The Hocking Hills region is home to some of the most beautiful and dog-friendly trails in the state of Ohio. From easy, paved paths to more challenging hills and woods, there’s something for everyone and every pup. So grab your furry friend, pack a picnic lunch, and explore all that the Hocking Hills dog-friendly trails have to offer!
The state park has over 2,300 acres of land, including forests, waterways, caves, and cliffs to explore. There are over 25 miles of trails, ranging from short .5-mile loops to connectors and long thru-hikes passing through.
Here are all the details you need to know for visiting and hiking the Hocking Hills dog-friendly trails.
Best Time to Visit Hocking Hills
The park is open year-round, and there are pros and cons to visiting during each season.
Springtime, with snowmelt and rain, will have the waterfalls flowing at the maximum capacity.
Summer has the best weather but certainly brings the crowds to the park. You’ll have to do some work to find quiet spaces.
The leaves then change and the foliage is beautifully colorful during the fall.
Winter hiking in Hocking Hills can be a little more challenging due to icy conditions unless you have the right gear. The frozen scenes are beautiful, though, and the crowds will be much smaller than during other months.
Planning your visit? Book one of these great pet-friendly cabins in Hocking Hills!
Things to Know Before You Go
Hocking Hills State Park is really dog-friendly. Pups are welcome on most trails, and we’ll get to a full breakdown of some of the trails in and around the park in just a bit. But first, here are some general things to know before you go hiking with your dog on these trails.
- Dogs must remain on a leash. This is for the safety of both your dog, as well as other dogs and humans.
- Pets should be well-behaved. Again, for the safety and enjoyment of everyone involved. This probably wouldn’t be the first place I’d bring my dog on behavior and obedience training in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.
- Please remember to clean up after your pet. You’ll find waste disposal near many of the parking areas, so use it.
- As with all trails, please pay attention to posted signs and warnings. If it’s not safe for you or your pup, then respect those boundaries. There are plenty of cliffs and steep dropoffs throughout the park, and if the park staff doesn’t think the area is safe, listen to the warning.
- Remember to pack an extra bottle of water and a bowl for your furry friend. Some treats, too! If you’re hungry and thirsty, there’s a good chance your dog would enjoy a drink and snack with you.
- Be respectful of fellow Hocking Hills visitors.
Old Man’s Cave
Distance: Varies, from 1 to 6 miles
Old Man’s Cave trails are certainly some of the most popular trails in Hocking Hills. There can be some challenging trail sections for Hocking Hills beginners, but they can be done by almost anyone who enjoys walking or hiking.
If you’re looking for a hike that’s scenic for you and a workout for your pup, then this is the Hocking Hills hike for you. Just be sure that both you and your dog are able to navigate plenty of stairs.
The parking lot at the Old Man’s Cave Visitor center is huge, so this allows for lots of visitors to be able to access these trails. You can also use this trail as a connector to some of the other attractions in the park, such as Ash Cave and Cedar Falls. The hikes are beautiful but on the longer side.
Plan to hike at off times to avoid hiking in a single file line along the trail with lots of other people (and their pups, too!)
Hemlock Bridge to Whispering Cave
Distance: 1.5-mile spur, which will require a 5-mile loop to reach and then return to the parking area
This is a spur trail that you will find between Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls. When you come to a split in the Old Man’s Cave Trail, you’ll want to take the trail to the right. You’ll see the bridge from the trail split.
Make sure you and your pup are careful crossing the bridge. It’s not wide at all, and it’s easy to lose your footing. After the bridge, walking is fairly easy for a short while, until heading along the cliff over to the cave. Hike behind the waterfall and enjoy the views!
To return to the visitors center, you’ll hike through some wooded areas, across a couple of roadways, and the final stretch includes the bike/all-purpose trail. There isn’t much elevation change in the second half. Though this one is a little longer, you’ll find lots to see and space for your dog to explore.
Distance: 0.5-mile loop
This is probably the easiest trail you will find in Hocking Hills, so it would be great for dogs of all ages and sizes. The trail is flat, and the first half is paved. Exploring the gigantic cave overhang is cool for pups and their owners, too.
This hike certainly gets busy on the weekends and during mid-day, so if you’d rather stay away from the crowds, then plan to visit on a weekday, early in the morning, or during winter. If you really want to have a good chance of having the trail to yourself, then plan to check all of those boxes when you visit. Early on a weekday during winter!
Distance: 0.5-mile loop
Cedar Falls is the biggest waterfall you will find along the trails in the Hocking Hills, and it will definitely impress you and your pup. Hiking down to the bottom of the gorge and along the stream can be really refreshing!
The parking lot fills up quickly, especially on the weekends, so plan to arrive early. Even if the parking lot is full, though, you may not find as many people at the falls. This trailhead can be used for hikes that lead to other areas of the park, too.
Spend some time at the water’s edge watching the falls cascade over the cliff. Hiking down the stairs is not too difficult, but it does require some physical effort for Hocking Hills beginners. This isn’t a great trail if your pup has significant mobility issues.
Distance: 0.8-mile loop
Rockhouse is a fun dog-friendly trail in Hocking Hills. After a short, moderately challenging hike to the cave, you’ll find plenty of space for your pup to explore! Hike up and down the hills around the rocks. Make sure you both stay on the trail, though. Hocking Hills park regulations require that your dog stay below fences or painted lines.
Spend some time exploring Rockhouse Cave. The trail is well-maintained and easy to navigate, but there are some steep drop-offs along the trail route! Be sure to keep a close eye on your furry friends, and make sure to keep them on leashes.
Distance: 2-mile loop with shorter connector trails
The Cantwell Cliffs area is home to some of the more difficult hiking trails in the Hocking Hills area. You’ll hike down narrow rock stairways and along the edges of the namesake cliffs. The area is beautiful with plenty to see. In some spots, the cliffs are nearly 200 feet high!
Be sure to double-check and keep pups secure on a leash around these cliffs. There can be loose rocky edges, so keep dogs away from them.
There are several different routes you can take once you get to the bottom, and then return to the top of the cliffs. Most of the trails are very similar in difficulty, but they vary in length. The longest path is 2 miles long. The shortest path is just around 0.5 miles, which makes it easier for even small dogs to complete.
If you’re looking for an easy hike with a nice view, then this one is perfect for you. It doesn’t involve any climbing or scrambling, but it is still a moderate hike. You and your dog will have to navigate plenty of steps, so this one probably isn’t the best for dogs with any type of joint or mobility issues.
Rock Stalls (Stulls) Natural Sanctuary
Distance: 1.1-mile loop
Although it’s a little further away, this nature sanctuary is a great and more off-the-beaten-path spot to visit. After about .75 miles of hiking, you’ll reach a waterfall that is flowing most of the year. It’s definitely at its best flow during spring and after heavier rainfall.
Because it’s a little further away from the top points of interest in Hocking Hills, you won’t find quite as many visitors on this trail. It’s also located on private property, owned by Camp Atika, but the public is permitted on the hiking trail.
Continue on the full loop for a great walk in the woods and through some more of the area’s large rock formations on a fairly flat path.
Airplane Rock, Chapel Cave, and Twin Falls Loop
Distance: 4.4 miles
You’ll find this trail not far from Conkle’s Hollow, but you’ll have to pass that area by, as dogs aren’t permitted there. The trail to Airplane Rock and Chapel Cave, though, follows a bridle trail. If your dog is nervous around horses, this probably isn’t the trail for you.
This trail passes through an old-growth forest of hemlock, spruce, and cedar trees. The area is beautiful, but don’t expect nicely groomed and manicured hiking trails. With this being primarily a trail used for horses, you’ll find plenty of hoof prints along. It’s typically much muddier here than almost anywhere else in the area.
The Chapel Cave, or 21 Horse Cave, got its name because it was said to be large enough to house 21 horses, so it’s pretty big. The Twin Falls are beautiful and similar to some of the other very tall waterfalls in the area, except there are 2 of them side by side flowing over the cliffs. Make sure your pup is in good shape for this hike, due to the distance and rougher terrain. Also, bring some towels or cleaning wipes to use on your dog after the hike, so your vehicle doesn’t end up a muddy mess, too!
Creekside Meadows Trail at Clear Creek Metro Park
Distance: 1-mile out-and-back
The trail is actually 1.7 miles long. Only the beginning one-mile section to Starner Road allows pets on leashes. No other trails in Clear Creek Metro parks are pet-friendly.
The trail does follow the waterway through the park, so you and your dog will have beautiful scenery to enjoy. Because this is the only dog-friendly stretch of trail in Clear Creek Metro Park, there is a good chance you will run into other people hiking with their dogs here.
Pets are not permitted on any other trails, but they are permitted in the park’s picnic areas and shelters. After a nice walk along the creek, enjoy some picnic food to refuel. Dogs are also required to be on a leash at all times in any area of Clear Creek.
Fairfield Heritage Trail
Distance: 9.5 miles, point to point (19 miles out and back!)
This is a rails-to-trails/greenway type trail that travels through the Lancaster, OH, area, this trail is popular with locals out for exercise, whether that be biking, running, or walking their dogs.
Although the trail does not receive as much maintenance as it probably should, it offers an alternative space to take your pup to change up the scenery. There are a few sections that do include a bike lane through town, but there are plenty of stretches over historic bridges, along the creek, and connecting areas of the town of Lancaster.
This one probably wouldn’t be high on our list, as it’s further away and not as well maintained, but it certainly offers a change of scenery. Consider it as an alternative.
Lake Hope State Park
Distance: Various distance options
Difficulty: All Difficulties
There are tons of options for dog-friendly hikes with a wide variety of distances in Lake Hope State Park and the adjacent Zaleski State Forest.
Whether your pup is only up for a short hike of a mile or less or overnight backpacking trips, there is something here for everyone.
Hocking Hills and Lake Hope State Parks are only separated by about 18 miles. You can travel from one to the other in less than 30 minutes. If you’re staying in the area for more than a day or two and looking for more areas to explore, Lake Hope and Zaleski are also great areas to go hiking with your dog.
These Trails DO NOT Allow Dogs
- Rockbridge Nature Preserve
- Conkle’s Hollow Nature Preserve
- Boch Hollow Nature Preserve
**As a general rule, areas designated as nature preserves DO NOT permit pups to hike the trails.
Dog-Friendly Restaurants to Refuel
There are options for restaurants, breweries, wineries in the Hocking Hills area and around Logan, OH. Many of them at least have outdoor patios where your pups are welcome to accompany you. A few options include (and are organized in alphabetical order):
- Brewery 33
- Dairy Queen
- Hocking Hills Diner
- Hocking Hills Winery
- Hungry Buffalo
- Kindred Spirits
- Maya Burrito Co.
- Millstone Southern Smoked BBQ
- Urban Grille
If you’re looking for a fun hike to take your pup on, the Hocking Hills area is definitely the place to be. With plenty of trails that lead to caves, waterfalls, and other beautiful natural rock formations, there’s something for everyone in this picturesque part of Ohio.
So grab your furry friend and get ready for some outdoor adventure on these Hocking Hills dog-friendly trails!