This week’s Activity Spotlight is written by our Assistant Innkeeper, Virginia Magill.
“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter…”
– John Burroughs, The Snow-Walkers, 1866
In the warmer months, people flock to Hocking Hills for its lush greenery, flowing waterfalls, and other-worldly landscapes. It is, without a doubt, one of the most breathtaking state parks in Ohio – but I would make the claim that it just as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer.
My husband and a friend of ours recently went on what I like to call the frozen waterfall tour which included Rock House, Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, and Conkle’s Hollow. I am not a stranger to hiking in the winter but I was not prepared for how majestic it would be. It was like walking into a different world, a winter wonderland. Everything was covered in shimmering ice and snow. The icicles and ice cones seemed to have a mystical aura about them and they glowed with an aqua light.
In many places, you could go behind the falls and explore. It was just beginning to thaw a little while we were there, and behind the Lower Falls there were icicles along the back of the recess wall. Water was dripping down them into a small pool, and the sound created a melody that is hard to describe. The drips and the echoes together made the most peaceful music.
Broken Falls is a little gem that is tucked away one tenth of a mile off the trail near the Lower Falls at Old Man’s Cave. I have never actually been there or noticed it on the trail maps, but it was one of my favorite spots on this trip. I did not expect to see any amphibians since the temperatures were so low, but much to my surprise I almost stepped on a frog as I was walking across the ice!
The ice cone at Ash Cave was more than 25 feet tall (at my best estimation). The amount of ice from the small waterfall was impressive, and the people that were standing around admiring it were dwarfed by its massive size.
To many, the idea of a winter hike does not sound appealing. The cold temperatures keep many indoors where it is nice and cozy. I like a cup of hot tea or coffee in front of the fireplace in the Great Hall as much as anyone! However, there is something to be said for braving the elements and experiencing one of the most awe-inspiring hikes I have ever been on. I would recommend it to anyone, along with these tips:
- Embrace winter for what it is. It is going to be cold, but it is gorgeous. An extra perk with the cold is that the trails will be less crowded and you have more of the park to yourself.
- Dress accordingly. Layers are best and a good pair of waterproof hiking boots will be your best friend. Don’t forget a hat and gloves!
- If you plan to be hiking for more than a few hours, pack a snack and something to drink. Nothing can make you hangrier than being hungry AND cold.
- Make sure you have enough storage space on your device of choice for a lot of pictures! We all ended up taking more than we thought we would.
- Always use caution when dealing with ice. It is slippery on the trails, and often the steps are ice covered. If the water is frozen over, the ice can break when you step on it. Icicles can fall off the cliffs, so be aware of where you are walking and what is above you.
A great way to start hiking in the winter is by taking part in the 53rd Annual Winter Hike at Hocking Hills State Park! This is a six mile hike that goes all the way from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave. Refreshments are available along the way, and a shuttle bus will take you back to Old Man’s Cave once the hike is over. It is taking place Saturday, January 20, 2018 from 9:00 am – 11:00 am. More details are available at https://www.explorehockinghills.com/events/53rd-annual-hocking-hills-winter-hike/.