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Take a Hike & Explore the Butter Nut Trail and Cave at Malabar Farm State Park in Ohio

Malabar Farm State Park is a popular spot to hike but what most people don’t know is that the Butter Nut Trail leads to a cave you can enter!

Malabar Farm State Park offers several short hiking trails that are perfect for families looking to get outside and explore nature in North East Ohio. 

Over the years, my family has spent a lot of time at Malabar Farm. We’ve enjoyed hiking the trails, touring the Big House, taking a wagon ride around the property, and viewing the animals, but there is another treasure that draws us back time and again, the cave that is located at the end of the Butter Nut Trail.  

The easiest way to get to the Butter Nut Trail is to park in the parking lot by the working farm area then walk past the barns, and the duck pond. After you cross over the bridge you’ll see a dirt road with a sign pointing to several trails and the Pugh Cabin (you can also look for the Shawshank Trail sign). 

I have seen people park at the Pugh Cabin to walk on the trail but there is a sign at the end of the road stating it is for emergency or authorized vehicles only.

The road leading to the Butter Nut Trail at Malabar Farm State Park

Follow the sign and begin walking down the road. I’m not sure how long the road is but I’m guessing about 1/4 of a mile or so. It’s pretty shaded so apply the mosquito repellant and tick spray before you set off on your hike.  

The road leading to Pugh Cabin

The road ends at the Sugar Shack, which happens to be the focus of the annual Maple Syrup Festival.

The Sugar Shack at Malabar Farm State Park

On the right, you’ll see Pugh Cabin. If you’re a fan of The Shawshank Redemption, you may enjoy knowing that this is where the opening scene was filmed. This location is also part of The Shawshank Trail, a self-guided tour that leads you to each of the filming sites in the area. 

Directly past the Pugh Cabin, you will see a trail sign which shows the trail routes. You’ll notice that the Butter Nut Trail is clearly marked with white blazes.

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The popular loop trail is just under 1 mile in length. The trail is fairly easy but can be a bit rocky so you’ll want to wear sturdy shoes and its not a bad idea to have a walking stick or trekking poles, especially when walking down to the cave if you’re unsteady.

The trail leads you through mature Beech- Maple trees and rock outcroppings to a small cave.

My kids always enjoyed spending time climbing on the large boulders so I always allowed time for them to horse around. Speaking of horses, though there are bridle trails at Malabar Farm, the Butter Nut Trail is for pedestrians only.

The Cave at Malabar Farm

The trail narrows as you reach the end and you’ll be able to see the opening for the cave. As you begin to descend down a short hill towards the opening, you’ll notice that the trail can be steep and rocky.

Cave opening on a hiking trail

If you visit during the summer, you’ll feel a welcome blast of cool air as you near the opening. You’ll also smell a faint musty odor from the cave. 

If you have headlamps for your family make sure you pack them so you can have your hands free in the cave.  

If you’ve ever imagined what it would be like to go spelunking you may want to spend some time exploring the cave at Malabar Farm. There are other caves on the property but to my knowledge, this is the only cave that is still open for park visitors.

Entering the cave and walking through it has a few narrow spaces and you will need to climb on the rocks at the beginning to get through the narrow passage. The only part where it gets tricky is at the end of the passage when you need to hoist yourself up to get out.

If you don’t have a lot of upper body strength, are short, or don’t have anyone with you to give you a boost, you may need to turn around to go back out the entrance.  

The cave is not a huge cave so you really could spend all of five minutes inside if you rushed through it. But it’s not every day we have access to a cave here in north-central Ohio so why not take your time? That is unless you have an aversion to spiders and other creepy crawlies.  

Adventuring in the cave at Malabar Farm State Park

Just make sure you check yourself when you exit the cave to make sure you don’t have any hitchhikers. I pack this with me to check for ticks after each hike.  

Looking for spiders

My daughter is a teenager in these photos, but we’d been in and out of the cave since they were little. I wouldn’t hesitate to take an elementary-age child in the cave as long as they know to stay with you and listen to directions.

Climbing through the cave at Malabar Farm may be your first experience caving but you never know where it may lead. I know it certainly sparked an interest in my husband and daughter. 

Tips for Exploring the Cave on the Butter Nut Trail

1. The cave isn’t very big and may only take a few minutes to walk through but it’s always safer to explore with a buddy.
2. The cave is damp and wet so it’s a good idea to wear older, but sturdy footwear and clothes that can get dirty.
3. Make sure you pack some water, you’ll want it to drink and to rinse your hands after you’ve finished climbing through the cave.
4. Don’t forget your bug spray.
5. You really need a flashlight if you plan to walk all the way through the cave. We used these headlamps and they worked perfectly so we could be hands-free.
6. The passage to exit the cave does narrow considerably so if you have a backpack on (like I did), you will need to remove it and carry it through.

Visitors Information

Address: 4050 Bromfield Road Lucas, Ohio 44843
Phone: 419-892-2784
Cost: Entrance to the park is free but there is a fee to tour the home and to take a wagon tour.
For a detailed list of hours visit the website:

Spring wildflowers at Malabar Farm State Park near Mansfield, Ohio.

Don’t Miss 15 Things to do with the Family at Malabar Farm State Park for ideas to extend your visit. 

Inside the cave on the Butternut Trail at Malabar Farm State Park in Mansfield Ohio.

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Have you ever gone spelunking? Would you ever consider it?



Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

I'm VERY outdoorsy and I love hiking and camping and all that fun stuff. I would love to explore those caves. I don't know if there are any around me in Boston.


Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

I am a huge Shawshank fan. Thanks for sharing as I would have no idea that is where they filmed some of the movie. I am going to Ohio (for my first time) in Sept and will have to bookmark this.

Lynsey @MoscatoMom

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

How NEAT. I dont think I could have survived the brush with a spider - I've been known to run screaming - but that looks amazing. We have caverns here that I love too - reminds me of that!


Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

My family would totally dig going through that area. Aside from the spiders, looks beautiful. lol!

Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs

Tuesday 21st of May 2013

I am not a spider fan either! Protection Status
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