Icy Upper Falls at Old Man's Cave Hocking Hills
Landscapes,  Travel

Photographing Hocking Hills State Park in the Winter

Hocking Hills is one of the most visited and scenic state parks in Ohio.  Landscape photographers frequent the park in the spring, summer, and fall to photograph the beautiful waterfalls and other scenic landscapes.

Hocking Hills is equally beautiful in the winter.  Frozen waterfalls, canyon walls covered in icicles, frozen steams all make for beautiful winter landscape photographs.  But in winter, more care is needed for a safe photography trip and hike.

In this blog, I’ll discuss the locations and tips for photographing Hocking Hills in the winter.

Icy Steps at Old Man's Cave
Icy Steps at Old Man’s Cave
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Winter Safety at Hocking Hills

The trails are slippery at Hocking Hills in the winter when the waterfalls are partially frozen and icicles are forming on the sides of the ravines.  Here are some tips for a safe photography hike in Hocking Hills.

  • Wear Yaktrax or other metal cleats when hiking
  • Bring a friend in case you are injured
  • The trails are one way since COVID-19 so be prepared for a hike out of the ravines to exit.
  • Dress warm and in layers.  The temperature is colder down in the canyons than they are up on the surface.
  • Bring hand warmers.  My hands are usually the first to get cold.  I have gloves where the hand warmers fit inside to help keep your hands warm.
Icicles in Old Man's Cave
Icicles in Old Man’s Cave

Photography Equipment

  • Tripod to shoot at long shutter speeds to blur the water in the falls
  • Neutral density filters can also help to slow down your shutter speed to further blur the waterfalls.  I usually carry .3, .6, and .9 ND filters.
  • A remote shutter release or use the delayed shutter release function on your camera
  • Wide angle and ultra wide angle zoom lenses
Frozen Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave
Frozen Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave

Old Man’s Cave

The trails at Old Man’s Cave can be the slipperiest of all the trails in the park.  Specifically, the 2 sets of stone stairs down to Old Man’s Cave and the Lower Falls can be completely ice covered.  Yak Trax did not help on these stairs, we had to sit down and slide down the stairs…a bumpy ride. 

You don’t need to worry about climbing back up the frozen stairs to exit Old Man’s Cave.  However, there is a steep climb out of the canyon to return to the visitor center and parking lot.

The winter scenes at Old Man’s Cave are fantastic.  Both the Upper and Lower Falls were beautiful.  The falls were partially frozen and surrounded by icicles.  The bridge by the Lower Falls is also scenic and you can use the icy steam as a leading line to the bridge.

The Devil’s Bathtub is more difficult to photograph.  I found a nice composition at the top on the bridge and used a long exposure to blur the water between the snow and ice on each side.

Take your time looking for compositions while you are walking the trail between the Upper and Lower falls.  I found several completely frozen waterfalls and canyon walls covered in icicles.

Frozen Cedar Falls
Frozen Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls

There is a long set of stone stairs to descend to Cedar Falls but these stairs weren’t as slick as the ones at Old Man’s Cave.

The main photography subject is Cedar Falls.  There are also icicle covered ravine walls along the trail.  Hidden Falls (which was completely frozen) can also be photographed from the trail.  It is close to Cedar Falls behind a large boulder.

Ice Mound at Ash Cave
Ice Mound at Ash Cave

Ash Cave

The hike to ash cave is flat and wasn’t very slippery.  It is a one way trail due to COVID-19 where you need to climb up and take the upper trail on the return hike.  However, people with health concerns can use the trail both ways.

The main photography interest is Ash Cave, the waterfall, and the mound of ice that forms beneath the falls.  People like to climb and play on the mound beneath the falls.  So, you either need to be patient or include them in your photograph to show the scale of the cave and falls.

Written by Martin Belan

Related Posts
What to Photograph at Hocking Hills State Park
What to Photograph When the Waterfalls Aren’t Flowing at Hocking Hills State Park
Yellowstone Winter Landscape Photography

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