Like a lot of other people, I’m totally ready to leave winter behind at this point. However Bob convinced me to open myself to winter’s beauty once more by hiking in the Hocking Hills this past Friday. It was sunny, but cold (around 20° F, -6.7° C), so we had to bundle up. We visited two attractions in the Hocking Hills State Park: Ash Cave and Cedar Falls. Then we hiked the Gorge Trail in the Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve. To make things easier for ourselves, we reduced our hiking by parking in the nearest parking lot associated with each of our three destinations.
During our visit every little twig had its own layer of snow. As snow melted there were periodic episodes of clouds of snow falling off tree branches or cliff edges from far above our heads.
The snow cone pictured above is formed every winter as the drizzly falls above it freezes on impact. Although I’ve checked out the snow cone many times before, this is the largest that I’ve personally seen it. When we photograph it during the Annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike, there are scores of people milling about to provide a sense of scale. To make up for their absence, Bob encouraged me to go over and stand near it to give you an idea of how big it is.
And in the photo below I climbed up the ledge on the other side of Ash Cave to give you another perspective on the cone. I also wanted to give you a glimpse of the region above the cave. The trees on top of the rim are quite tall in their own right, and you can see what a beautiful, sunny day it was, too.
As we headed out of Ash Cave, the view was still beautiful.
We parked near the picnic shelter at Cedar Falls and headed down the stairs. There was so much snow on the stairs that it was sometimes difficult to make out the individual steps. Through out our hike, both Bob and I were wearing YakTrax over the soles of our hiking boots for added traction.
We were soon following the trail along the creek that leads to Cedar Falls. Below is a trail photo showing how lacy the trees looked all decked out in snow.
Cedar Falls is always beautiful, but I love the way it looks in winter. Although the falls are frozen now, when you are on site you can still hear the rush of water pouring down around the ice.
The Gorge Trail of Conkle’s Hollow
During warmer weather, the Rim Trail at Conkle’s Hollow makes for a beautiful hike. However the idea of hiking around the edge of the rim during icy conditions gives me the willies. And it seems that park officials agree, because the stairs leading up the rim were closed.
Update: I have since learned that the Rim Trail is open during the winter. However, park officials will temporarily close the trail when it is deemed to be too icy to be safely hiked, and that’s what was going on during our visit to the preserve.
The Gorge Trail follows a small stream along the bottom of the gorge until the gorge ends in a box canyon. From beginning to end the trail is about a mile. Since you have to double back to get out, it’s two miles total. During our hike the trail itself was buried in snow, but if you visit Conkle’s Hollow during warmer weather you’ll see that around two-thirds of the trail consists of a concrete sidewalk, and it has been designed to be wheelchair accessible. Below is a photo of the snow-laden trail.
Along the way, Bob went into the little recess known as the “Grotto” at the base of the cliff.
As you can see below, the trees edging the cliff top above were also heavily laden with snow.
As I mentioned previously, this snow would periodically tumble down in large clouds.
This cloud managed to envelop Bob.
Once we left the sidewalk region of the trail (you can’t see it; it’s underneath the snow), the trail became trickier.
To get as close as possible to the end of the box canyon, it was necessary to cross the small, frozen stream. Since the ice wasn’t particularly thick, there’s some chance that it will break. Although the stream isn’t deep, I wouldn’t want to get my feet wet in such frozen conditions, so I don’t think I’d try this without wearing waterproof boots.
The trail terminates in the box canyon pictured below.
This little frozen waterfall shown below is the end of the line. If you visit here during warmer months, you’ll see that it is a drizzly, little falls.
This was the end of our excursion. Afterwards for lunch we stopped by at the Hocking Hills State Park Dining Lodge for a nice, hot meal. Despite my initial reluctance to get out in the cold, I was glad that I did. 🙂
- TrekOhio: Hocking Hills State Park: Ash Cave — Our original write-up of this attraction; it includes a map showing the site’s location.
- TrekOhio: Hocking Hills State Park: Cedar Falls
- TrekOhio: Conkle’s Hollow: The Gorge Trail — A nice look at the same trail in summer.
- TrekOhio: Conkle’s Hollow: The Rim Trail — Although this trail was closed during our winter visit, it makes for a great hike during warmer weather. Like all trails in Ohio’s network of state nature preserves, this hike is off-limits to dogs.
- TrekOhio: Hocking County Parks & Nature Preserves — The sites listed in this article are all in Hocking County; check out this page to find links to the official sites, trail maps, and such.
- TrekOhio: Hocking Hills: Overview of the Hiking Trails — Bob describes the variety of hiking opportunities available in the Hocking Hills region.