Exploring Hells Hollow Falls at McConnells Mill State Park

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As one of the more popular waterfalls in McConnells Mill State Park, Hells Hollow Falls is certainly worth your visit. McConnells Mill is a great day use park, easily accessible as a day trip from anywhere in western Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio.

Icicles alongside Hells Hollow Falls

The park could also be a great pitstop on a larger road trip, as it is located right along Route 422, traveling east and west through the middle of Pennsylvania, and minutes from Interstate 79 traveling north and south.

McConnells Mill State Park is a beautiful spot in western Pennsylvania, popular with area photographers, nature enthusiasts, and whitewater kayakers.

Hells Hollow Falls only adds to the beauty and is a great draw in the park.

At around 15 feet tall and wide, this is the largest waterfall by volume in McConnells Mill.

For scale, that’s me at the base of Hells Hollow Falls, on the left at the bottom of the staircase.

scaled view of Hells Hollow Falls, the falls are of decent size

Why is it called Hells Hollow Falls?

This waterfall did not get it’s name from the difficulty of the hike to get there or from any haunted history. Really, the name is from practical history.

The story is that the name comes from the lime furnace located in the rocks just next to the falls. This kiln was used to extract lime from the surrounding limestone rocks and cliffs.

As you can probably assume by the fact that it is a furnace, this process included burning. When it was lit and burning at full capacity, the glow from the kiln was said to be quite bright, giving the hollow a glow resembling the popular description of hell.

Getting to Hells Hollow Falls

The short version is that it’s really easy! The hike will cover about one mile, and the terrain is quite flat until reaching the stairs down to the falls.

To begin this hike, navigate to this parking area located on Shaffer Road.

The parking lot is large enough to accommodate at least 20 cars. If there are no spots in the lot, don’t park on the road. Either wait or come back later.

Cars have been known to get towed after parking along the road, which could be both expensive and difficult to retrieve with the lack of cell phone service in the area.

Anyway, you’ll find the trailhead right off of the parking lot. An informational board off to the side will fill you in on a little history.

The board also has some information about the North Country Scenic Trail, which you will also spend just a little time on to get to the Falls. If you don’t know about the North Country Trail, it’s a 4,700 mile trail traveling through eight states between North Dakota and Vermont.

To begin hiking to Hells Hollow Falls, you’ll cross a wooden bridge over Hell Run.

About 175 yards into the hike, you will arrive at a fork in the trail. The split is extremely well marked, so you shouldn’t miss it. Keep right to continue to Hells Hollow Falls.

Continuing left follows on the Slippery Rock Gorge trail.

You’ll then cross another wooden footbridge over Hell Run.

As you continue on the Hells Hollow Trail, you can continue to catch glimpses of Hell Run, the stream that feeds the falls. There are a few cool spots to stop catch a glimpse of the rushing water.

When you arrive at a wooden staircase to your left, you’ve almost made it. Descend the stairs.

at the bottom of Hells Hollow Falls

Near the bottom, you’ll find that the stairs do not lead to any sort of viewing platform. They literally end in the creek.

Pro Tip: Footwear planning is key for this hike, but not in the way you may think!
In summer, plan to wear water shoes or sandals to be able to explore right up to the falls. When the water is colder, waterproof boots are a must. The water can be nearly knee-deep in spots, and hopping across wet, icy rocks can be dangerous. Be sure to plan accordingly so you can get a full, spectacular view!

Spend some time wading in the water and not only viewing, but experiencing the falls. In the summer when there has been little rainfall, you’ll be able to access better views of the falls without getting wet feet.

On your way back up the staircase, you’ll notice a grated off area in the rocks. That’s the Lime Kiln! It may not look all that impressive to some, but the kiln is a tribute to the history of the area.

The lime kiln located along the staircase trail to Hells Hollow Falls

To complete the hike, just retrace your steps back to the parking area.

If you want to make your life more difficult, but also more exciting, begin at the waterfall completely on the opposite side of the park, Alpha Falls. You’ll cover about 15 miles of varied, rocky terrain on the Slippery Rock Gorge trail, a portion of the North Country Scenic Trail.

Other Area Waterfalls

If you’re spending the day at McConnells Mill State Park, be sure to check out some of the other waterfalls in the area.

Some of the best are Alpha Falls and Breakneck Falls. Check out our guides to accessing these Falls, as well as our complete list of things to see in McConnells Mill State Park.

If you’re looking to go chasing more waterfalls, head about 90 miles northwest to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio or just over 100 miles southeast to Ohiopyle State Park.

Wrap-up: Hiking to Hells Hollow Falls

While some of the other hiking trails may not be appropriate for all hikers, Hells Hollow Falls is quite an easy trail. This hike would be doable for all ages, including families. The falls are absolutely beautiful, especially for a short hike.

A simple word of caution: Take care to pay attention to ice on this and all trails in McConnells Mill State Park. It can be present well past what you would expect, into the spring and early summer months. It can be very slippery, and you don’t want to find yourself on the ground!

Icicles along Hell's Hollow

Be sure to include a stop at Hells Hollow Falls on your trip exploring around McConnells Mill State Park.

Have you had a chance to visit Hells Hollow Falls? What was your favorite part of this hike? Leave a note for us in the comments below!