Enjoying the Hocking Hills with Dogs

a young woman and her dog pose on a bridge while hiking

Since we adopted our dog Pumpkin, just three years ago, we’re always looking for dog-friendly adventures in Ohio. Luckily, here in Ohio, there are plenty of places where you can take your best friend!

I’ve found that, with a dog, you always want to do your research ahead of time. There’s a little more planning involved. I usually try to check websites to find out if pets are welcome and if there are any special rules that apply.

Hiking with Pumpkin

We’ve found that visiting the Hocking Hills with dogs is one of the easiest places to go. We’ve hiked multiple times with Pumpkin in Hocking Hills State Park. All of the State Park locations in the Hocking Hills region are pet friendly. These include Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Old Man’s Cave and Rock House. 

A golden doodle dog sits on a hiking trail. He is wearing a blue and yellow harness and is on a leash.
Always keep your furry friend on a leash and under control.

While we’ve visited and hiked all of these, Pumpkin has not been to either Rock House or Cantwell Cliffs. In order to access Rock House there is a bit of a scramble up the rocks and unfortunately our dog can still pull on the leash sometimes. I’d hate for him to pull one of us off balance. Cantwell Cliffs is probably the most strenuous of the Hocking Hills trails and we just haven’t decided he’s ready. I’d hate to have to carry 75 pounds of dog up out of the gorge because he’s decided he’s had enough!

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources site, the rules for pets at Hocking Hills State Park is the same as at other Ohio State Parks. Dogs must be under control and on a leash at all time, no longer than six feet in length. You must also be able to produce proof of rabies shots upon request. And, of course, you’ll want to clean up after your pet.

One special note: only the state park locations are pet friendly. Dogs are not welcome at the state nature preserves, Conkle’s Hollow and Rockbridge.

Ash Cave

If you’re looking to take your pup for a first hiking experience, I would recommend Ash Cave. There is a flat, paved quarter mile trail to the falls. At the falls you can decide to continue forward, which includes a bit of stairs and climbing, or turn around and follow the paved path to the parking area. This will let you gauge your dog’s interest in and fitness for longer hikes.

A young woman wearing a black jacket and shorts poses with a golden doodle dog inside a large recess cave with a waterfall in the background.
Natalie and Pumpkin strike a pose within the large recess cave at Ash Cave.

The Ash Cave gorge trail also leads to a massive horseshoe shaped cave that is 700 feet long, 90 feet high and 100 feet deep. A waterfall cascades over the brim into a plunge pool at the bottom. The scenery is impressive.

Old Man’s Cave

I grew up hiking Old Man’s Cave in all seasons, all weather. That being said, I would not take a dog during the winter. Trails can be very slippery and hazardous.

A young woman and her dog enjoy hiking in the Hocking Hills with dogs.
On the left Natalie and Pumpkin pose along the trail. On the right, they stop in front of the Upper Falls.

Pumpkin has, however, made the trek in the other three seasons. Most people would warn that spring can be a little muddy. But Pumpkin seems to find the mud no matter the season and always needs a bath afterward!

The Old Man’s Cave trail is about one mile long. There are several waterfalls in the area and the scenery is beautiful. Be sure to check out the Upper Falls and the Devil’s Bathtub. Both are easily accessible on the trail and are two of my favorite spots in the park.

Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls was always one of my mother’s favorites. At the bottom of the stairs you can either turn left, which is the longer hike that takes you all the way to the Old Man’s Cave trail system, or turn right, which takes you to Cedar Falls.

Hiking in the Hocking Hills with dogs is enjoyed by a golden doodle dog and his handler, a young woman wearing a gray t-shirt. They pose on a large rock in front of a waterfall.
Pumpkin and Natalie really enjoyed the hike to Cedar Falls.

We always turn left for a bit, maybe just a quarter of a mile. The scenery and rocks are beautiful in that section as well and it’s a little less travelled. Though wading at the falls is prohibited, the creek is easy entry and we do allow Pumpkin to splash around a bit, on leash of course.

Cedar Falls itself is beautiful. It’s the highest volume waterfall in the park. After you take time to appreciate it, you’ll head up the stairs and back toward the parking lot. Here, you’ll follow a trail through giant boulders that have calved off of the cliffs.

Hocking Hills with Dogs: Before You Go

As I mentioned previously, travelling with a dog takes a little extra preparation. Obviously, you’ll want to bring a sturdy leash. We bring Pumpkin’s harness as well. Though he can walk fine on a leash, he just seems more secure in the hardness. On our last trip he stumbled and began to slide down a large rock. The fall wouldn’t have been far, but because he was wearing the harness we were able to support him and pull him up safely.

A young woman wearing shorts and a t-shirt poses on top of a large boulder with her dog, a golden doodle.
Natalie and Pumpkin are hams – here they are posing yet again!

You’ll also want to bring an adequate supply of water for both you and your pup. There are special collapsible bowls and water bottles made just for dogs. We usually just carry extra water bottles and bring an extra bowl in the car. We also pack a container full of food and a treat or two.

As I mentioned, your pup is likely to find some mud. A towel for cleaning muddy feet is a must have. We also pack a blanket to cover the back seat as well.

If you’re planning your trip to the Hocking Hills with dogs, try to time your trip. The park can get crowded on weekend afternoons, especially in the fall. This might mean the trails are more crowded and your dog can get easily overwhelmed. You might try shooting for a mid-week hike or earlier in the day if you aren’t able to avoid the weekends.

Dog-friendly Hocking Hills

There’s so much to see and do in the dog-friendly Hocking Hills. There are several places to eat that offer patio seating where your pet is welcome. Millstone BBQ, just off Route 33 is one such place. We’ve eaten there on numerous occasions and can report that the food is delicious.

Hocking Hills with dogs: before and after pictures. A dog goes from fluffy and fresh before the hike to wet and muddy afterward.
At the beginning of our Ash Cave adventure you can tell Pumpkin is all fluffy and fresh. After a few trips into the creek, he’s ready for a bath!

For accommodations, the state park campground allows up to two dogs at each camp site. Many of the area cabin rentals allow pets as well but be sure to check before you book.

If you’re looking for additional activities beyond hiking, there are a few that your pet can enjoy with you. Many of the canoe liveries, including Hocking River Adventures, allow your dog to canoe along with you. And you can also rent pontoon boats on Lake Logan, which allow dogs on board.

FindingOhio with Your Pup

As you know, there’s so much to see and do in Ohio. And, as relatively new pet owners, we’re finding there are so many places where our dog can tag along! What are your favorite places to take your dog? Let us know by email or in the comments. We’re sure Pumpkin would love to check it out!

Thanks for FindingOhio with us today. Check back often as we publish new articles at least once per week. And as always, we appreciate you sharing our content on social media. Let’s get the word out that Ohio is a great place to play!