Rock House

Useful Information

Location: 16350 OH-374, Laurelville, OH, 43135.
(39.4975460, -82.6135909)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologySandstone Cave Speleologyerosional cave,
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=60 m, H=7.5 m, W=9 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Rock House, 16350 OH-374, Laurelville, OH, 43135.
Hocking Hills State Park, 19852 St. Rt. 664 South, Logan, Ohio 43138, Tel: +1-740-385-6842 (Park office), +1-740-385-6841 (reservations), 1-866-644-6727 (camping).
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


7,000 BP inhabited by the Adena culture.
~1750 inhabited by Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee.
1818 Hocking County organized.
1835 powder mill built near Rock House.
1835 16-room hotel built near Rock House by Colonel F. F. Rempel.


Rock House is a natural sandstone cave which is located in the Hocking Hills. We have listed the Hocking Hills State Park separately, but actually this site is a sort of northwestern sidekick, separated by the Hocking State Forest from the main part of the State Park. The two sites are 10 km apart. There is a huge parking lot off SR 374, which is the trailhead of two trails, but no Park Office. The shorter trail is called Rock House Rim Trail and leads directly to the cave. The second trail is much longer, it is called Rock House Gorge Trail, and it leads through the sandstone formations around the cave and ends at the Rock House Lookout Tower.

The Rock House, which is also called the Rock House Cave is a rather strange structure with a huge passage and numerous openings. A weaker layer of sandstone was eroded, but several pillars remained which support the ceiling. Rock House is said to be the only true cave in the park. It is not a recess cave, but a straight underground passage, 7.50 m high, between 6 m and 9 m wide, and 60 m long. It was formed by water leaking through a joint running parallel to the cliff face, which is visible in the ceiling of the passage. Orthogonal joints, between the cave and the cliff face, resulted in huge window-like openings. The seven windows look Gothic-arched, and the massive sandstone columns between them support the roof.

The Rock House was used as a shelter for a very long time. Troughs or holding tanks were chiseled out of the stone floor to collect groundwater pouring out of the sandstone. Small recesses in the back wall were used as ovens by the Native Americans. Later it was frequented by robbers, horse thieves, murderers and even bootleggers, which resulted in the name Robbers Roost, at least according to local legends. In the 19th century it became a famous tourist destination, which resulted in a development of the area. In 1835, Colonel F. F. Rempel erected a 16-room hotel where the picnic shelter is today. It had a livery stable, a ballroom and a post office.

The early tourists left numerous dated carvings in the soft rock, today this would be called grafitti or vandalism, but the historic engravings are important sources of information. The most interesting one is an open book with the letters ITFBRAR - ITFFAWMTAW written on its pages. This is the abbreviation of In the fall, Buck Run bananas are ripe - in the frost fall, a wise man takes a wife. Buck Run banana is a local slang term for the fruit of the pawpaw tree, and actually we had no idea what any of this is. We learned that the American papaw (Asimina triloba) is a small tree native to the eastern United States and Canada. It produces a large, yellowish-green to brown fruit with large seeds. It is soft and edible, and are sold locally at farmers' markets on occasion. They have a custard-like flavor somewhat similar to banana, mango, or cantaloupe.

The cave has numerous openings, so a torch is actually not absolutely necessary, nevertheless, we recommend bringing one. Hiking shoes and appropriate clothes are required for the trail and the cave.