Originally published 7/14/2017. Updated 9/18/2018.
From underground caverns to huge rock formations carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, Ohio has some of the most underrated natural beauty in the Midwest.
We can’t all be professional spelunkers, but there are tons of caves and caverns dotted throughout Ohio’s countryside that make the perfect outing for all level of outdoor activity seekers.
The next time you feel like channeling your inner Indiana Jones, turn to one of these 12 beautiful caves and caverns in Ohio. But don’t be too alarmed. You totally won’t have to run away from any giant rolling boulders.
Olentangy Indian Caverns
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 23 miles
Growning up, some of my favorite field trips were to the Olentangy Indian Caverns. I visited with my school and summer camps and it was fun no matter the season. The Indian Caverns offer all sorts of experiences in one. You can explore the caves where the Wyandotte Native Americans are said to have taken refuge from their enemies. After the tour, pretend to be a gold prospector by shifting through sand in the running-water sluice. If you’re lucky you might get your hands on an arrow head or some gemstones.
Rockbridge State Nature Preserve
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 44 miles
Rockbridge is a marvel of nature. It’s name comes from the fact that a rock formation spans across an area creating a bridge. It’s not exactly a cave, but you’ve still got to see it. The nature preserve is a great place to go hiking and explore. One of the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever eaten is less than a 15-minute drive away at Millstone Southern Smoked BBQ. Work up an appetite while out adventuring, then fill up on some yummy grub.
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 52 miles
The Ohio Caverns are a marvel that were made from limestone, a little water, and a lot of time. It attracts visitors from all over the nation. When you visit the caverns, make sure you bow down to the Crystal King. This giant stalactite is guessed to weigh around 400 pounds and is nearly five feet long. Judging by it’s hefty weight and size, the Crystal King has to be over 200,000-years-old.
Rock House in Hocking Hills State Park
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 54 miles
Rock House is the only true cave structure inside of Hocking Hills State Park. With ceilings that reach 25 ft, this sizable cave made from blackhand sandstone is beath taking. It’s believed that people passing through the area would take shelter in this cave. There are even small recesses in the walls that were probably used as ovens to bake food.
Zane Shawnee Caverns & South Wind Park
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 55 miles
A trip to the Zane Shawnee Caverns will give you an experience like no other. This park is owned by the United Remnant Band of the Shawnee Nation. They host cool events like festivals and powwows. This year’s Annual Festival of Fire takes place from June 30 until July.
Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 58 miles
The most well-known cave in the Hocking Hills, Old Man’s Cave is a must-visit trip for cave explores. Legend has it that Richard Rowe, a hermit, lived in the cave during the 1700s. Whenever I go to Old Man’s Cave, I’m always sure to visit the Old Man’s Cave General Store for some ice cream.
Whispering Cave in Hocking Hills State Park
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 59 miles
This is one of the newest caves to explore in the Hocking Hills. Both the Hemlock Bridge Trail and Whispering Cave Trail opened in early May and have had visitors excited to venture out and leave no stone unturned. But, stay on the trail people. It’s dangerous to go off the beaten path.
Ash Cave in Hocking Hills State Park
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 60 miles
Ash Cave just might be the coolest part of Hocking Hills State Park, move over Old Man! This rock feature is roughly a quarter of a mile long. The overhang is made from the same blackhand sandstone that is found throughout the park. The breathtaking sight will leave you speachless when you try to caption your Instagram picture.
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 101 miles
Venture down 110 feet into the Seneca Caverns to get a glimpse of the Ole Mist’ry River. This national landmark has this water feature because it’s part of the underground watertable. But don’t get any ideas about going for a swim. The water is only 48.9˚F and they want to keep the water as clean as possible.
Mary Campbell Cave
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 130 miles
Mary Campbell Cave is located in Gorge Metro Park. Over the last twelve thousand years, the Cuyahoga River has carved away at the rock to create this formation. The cave got its named after a young colonial girl, Mary Campbell, who was taken captive by Native Americans during the French and Indian War. The Native Americans that took Campbell would often use the cave for shelter.
Perry’s Cave and Family Fun Center
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 134 miles
Perry’s Cave offers families a ton of different activities for families. The cave, butterfly house, mini golf, gemstone mining, maze, rock wall, antique car museum, and a snack shack will make a full day out of any trip to the Family Fun Center. The maze is a blast, but don’t get lost! On the off chance you or a family member does lose their way, head to the lookout tower. The staff will help lost maze-goers find their way to freedom.
The Crystal Cave
Distance from Downtown Columbus: 134 miles
The Crystal Cave is the largest known geode in the world. It was found under Heineman Winery when they were digging to build a well for the place! Explore the geode 40 feet undergound before and then enjoy a lovely glass of adult grape juice. Better yet, go tour all of Ohio Wine Country.
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