For outdoor enthusiasts searching for natural attractions in Ohio, exploring some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the Midwest should be considered. Many of these waterfalls are great for swimming. Also, surrounding the area, tourists can take wonderful hikes through flourishing vegetation. The spring brings the heaviest water flow from the winter snowmelt making for the most popular time to visit.
Also, depending on how far you want to venture, there’s a range of options from ones near town centers to others deep in the wilderness. Activities in these areas are abundant and family-friendly.
From pleasant low flowing falls to those which resemble Niagra, here are 10 most noteworthy waterfalls in the Buckeye State.
Located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland, you will find Buttermilk Falls. The name is derived from the foaming cascade found at Buttermilk creek much like the froth of buttermilk. The hike will take you about 20 minutes over a somewhat rugged terrain. The stream crosses the trail at different parts so you may have to jump across rocks at times. Once you arrive, you will enter the bottom of Buttermilk Falls which resemble a staircase pouring into a steady stream.
The waterfall offers a cozy place to relax and take a swim. There are shallow and deeper areas for every kind of swimming ability. A camping area, restrooms, and playground are provided for a full day to enjoy with the family. The nature trail eventually leads into the Larch Meadows where you can continue your activities. Pets are allowed and picnic shelters can be reserved in advance.
This hike is highly recommended as you pass other noteworthy falls such as the Blue Hen Falls. Even in spring when the water volume is at its highest, these falls carry a modest flow offering a peaceful experience. Additional views of the waterfall can be seen from alternative trails. These trails include Gorge Trail, Bear Trail, and Lake Treman Trail all open for additional exploring year-round.
One of the most impressive waterfalls in Ohio is found in Hocking Hills State Park. Cedar Falls is known for having the largest volume water flow of any waterfall. Though other nearby falls like the Ash Cave Falls is taller, none of them seem quite as massive. The name Cedar Falls derived from earlier settlers who mistook the hemlock trees for cedar trees. These are the most visited falls with scenic views of caves and cliffs. The trail itself is a half-mile and passes an old mill built around the 1800s.
Along the trail, you’ll find a series of small staircases that have thoughtful mathematical symbolism relevant to the Fibonacci sequence. The descent takes about 40 minutes through dense hemlock trees till you reach the base of Cedar Falls. Here you will get a glimpse of the massive surge of water spouting out from the rocks. These 50 ft. high waterfall is an amazing sight behind moss-covered cliffs.
It is a family-friendly nature area allowing for dogs kept on a leash. Continuing onward you will eventually reach Ohio’s most popular cave titled “Old Man’s Cave.” A well-maintained picnic area and restrooms are found at the parking lot of the falls. Also, if you are seeking accommodation near the falls the inn at Cedar Falls offers several rooms, dining, and spa services.
Blue Hen Falls
Among the several waterfalls within Cuyahoga Valley National Park lies the smaller waterfalls of Blue Hen Falls. The trail is about a half-mile taking an average of 30 minutes to hike through lush flora and fauna. There is plenty of shade for the hotter days and a bridge above a creek you can splash around in.
Most visitors choose to see several waterfalls in a single day making Blue Hen Falls an easy compliment to the larger waterfalls. These 15-foot waterfalls have a smooth moderate flow spouting over a five-foot crest. Also, just downstream from the falls is the Buttermilk Falls.
Note: During peak season, parking may be limited and road-side parking is prohibited. Additional parking is offered at Boston Store Visitor Center making the hike about one and a half miles.
One of the larger and more popular waterfalls among the Ohio State Parks is Brandywine Falls. Located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park at a staggering 65 feet, the falls can be viewed from two separate boardwalks. The boardwalks are connected by a series of steps offering different perspectives of the waterfall.
The hike from Brandy Hill road is about 1.5 miles while the alternate points are around 3.8 miles. Also, during the spring, you may get a glimpse of the salamanders which breed in the vernal pools formed from overflow. Once you arrive at the waterfall, you will reach the first boardwalk which gives a magnificent panoramic view. This area has been noted for being beautiful during each season as different colors flourish from vegetation. However, the boardwalk reveals a high level of moistness as moss grows on the sandstone and the trees throughout the gorge. So caution is advised when walking along the waterfall.
Those looking for accommodation will find a bed and breakfast called the Inn at Brandywine Falls. A historic house which has been renovated and made modern with gourmet food.
Note: The parking lot may be full at Brandy hill road, but there are alternate starting points from the Standford House of Brandy Falls.
Big Lyons Falls
Located at the Mohican State Park you find a pair of low flow waterfalls called Big Lyons and Little Lyons Falls. Both falls can be accessed through a two-mile loop hike. The trail is well kept. However, it does have a few minor obstacles. You will reach a dam which is part of Pleasant Lake where you can take a break and swim. The trail also splits giving you two options; to visit a covered bridge picnic area by the river or to continue to the waterfalls.
Upon reaching the falls you’ll find a boardwalk allowing for an elevated view of the falls. Big Lyons Falls are low flow and extends to a height of 80ft over a recess cave. The gorge itself is nearly 300 feet deep and over 1,000 feet wide. The sandstone cliffs allow plenty of room for people to walk behind the falls. It is recommended to visit the falls after heavy rainfall because, at that time, the water volume is relatively low.
The smaller falls are about 20 feet in height offering similar characteristics as its bigger brother. Little Lyon Falls also has a small cave which is well worth exploring. So, if you are a rock climber, there are ample places to climb. Here, you can get alternate views of the falls. However, safety precautions should be taken.
Also, if you are interested in overnight camping, there are plenty of campgrounds and cabins available at the entrance. Pets are allowed and are to be kept on a leash. Getting to the falls you take Highway 97 off state route I-71 till you reach the state park. Also, if you are seeking more falls in a single day it is roughly a 20-mile drive before reaching Honey Run Falls.
With the 216 acres of prairie at the Charleston preserve lies the Charleston Falls. Because of rock formations similar to Niagra Falls, these falls have coined the nickname “Little Niagra.” The hike is a 1.8-mile loop which occasionally has heavy traffic. After a 37 foot drop, the waterfall empties into the Great Miami River. The trail leading into the waterfall is about three miles through the vegetated landscape.
Along with beautiful scenery, you’ll find various wildlife and unique flora. Additional things to see are less common plants found include wild columbine, purple cliff brake, and walking fern. Near the falls you can find a small cave system that is worth exploring.
Dogs are allowed and require a leash. Picnicking, campfires, and wildlife viewing are common activities once inside the park. Additional trails can be found for those wanting to explore. Within a short drive, you can reach other waterfalls such as Greenville Falls, Ludlow Falls, and West Milton Cascades.
If you are looking for wider heavier flowing waterfalls in Ohio, you’ll enjoy visiting Ludlow Falls. Located within the town of Ludlow beneath the bridge on Covington Avenue you’ll find the wide 15-foot waterfall. Regardless of the bridge, the falls are gorgeously scenic; especially during spring when the flow is at its peak.
Because you can’t view the falls from the bridge itself, walkways have been built below the bridge leading to the falls. Also near the falls you can explore the Ohio Caverns system and get a glimpse of the stalagmites.
However, once safely on the bridge, you can go straight up to the edge. At this point, you have the option to take an old stairway to the bottom of the gorge. This will give you a full view of the amazing waterfall. Within a short drive, you can reach more waterfalls. For example, the West Milton Falls, Greenville Falls, and Charleston Falls are just a few miles away; within easy reach of a hike or drive.
Just outside of Columbus, Ohio to the west, you’ll find the picturesque Hayden Falls. Surrounded by tall trees, this 25-foot waterfall empties into a stunning rock gorge large enough for swimming in warmer months. The lower flow spreads across the cliffs making the waterfall transparent, allowing you to see the rocks behind it.
The waterfall can be seen from an easily accessible boardwalk near the base of the falls. Picnicking is also encouraged at the upper level of the boardwalk. Hayden Falls is located in Griggs Reservoir Park on the west side of the Scioto River. It is easily accessible from highway I-270 which leads into a parking lot for the trailhead.
Other noteworthy falls close by are Indian Run Falls which are a couple of miles north of the city of Dublin. Within an hour’s drive, you can also reach Cedar Falls.
Indian Run Falls
Another amazing waterfall to see in Hocking Hills State Park is one of the tallest waterfalls in Ohio. The Indian Run Falls plummet from the edge of Ash Cave; a horseshoe-shaped recess cave. Standing at 90 feet tall with 100 feet depth from the cliff, this is one of the most impressive sites. The cave is easily accessible from the main parking area of highway SR 56. Walking there takes just 5 minutes from the parking area. Also, the trail is clearly marked with signs so you would never lose your way.
From the Indian Run Falls, you can continue walking further to the Gatewood trail. This trail coincidentally connects to the infamous Buckeye Trail. This waterfall has a staircase-like rock formation smoothly flowing into a shallow pool. The green vegetation is present in all surrounding rocks making for a beautiful display. Also, similar to other waterfalls the best time of year to visit is in early spring though often you can find a column of ice during the winter months.
Honey Run Waterfalls
The medium-sized waterfalls of Honey Run Falls lie within the Knox County district. These moderate flow falls contain a series of steps with a total height of 20 feet. These falls are open to the public all year with the usual peak season in the spring. Honey Run Waterfalls are part of the Honey Run Waterfall Park. This national park takes you through a gorge leading to the Kokosing River.
Also, if you are up for colder conditions, these falls create a frozen column and countless ice crystals. One can note in winter months you can find over 1000 luminaries set up for the Christmas walk on Saturday, December 8th. Within a 30 minute drive, you can reach the Mohican State Park and see the Big Lyons falls along with Hemlock Falls.