59th Annual Winter Hike: January 20, 2024. Continuous starts from 9:00 – 11:00AM
Hocking Hills State Park is home to the annual Winter Hike in January.
Don't forget to bring some cash for donations for the bean soup and cornbread!
This is the Sphinx Head. Right before hiking over the stone bridge just beneath Old Man's Cave and ascending the stone steps, pause for a moment and look off to the left. This is the famous "Sphinx Head!"
By the way, you might be hiking a little bit of the "Road to Hell." There are two A-Frame Bridges along the route. One is after the Old Naturalist Cabin. The second is before descending into Cedar Falls. As you travel across the second bridge, know this old legend was once passed down: In the early 1800s, a grist-mill powered by the waters of Queer Creek sat on the rim of Cedar Falls. Nearby was a massive beech tree, now gone, with words engraved deeply in its ancient trunk, “This is the road to hell, 1782.” Legends say that early pioneers captured by Shawnee were marched along a rugged trail once here and one ill-fated settler left this message for those who later passed through.
Enjoy winter’s splendor on this 6-mile trek from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave. Layered clothing and good footwear are recommended. Refreshments are available at Cedar Falls for a donation. A shuttle bus returns hikers to Old Man’s Cave.
Starting Point: Kiosk at Visitor Center Parking Lot at Old Man’s Cave on State Route 664. However, most traffic will be routed by officers to the campground and other parking areas where a bus will bring hikers to this beginning point. Remember, at times the trail does get a bit backed-up. Make sure you dress warmly so if you have to stand in once place for a few minutes, you don't get too cold. The wait is usually not that long!
Assembled hikers will depart continuously between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Park officials will provide return transportation from Ash Cave to Old Man’s Cave following the event.
Cost: The Event is FREE! Donations are encouraged for refreshments. But bring some cash for donations for the Kiwanis Bean Soup and Cornbread at the halfway point, and at Ash Cave, the local Lions Club will have hot chocolate and doughnuts available. The park also sells Winter Hike patches and other souvenirs.
What to Wear: Bundle up. Stay Warm. Wear a hat, coat, gloves, long underwear, and good hiking boots if it is cool. Invest in a pair of ice cleats. (And do not buy a pair of boots the day before the hike. Wear them in a while, or you will have more blisters than you can count!) Watch the local weather for Logan, Ohio, zip code 43138 on the day of the hike to check for weather condition updates.
Check out the weather here!
In 1965, the first hikers came to Hocking Hills State Park to feast their eyes on winter’s touch on Old Man’s Cave led by Norv Hall, Park Naturalist. There were about 60 hikers at the first Winter Hiker. The record year was 2010, with over 5400 visitors. Hikers have overcome blizzards, sleet storms, and bitter cold to come to the hike, and the only time officials canceled the event was the Blizzard of 1978. Believe it or not, there were still 70 gutsy hikers that showed up that year. 1977 offered bitter temperatures of nearly 19 degrees below zero. Year after year since that first hike, hardy hikers have shunned frozen fingers and toes to take the march from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls and then Ash Cave. Hikers have slipped and slid along the trails and, at some points, crawled to get up icy steps. Other years, they waded through ankle-deep puddles from yesterday’s five inches of melted snow because it was as warm as a spring day during the event!
Who Helps Run the Event? Staff, volunteers, and officers from nearly all of Ohio’s State Parks are positioned throughout the 6 miles of trails to help guide your way and keep you safe. Please feel free to ask them questions and thank them for coming to the park to assist hikers in having a great day.
Is this an easy hike? No, certainly not. It is a difficult hike of 6 miles up and down steep hills. If you are unfit, this is not the hike for you! The trails in winter are rugged and not for the out-of-shape. If you are in poor health or do not exercise strenuously a few times a week, this hike is not for you! Those with “bad knees” and other health issues that may put them at risk should probably plan on only taking part of the trail-either take Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls or Cedar Falls to Ash Cave and have a friend pick you up and drop you off at these points. Or just come to Ash Cave and walk the short trail to the waterfall to be a part of the crowd. Old Man’s Cave has steps that can be icy some years, bridges, tunnels, and slender (sometimes muddy and slippery after 5000 or so hikers have traipsed across them in only a few hours) trails. There are also hills to trod over and rugged paths. And did we mention that it is cold?
Kid-Friendly? This is a six mile hike, up and down hills with plenty of roots, rocks and it can be bitterly cold. It is breathtaking, relaxing, fun, and nonstop. However, if your kids are the kind you have to lug around in a shopping cart when you are only five minutes into shopping at the nearest grocery store, this might not be the hike for them. Besides, most cell phones do not work at the bottom of Old Man’s Cave, and it would be tough to call someone to pick them up. You must clear the six miles before the buses leave.
Pet Friendly? There are more than a few people who bring their dogs with them on this hike. Plenty of warning though, many people are walking in a long line, and there are cliff edges. If your dog does not like people and is not used to the cold, keep them home. Although the park staff clears the trails to their best ability, there are still logs to climb over and plenty of rocks, roots, and hills that seem a mile high. This event is certainly not recommended for dogs.
Hikers descend into Upper Falls:
Hikers will travel over Devil's Bathtub:
And through Old Man's Cave where locals say an old trapper named Retzler and his dog still haunt the cave:
Then there is Cedar Falls which after is bean soup and cornbread!
And lastly after passing through the beautiful Hocking State Forest, Ash Cave:
There are seven major hiking areas in Hocking Hills State Park - All are one-way trail systems.
Ash Cave, Old Man's Cave, Rock House, Conkle's Hollow, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs, and Whispering Cave Trail. These park areas offer a unique experience for those who walk its paths no matter what season (the park is open year-round from dawn to dusk)—located on the southern edge of Hocking County. But those are just a handful. There are many hiking trails in the Hocking Hills include those at Wayne National Forest, Clear Creek Metro Parks, Lake Hope State Park, Vinton County Park District's Moonville Tunnel, and Hocking College's Robbins Crossing (with park programs) and the Athens Hock-Hocking Adena Rail Trail bikeway.