Recent snowfall means winter travelers who head to southeast Ohio's Hocking Hills this season will experience stunning snow-covered scenery and unforgettable winter hikes.
With everything from an easy hike through Ash Cave, to more lengthy treks between Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls, and the region's many other gorgeous rock formations, the Hocking Hills is one of the Buckeye State's most popular destinations.
"So many people make New Year's resolutions that include getting in shape or enjoying life more, there's nothing better than a Hocking Hills hiking getaway to help them achieve those goals," said Hocking Hills Tourism Association executive director Karen Raymore. "Winter is a truly magical time in the Hills and with a little preparation, visitors will enjoy a dazzling winter wonderland marked by soaring cliffs and gorges and waterfalls that freeze into beautiful crystal formations."
In addition to recommending that hikers stop by the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center for trail maps, travel recommendations and to borrow a flip video camera, Raymore and the experts at the Hocking Hills Tourism Association have compiled the following tips for winter hikers:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Keep metal cleats in your backpack. You can attach them to your boots if you encounter ice on the trail.
4. Use trekking poles or cross country skiing poles for extra stability.
5. Stay hydrated. Pack water in your backpack. Energy bars are another good idea.
6. Cover your hands and face. A ski mask (or balaclava) covers your entire face, or can be rolled up to just cover your head and ears.Wear insulated gloves and carry an extra dry pair.
7. Layer your clothes. While hiking you may become warm. Multiple layers allow you to remove items as needed. If possible, carry extra dry thermal underwear in your backpack.
8. Know the weather forecast and trails. Carry a compass, map and cell phone with you. Your cell phone may not work in all areas, but it's a good idea to have one. A hand-held GPS unit is also a great idea.
9. Don't hike alone. It's always more fun with friends. If you must hike alone, be sure to tell someone where you are hiking and what time you expect to finish.
10. Don't forget your camera. Winter in the Hills provides dramatic scenery.
Hikers can participate in two upcoming organized hikes:
The 45th Annual Winter Hike - Continuous starts from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16. Enjoy winters splendor on this 6-mile trek from Old Man's Cave to Ash Cave. Refreshments are available at Cedar Falls for a donation. A shuttle bus returns hikers to Old Man's Cave.
Sweethearts Hike - 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. Meet at the Ash Cave parking lot. Take your sweetheart for a romantic stroll to Ash Cave in the soft light of dusk. Afterwards, enjoy a cozy fire and refreshments.