Hocking Hills is a great place to visit year-round, but winter is a special time to explore the area. There are plenty of winter hikes and activities to keep you busy. So bundle up and get ready for some fun in the snow!
Going for a winter hike in Hocking Hills State Park is definitely an experience that you’ll never forget. Even though the cold weather and snow can make things a little bit difficult, it’s all worth it when you reach those stunning overlooks and frozen waterfalls. There are also plenty of other activities to enjoy in the park during the winter months, so be sure to check them out!
Where Is Hocking Hills State Park?
Hocking Hills is located in the southern part of the state of Ohio. It is about an hour’s drive from Columbus, and a 2.5-3.5 hours drive from both Cleveland and Cincinnati. Hocking Hills State Park sits in Hocking County, not far from the city of Logan.
Hocking Hills Winter Hikes
There are plenty of trails to explore throughout the state park and the surrounding areas. Hocking Hills State Park is located in Hocking County, Ohio, and serves as a popular tourist attraction throughout the year.
The trails in the state park have been labeled for one-way traffic in recent years. We think of this as a positive because you’re not crossing paths with other hikers every 5 seconds, so you might be able to find a little solitude once in a while.
The width of the trails, especially in icy and snowy winter conditions, is not conducive to two-way traffic. The one-way plan is much safer on these narrow trails close to cliff edges!
Some of these trails can be combined for much longer hikes. In the winter, though, you might want to break things up with shorter hikes and quick car rides from trailhead to trailhead.
These trails are all dog-friendly, but not all of the other trails and natural areas around Hocking Hills are. Check out our list of all the dog-friendly hikes in and around Hocking Hills.
This is probably the easiest hike in Hocking Hills, especially in winter. In total, it’s only about 0.5 miles long. Begin at the parking area on OH-56, where you’ll first take the flat, accessible Gorge Trail section.
In 0.25 miles, after walking through forested areas, you’ll walk right into Ash Cave. The waterfall is towards the far end of the cave, which is sure to make you feel tiny. It is the largest cave in the state of Ohio!
After wandering through the cave, which is more of an overhang in the giant rock wall than what you might think of as a typical cave, you can take the stairs up the hillside. Return to the parking area on the 0.25-mile rim trail, which is slightly more adventurous.
For those with mobility concerns, return to the parking area on the paved gorge trail.
When winter hiking in Hocking Hills, this won’t be your most adventurous trek, but there are some beautiful sites to see! The natural ice sculptures formed by dripping water are really one of a kind.
Cedar Falls is the biggest waterfall in Hocking Hills in terms of volume, and it’s a beautiful spot to explore when everything is frozen.
The trail is about 0.5 miles in length from the parking area off of OH-374. There are multiple parking lots in the area, but the largest ones can be found by taking the short driveway back to a picnic area and trailhead parking.
There are plenty of interesting things to note when visiting Cedar Falls. The stairs leading down to the falls were designed purposefully to make the hike more comfortable. By doing things like varying step lengths to force you to lead with each foot instead of relying on one, the descent into the gorge is more pleasant.
Cedar Falls was also inappropriately named because early white settlers assumed that the trees in the area were cedars when actually they are hemlocks. I guess it should actually be called Hemlock Falls.
Although Cedar Falls is only about 0.5 miles in length, it’s definitely worth checking out the frozen falls when you’re visiting Hocking Hills State Park in winter!
Old Man’s Cave
Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills is probably the most popular trail, just because there is a variety of things to see along a short stretch. You’ll pass waterfalls, the large cave overhang, old stone bridges, and beautiful old stone steps leading you through the gorge.
Wandering through the Old Man’s Cave trails can be as short as a 1-mile route past the upper falls and the cave, to a 6-mile loop through the gorge and forest to some of the other attractions.
Although this isn’t really a strenuous hike overall, there is plenty of traffic on the trail, packing the snow down and creating very slick conditions. Some of the stairs on the trail can turn into sliding boards like the ones we enjoyed as kids. These ice-covered ones are bumpier and much more dangerous, so make sure that you have the appropriate gear to hike this popular trail.
This one is a newer destination, which can only be accessed by taking the Old Man’s Cave Trail through the gorge, past all of the viewpoints, and continuing through the forest. You’ll have to cross a rope suspension bridge to reach the rest of the trail to this cave.
This is also a one-way trail, and the loop ends up being about 5 miles long. After taking the spur to the cave and standing behind the water cascading off of the roof, you’ll end up returning to the Old Man’s Cave Visitor Center on the all-purpose bike trail for the last stretch of the hike.
This is a newer trail in the area, just opened in 2017. If you haven’t been to the Hocking Hills area in a while, this might be a new spot to check out. You might be able to escape some of the crowds here, as it’s a little more off the beaten path.
We’ve had this cave to ourselves to explore on a winter hike.
A little further away from the center of Hocking Hills activity, the Rockhouse is the Hocking Hills area’s only actual cave. This area is of great interest to history buffs, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the Hocking Hills area for any length of time.
This spot was used as a shelter by early inhabitants and later European settlers, as well as robbers and bandits hiding away. Walking through the cave can feel a little bit creepy, but the frozen waterfall and snow-covered rock formations along this trail make for beautiful scenery.
The trail is shorter at 0.8 miles long including the rim and gorge sections, but hiking down the snow and ice-covered stairs can be slick. Be sure to have those traction devices for your boots! Some of the stairs are sheltered by the cliffs and don’t get as much snow cover, but be cautious of your footing. There are no real railings along the trail stairs.
An early morning visit to the Rockhouse may be chilly, but you may also find more solitude along this trail at that time.
The Cantwell Cliffs area is the most difficult hiking area in Hocking Hills, especially in the winter months. The gorge trail here features stairs after stairs winding around and through the namesake cliffs.
The trails here can really freeze over with ice, and they can become nearly impassable. We’d recommend having sturdy traction devices with you for this trail and being ready to use them.
The gorge itself is beautiful in the wintertime, especially when the trees and cliffs are all covered in fresh white snow.
This is the furthest location from the main attractions of Old Man’s and Ash Cave, but it is so worth the visit. You’ll find about 2 miles of more difficult trails here, located in the northern corners of the state park.
“Hocking Hills Winter Hike”
This is a guided hike that happens once per year! Park staff is stationed along the 6-mile route from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave and Cedar Falls. They will guide you along the trails and are available to answer questions along the way.
The winter hike is free to participate in for all who attend. There are food stations including a hot chocolate and doughnut spot, and bean soup and cornbread served by the local Kiwanis Club at the halfway point. Donations are much appreciated at these spots.
After the 6-mile hike, you have 2 choices. Shuttles are provided to return back to the Old Man’s Cave area, and donations are appreciated for this service, as well. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself hiking back on the trails yourself.
What to Bring on Your Hocking Hills Winter Hikes
You won’t need a ton of special equipment or extra gear to hike in Hocking Hills, but there are a few things you definitely need to consider before heading out on the trails. While some of the trails are completely flat, others have quite a few staircases and steep cliffs.
With so much traffic on these trails, the snow and ice become very packed and smooth, making the staircases nearly impassable unless you have some really good microspikes or ice cleats. The alternative is either turning around and missing the beauty of the trail or sliding down the staircase on your butt, hoping that you come to a stop at the bottom. We’d recommend that you just come prepared.
We’d recommend carrying these Kahtoola spikes in your daypack and sliding them on whenever you come to slippery or icy sections of the trail.
Also, dress in layers! Some of the trails descend into gorges and arrive at caves, which can have different temperatures. Others require lots of up or downhill hiking, which can raise your body temperature quite a bit while on the move.
Columbia Omniheat Jackets are great for winter hiking. They’re lightweight, packable, and water-resistant. They reflect your own body heat to keep you warm! Plus, it is more affordable than many other brands. Check out the men’s fit or the women’s fit.
Spend Some Time in Front of a Fireplace
After a long day out exploring the snowy and icy trails, head back to your cabin and get the fireplace roaring. Many of the cabins in the area have fireplaces, some of which are gas and some wood-burning.
This is a perfect spot to cozy up with a good book, a soft blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, or a glass of wine and recharge after an adventurous day.
Better yet, bring back some summer memories and make an indoor s’more over the wood-stoked fire. So many of the cabins have this luxury that surely you will be able to find one that suits all of your needs.
Soak in a Hot Tub
In the Hocking Hills region, another one of the most popular things to do after a long day of hiking is to soothe those sore muscles with a dip in a hot tub.
If you’re renting one of the many cabins and cottages throughout the area, you may be able to enjoy this luxury, as many of the cabins also come equipped with hot tubs.
Many of the hot tubs are on outdoor decks or patios, and although the weather can be quite chilly during the winter months, it can be a perfect spot to unwind. Just be sure to pack a nice warm winter hat to keep your ears warm while you tend to those sore legs.
Go Sledding at Nearby Lake Hope State Park Dam
Lake Hope State Park is a great place to go sledding in the winter. There is a large hill near the dam that is perfect for sledding. Be sure to dress warmly and bring a sled when you visit Lake Hope in the winter.
This is a great spot to enjoy for all ages, especially for those who do not have access to a good hill at home… or don’t get as much snow at home!
Other winter activities at Lake Hope include cross country skiing on some of the hiking trails and ice skating on the lake.
Wine Taste at One of the Area Wineries
There are a few wineries in the area that you can visit, including the namesake Hocking Hills Winery, Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery, Rockside Winery & Vineyards, and the further away Manchester Hill and Shade Wineries.
Taste a few to find your new favorite or make a couple of stops if you have to. Just be sure to have a DD if you plan to indulge! Better yet, grab a bottle (or 2) to take back to your cabin and enjoy beside the fireplace or in between soaks in the hot tub!
Most of the wineries around the area do also serve some sort of food, so you can satisfy your hunger at the same time.
Sample a Flight at Brewery 33
If a craft brew is more your speed, check out Brewery 33. They typically offer a variety of styles, with plenty of options to choose from. Select a few to include in a flight to see which is your favorite.
The brewery is dog-friendly, so you can bring your pup along for a drink and a snack after your day of hiking.
Although they do not currently have an onsite kitchen, there are often food trucks parked here cooking up delicious bites, and ordering in from local restaurants is also acceptable.
Shop for Local Antiques and Eclectic Gifts
Hocking Hills is a great place to shop for antiques and unique gifts that you might not find anywhere else. In the small towns surrounding the park, like Logan and Nelsonville, you’ll find multiple antique malls. The Logan Antique Mall has over 100 dealer booths that you can peruse.
In addition to all the antiques, you can find some great specialty gift shops. There are opportunities to learn about glass blowing, pottery, and quilting. Not far from the main route from Ash Cave to Cedar Falls, you can find a cool little wind chime specialty shop.
Artisans and crafters are always coming up with new goods, so these places are never quite the same twice. You never know what you might find, and visiting these little shops is a great way to escape the winter cold, if just for a short time.
Relax at the Spa at Cedar Falls
If you’re looking for a luxurious way to relax after a day of hiking in Hocking Hills State Park, consider visiting the spa instead, especially if you’re not one of the lucky ones to have a private hot tub with your accommodation.
The spa, located at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, offers a variety of treatments, including massages, facials, and foot treatments.
Spa treatments can be a great way to pamper yourself and escape the winter weather, especially after the rough wear and tear on your feet exploring the trails.
Visit the World’s Only Pencil Sharpener Museum
This is quite an eclectic spot to visit, and one I’m sure you won’t find anywhere else. This little spot in Logan, OH is home to what is thought to be the largest collection of pencil sharpeners in the United States.
The collection was assembled and owned by Reverend Paul Johnson, and he worked on it for over 20 years until he passed away in 2010. Now, the shed museum is located right by the Hocking Hills Welcome Center.
While this stop probably won’t take you a really long time, it’s still worth adding to your Hocking Hills itinerary. There are 3,479 different and unique pencil sharpeners displayed at this little spot.
There are so many different things to do in Hocking Hills State Park in the winter. Hiking is so much fun in the snow and it’s even better when you stay at one of the many cabins or cottages in Hocking Hills that are surrounded by nature.
So get out there, and enjoy Hocking Hills State Park and everything it has to offer in the winter!