Earlier in the year I was perusing my copy of AAA Journeys Magazine (Wow, I just aged myself by about sixty years! But in my defense their magazine has some interesting travel articles.) Anyway, in the back of each issue they have a localized section about upcoming events where I found an article about an upcoming, guided winter hike at Hocking Hills – a state park south east of Columbus, Ohio.
I’m embarrassed to admit this…but I just kind of assumed that state parks shut down during the winter. ‘Who in their right mind would want to hike in the snow?’ asked the girl who doesn’t bat an eye at the thought of driving thirty miles through a blizzard to run 10 miles in the snow…
But one of the big selling points of Hocking Hills is the waterfalls that cascade over a series of caves/gorges – and these waterfalls freeze during the winter…creating a winter wonderland that would impress even Elsa herself.
During their annual, planned winter hike that I visited with my sister for her birthday, the local Kiwanis served bean soup and cornbread at the halfway point on the trail – which was very nice – But it was CROWDED!!! My sister and I guesstimated that 5,000 people were out on the six-mile trail the day we visited.
So I personally think it would be more fun to visit on a random weekend to enjoy the stillness and beauty of the frozen falls without such a crowd.
The main benefit to visiting on the planned hike day was that their was a shuttle waiting at the end of the trail to take hikers back to their cars parked in the campground. Because this trail is an out-and-back, it would be a 12-mile hike round trip. (If you had enough people to justify taking two cars – that could all cram into one car…we decided it would be a good idea to park one car at the end of the trail and pile everyone in the other car to begin the hike at the campground trailhead. If you don’t have enough people to justify two cars, there are parking lots near each of the waterfalls so you could park and hike/park and hike your way through the park.)
My beautiful sister and I in front of one of the frozen falls. You can see that we are dressed for the cold, but I was actually a little too cold...It is several degrees colder down by the falls than it the weather had forecasted, so definitely dress in layers (like my smart sister did:)
The hike was relatively easy…we saw several people with children. But the terrain fluctuated between snow and mud with some slick spots, so it’s important to wear proper shoes.
The sections of trail between the falls were pretty standard, woodsy hiking trails – almost making you question why you’d driven so far to hike here…but the grand finale falls at Ash Cave were definitely worth the visit (My sister said it was on a list of the top 10 waterfalls in North America.)
The waterfall at Ash Cave was amazing! There was still a trickle of water falling that was forming a snow mountain beneath. It is definitely worth hiking to see!
Visit http://www.thehockinghills.org to plan your trip today.