Updated with 2020 dates.
Are you interested in outdoor recreation opportunities in Ohio this winter? Today I’m sharing things to do in Hocking Hills during the cold weather.
Hocking Hills is picturesque any time of year, but when winter hits and the region is blanketed with a layer of snow and the waterfalls slowly turn to ice, the scenery becomes that much more magical. Hocking Hills, located in southeast Ohio has held a piece of my heart since my first visit many years ago. It is a destination that I visit repeatedly and one that I highly suggest to friends and family traveling through Ohio.
Though you may be tempted to visit during warmer weather, there are three unique events that draw visitors from around the globe during January- the Annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike, Frozen Festival and the Hocking Hills Comfort Food Cruise.
If your visit doesn’t align during one of the event weekends, continue reading because I share tips and ideas to help you enjoy your winter visit no matter when you arrive.
Things to do in Hocking Hills during the Winter
The 55th Annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike
Outdoor lovers will enjoy hitting the trails for the 56th Annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike that takes place Saturday, Jan. 16th, 2021 at 9 a.m. – 11 .m.
The six-mile trek takes you from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the Midwest. The region’s gorgeous rock formations, soaring cliffs, deep gorges and stunning waterfalls freeze to icy, crystal sculptures, making the Hocking Hills one of the Buckeye State’s most popular winter destinations.
The hike features continuous starts from 9-11 a.m. Hot bean soup, served midway at Cedar Falls, is free, though donations are encouraged. A shuttle bus will return hikers from Ash Cave to the Old Man’s Cave parking lot.
I had the opportunity to do some winter hiking in Hocking Hills last year and will add if you plan to join the hike, make sure you’re prepared with the proper attire. Layered clothing and warm footwear with lots of traction are a must.
Make sure you don’t forget your camera or phone, so you can shoot photos and video along the way. The scenery really is that spectacular and definitely Instagram worthy.
If you can’t visit during the annual hike, no worries, the trails are still open for you to enjoy. Simply keep a few more tips in mind.
Winter Hiking Tips in Hocking Hills
- Stop at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center for trail maps and suggestions.
- Do not deviate from the marked trails.
- Choose the right footwear. If your feet are cold your whole body will be cold. Wear waterproof hiking boots designed for cold weather that offer good traction in snow and ice. Keep metal cleats in your backpack and attach to your boots if you encounter ice on the trail. If you’re not sure what type of cleats to purchase, I recommend Yaktrax.
- Wear multiple pairs of socks — as many pairs as you can comfortably fit with your boots on. You can always take some off if you get too warm. Carry extra dry socks in a waterproof bag in your backpack, just in case. Wigwam socks are my favorite socks when spending time outdoors in the winter.
- Use trekking poles or cross-country ski poles for extra stability.
- Hydrate. Hydrate. Make sure to pack water in your backpack. Energy bars, granola bars or nuts are another good idea.
- Keep your head and hands covered. Depending on the temperature, you may opt to wear a ski mask to cover your face as well.
- Layer your clothes. Multiple layers allow you to remove items if you warm up during the hike. I start with UnderArmour Coldgear products and go from there.
- Check the weather forecast before you hit the trails.
- Carry a compass, map and cell phone with you. Cell service is minimal in the parks and you likely won’t have any service so use caution and if you’re hiking alone, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Don’t forget your camera.
Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and Rock House are particularly stunning in the snow.
The 5th Annual Logan Frozen Festival
If hiking six-miles isn’t your idea of fun, you may enjoy the Frozen Festival. In its third year, the event dazzles visitors with more than two dozen massive ice sculptures, ice carving demonstrations, live music, ice corn hole, a giant ice photo frame and an ice throne – perfect for selfies. The Jan. 18th, 2020 event also features local arts and crafts, food trucks, local dining and more- a fun event the entire family can enjoy!
Hocking Hills Comfort Food Cruise
Perhaps my favorite winter event is the Hocking Hills Comfort Food Cruise. Spanning three weekends, Jan. 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26, 2020 this event benefits local food pantries. For only $20, participants can enjoy hefty samples of classic comfort foods served at locally-owned eateries and restaurants. Five-dollars from each ticket book benefits local food pantries.
New for 2020 the Comfort Food Trail Pass which will entitle each pass holder to special offers at designated local restaurants throughout 2020. This pass is only available for Comfort Food Cruise ticket holders.
Believe me when I say that you will not go hungry. Here is a list of the Hocking Hills Restaurants that are participating. If you’re not able to make it to the Comfort Food Cruise, you can check out these specialties another time.
An example of past participants include:
M & M Family Diner- Vegetable Soup
Pearl’s- Biscuits & Gravy
Hocking Hills Diner- Suzi’s Scramble with Hash Brown Potatoes
Jack’s Steak House- Jack’s Bean Soup and Cornbread
Boot Factory Grill- Pulled Pork Slider with Slaw
The Ridge Inn- Meatloaf
Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls- Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Jimbo’s Burgers & Beer- Burger Slider & Loaded Fries
Millstone Barbeque- Pulled Chicken Slider with Baked Beans
Olde Dutch Restaurant- Chicken Noodles or Mashed Potatoes
Pizza Crossing- Pepperoni or Cheese Pizza
The Home Tavern- Sloppy Joe Slider with Baked Beans
Many people book overnight lodging and break the Comfort Food Cruise into two days of eating because there is that much food!
Some of my favorite Hocking Hills lodging options include:
Ohio Luxury Lodging has options for 2-26 people. I’ve stayed and written about Laurel Run Farm, Rush Resort, and Bookers Cabin and can’t recommend these 5-star properties enough. You really need to read my reviews to see what I loved about each property.
Glenlaurel is another favorite getaway but may be better suited for another visit. Touted as indulgent, upscale and romantic, once you arrive at Glenlaurel, you may opt to stay onsite rather than venture out. That’s what my husband and I did anyway.
Cedar Grove Lodging, part of Cedar Hill Retreat sleeps up to 26, with smaller cabins on the property for couples or single-family units. The location, directly off State Route 664 is ideal and near both Old Man’s Cave and Rock House.
The cabins at Hocking Hills State Park are also a comfortable and affordable option for families.
If you’re looking for something really unique, Ravenwood Castle may be what you’re seeking.
Other things to do in Hocking Hills in Winter
- Check out the World’s only Pencil Sharpener Museum.
- Take a photo with the World’s Largest Washboard at the Columbus Washboard Company (and Museum).
- Drink a Peach Wine Slushy at Hocking Hills Winery.
- Shop at Rocky Outdoor Gear Store.
- Tour the Sherman House and Georgian Museums in Lancaster.
- Take a self-guided covered bridge tour.
- Tour the Ohio Glass Museum. As a collector of milk glass, this stop really appeals to me.
- Shop for antiques at the Logan Antique Mall or one of the other antique shops in the area.
- Visit the Wind Chime Shop for a unique shopping experience.
- Make your own candle at Hocking Hills Candleworks.
- Bundle up and take a walking (or driving) architecture tour of downtown Logan.
- Learn about Moonshine and the history of the Prohibition at Hocking Hills Moonshine.
For more ideas of things to do in Hocking Hills in the winter, visit ExploreHockingHills.com.
Have you been to Hocking Hills? What do you love to do when you visit?