.

  15. […] streams with some canyon-ish areas reminiscent of Starved Rock (Illinois), Turkey Run (Indiana) and Hocking Hills […]

  16. […] I ever visited Hocking Hills State Park, located in southeast Ohio, I was told, by people who had been there, that it was very similar to […]

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