If you are looking for a great destination to visit during the winter months I highly recommend Hocking Hills in Ohio.
I’m sharing more about why winter is a magical time for outdoor enthusiasts to visit Hocking Hills to beat the winter blues.
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The Hiking Trails Are Less Crowded
You can go your own pace on the trails without the crowds. Winter is the perfect time to go on all of the popular trails if you don’t want to see a lot of people.
Most cell phones don’t have a signal in the park so make sure that someone knows where you are hiking if you are going solo. You can also download the Hocking Hills app with trail maps and directions.
If you like to hike with your dog you’ll also appreciate that you don’t have to pass by as many people or pets.
The spectacular scenery featuring deep gorges and waterfalls totally makes it worth getting out in the bitter cold in the Buckeye State.
Popular Hikes at Hocking Hills
There are miles of trails to explore at Hocking Hills State Park. Each beautiful trail is very unique and worth checking out.
All of the trails at Hocking Hills State Park are now one-way loop trails which is a better way to reduce congestion and a long line at popular spots on the trails, especially during the warmer months.
- Ash Cave (ADA accessible)
- Old Man’s Cave (Upper falls and lower falls)
- Cedar Falls
- Conkles Hollow (Lower trail ADA accessible)
- Cantwell Cliffs
- Rock House
- Whispering Cave
Attend the Annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike
If you like the community of a crowd make sure that you attend the annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike.
The annual hike is a 6 mile-trek through Hocking Hills State Park from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave.
The starting point is a kiosk at the Old Man’s Cave Visitor Center Parking Lot at Old Man’s Cave. A shuttle bus returns hikers from Ash Cave to Old Man’s Cave.
There are continuous starts from 9am- 11am that travel to the Upper Falls of Old Man’s Cave. That portion of the hike is led in small groups and then hikers can finish the rest of the hike at their own pace. Last year there were over 5,600 hikers.
The annual hike is free but cash donations at Cedar Falls for refreshments are welcomed. The halfway point has bean soup and cornbread for hikers to enjoy.
The annual hike takes place on a Saturday in January and is run by park naturalists, staff, volunteers, and park officials from most of Ohio’s State Parks who are stationed throughout the trail to provide guidance and assistance to park visitors.
The hike takes you on a portion of the Ohio Buckeye Trail also known as the Grandma Gateway Trail.
It’s considered a difficult hike going up and down steep hills, with sections of rugged paths and plenty of roots to keep your eyes on the lookout for along the way. Skip this hike if you are in poor health and I don’t suggest bringing kids who are inexperienced hikers because of the terrain and distance.
Check out The Logan Frozen Festival
Visitors who are in town for the annual hike will also want to check out The Logan Frozen Festival featuring ice sculptures, live music, and an assortment of free family-friendly winter activities. It’s the best time to pack in a lot of fun into a little time.
If you want to go sledding while you’re in town, Lake Hope State Park Dam is a popular spot and you can grab a bite to eat or warm up with a hot chocolate at Lake Hope Lodge.
Admire the Beautiful Icicle Formations
The icicle formations are absolutely stunning at Hocking Hills. Pictured above is the “Devil’s Bathtub” at Old Man’s Cave which looks like a hot tub.
The icicles can also leave a mark if you aren’t mindful of your surroundings. It’s really important to check the trail conditions on the trailhead sign this time of year.
Make sure that you pay attention to what’s above you, especially on a day when the ice is melting.
During our visit, we saw several giant icicles crash to the ground at Ash Cave but thankfully no one was nearby.
Another scenic option is Rose Lake, a man-made lake that may or may not is partially frozen during your visit. It also has a 1/2 mile hiking trail and is known as one of the best places to fish in the area.
Fewer Pictures With Random People in the Background
Unless you’re a whiz at Photoshop there is a good chance that you’ll have people in some of your pictures on a beautiful day.
The best thing about visiting in the winter season is that you are less likely to have a lot of people around while you are setting up the perfect shot.
Best Hikes for Families With Young Children
If you are traveling with kids, Ash Cave and Conkles Hollow Gorge trails are two short hikes that are a great place to start. Short hikes are one of the best ways to keep kids walking vs. being carried.
These hikes are also a great place to start for anyone who needs an ADA-accessible trail for a wheelchair or stroller. That way they can make lots of stops with ease if needed.
You can Find Parking Near the Trailheads
During the warmer months, finding a parking space near the trailhead can be rare. In fact, finding a parking space, in general, may be challenging on popular hikes.
If you visit Hocking Hills in the winter it’s very easy to find a parking spot.
Park visitors also need to be aware that some of the one-way hiking loops don’t start and end at the same exact point near the parking lot.
The exit of the trail for some of the park areas may require you to walk farther to reach your vehicle.
It took us a few minutes to figure out where our vehicle was parked after exiting the one-way trail for Rock House. Our vehicle wasn’t visible or near the parking lot near the exit.
What to Wear for Hiking in Cold Weather
They say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.
You’ll want to dress in layers for your hikes. It’s easy to warm up quickly while you’re climbing a steep incline during your outdoor adventures.
You need a base layer/ underwear layer that helps wick sweat off your skin.
(Think Merino wool and silk underwear base layers and socks.)
Next, you want a middle layer/ insulating layer to help retain body heat and protect you from the cold. (fleece jacket)
For the outer layer/ shell layer, select something that will help shield you from rain and wind. (outer jacket and waterproof hiking pants)
You must wear appropriate foot attire and take extra precautions because the trails can be snowy or icy.
On really cold days, you’ll want to wear long underwear. You also might want to pack extra pair of socks and make sure that your hiking boots are waterproof and have good traction.
Don’t forget a warm hat, beanie or headband, gloves or mittens, neck gaiter, and comfortable backpack to carry snacks and a water bottle.
Good footwear is really important for ankle support, keeping your feet dry, and reducing your risk of falling.
Removable ice cleats for your shoes and collapsible hiking poles can also give you extra traction on days when the trails are really icy.
My hiking poles were the only thing that made me feel more confident when we had to travel down a staircase covered in solid ice. My advice is to just take it slow and move to the best of your ability.
Find Discounted and Off-Season Lodging
Be on the lookout for special rates and packages after the holiday season.
After a long day on the trail, it’s nice to come back to a roaring fire if you are staying in a small cabin, tiny house or at the Hocking Hills State Campground that’s open with limitations from Nov 1- April 1. Check the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website for the availability of state parks in the area.
Visitors can save with off-season rates and lodging packages at local inns and hotels.
There are a lot of lodging options available for larger groups seeking a private facility for their next retreat too.
You Can Enjoy Unique Indoor Activities
The Hocking Hills area offers plenty of unique and fun things to do indoors too.
- Find your favorite pencil sharpeners at the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. (The welcome center is located at 13178 State Route 664 S, Logan, OH.)
The tiny museum is the largest collection of pencil sharpeners in the United States. I always recommend stopping at the welcome center first if this is your first visit to the area. Both buildings are located within a few steps of the visitor center parking lot.
- Paint a unique work of art in the Splatter Studio at Young at Art
- Take a glassblowing class to make an ornament at Jack Pine Studio
- Learn how to be a blacksmith at Lockhart Ironworks Southern Ohio School of Blacksmithing
- Take a guided tour of the Columbus Washboard Company
- Go shopping at the area antique shops and local businesses in the Logan Town Center
- Enjoy a wine tasting at Hocking Hills Winery
- Warm up in a sauna pod
You can read more about all of these unique adventures in Hocking Hills here.
Unique Coffee Flights at the Oasis Coffee Shop
26850 US Highway 33, Rockbridge, OH
Warm up with a flight of coffee at Oasis Coffee. There are also hot chocolate flights if you prefer a non-caffeinated option.
Each month there is a new seasonal flight in addition to the regular flavors for the coffee flights that can be served hot or iced.
Skip the Wait For a Table at Local Restaurants
You can maximize your time in the area by spending less time waiting for a table in the winter.
Here are some recommendations of area local restaurants that are still open.
- M & M Diner
- Hocking Hills Diner
- Millstone BBQ
- Kindred Spirits
- Hungry Buffalo
- La Casada
- Pizza Crossing
- Glenlaurel Scottish Inn is known for its 6-course meal (fine dining experience)
Stop by Brewery 33 for craft beers and food trucks scheduled throughout the month.