Published January 2005

It’s been a hard winter so far.  Ice and snow and too much rain makes rooms seem smaller and more confining.  There’s little to do outside, tv is suddenly boring, and even the couch has lost its allure.  So, maybe it’s time you took a trip, someplace with new sports and activities, new sights, but close since no one wants to be stranded 500 miles away in sudden bad weather.  Is there a spot that offers all of the above for outdoorsmen?  You bet.  It’s the Hocking Hills area, a winter wonderland just a modest drive south near Logan and Lancaster.

I love this area and have visited it at least 20 times, several times in mid-winter.  I pick my days in winter as you should, and plan to visit the weekend after a number of cold days and maybe a little snow.  Then pack warm clothing and sturdy boots and go for a hike in the prettiest place in Ohio.

There are 26 miles of well kept hiking trails in Hocking Hills State Park alone, and those trails lie between such well known spots as Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, and the Cantwell Cliffs.  In winter, and again given cold weather and a bit of snow, the trails are spectacular with high rising cliffs of Blackhand sandstone cloaked in strange and unusual (for Ohio) plants from liverworts and towering eastern hemlocks to Canada yews and yellow and black birch left behind from a cool period 10,000 years ago.

Hikers here will see spectacular frozen waterfalls, icicles hanging like stalagmites from vertical cliffs, and honeycomb weathering as well as trees growing seemingly from solid rock.  There are picnic areas around some of the parking lots, and wise visitors will bring a bit of firewood, pots and containers of the traditional bean soup and cornbread so often eaten here during formal hikes.  Getting cold can be fun with a warm-up like that to anticipate.

One thing that always amazes me about this Hocking Hills country is that local tourist attractions are so geared to winter visitors.  You can stay in wonderfully modern cabins, many with hot tubs, and just loaf and luxuriate your hours away.  Or go bird watching for the numerous birds that winter here, or ice fish for trout on Rose Lake given good ice, explore over 9,000 acres of state forest, or roam the little side roads here looking for quaint general stores.

My wife likes to visit Logan with its antique stores and drive into Lancaster which has a great historic district, more shops, and good restaurants that in one case feature wild game on the menu.  A good place to forget about cabin fever and enjoy new sights and activities.

The Hocking Hills Tourism  Association is aggressive in seeking winter visitors too, and according to a recent news release they’re offering some special winter packages.  The packages start at $166 per person, and include offerings from four one hour massage or spa treatments to dinners and gift baskets of wine and even disposable cameras.  Or horse-drawn carriage rides and deluxe dinners for two. 

Whatever your choice,  send for a Hocking Hills Visitors Guide, available by calling 1-800-HOCKING.  Then, when the weather is right, head south.  This whole area is a great cure for cabin fever, something you’ll probably need in coming weeks.

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