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COLUMBUS, OH -- Rolling landscapes blanketed in white, waterfalls frozen into dazzling ice sculptures, and the solitude of a wooded trail in wintertime make February a special time to hike in an Ohio State Park.

Several parks are offering organized outings in coming weeks to help Ohioans shake off the winter doldrums and enjoy nature's cold-weather splendor!

“The trails and paths of Ohio's award-winning state parks beckon outdoor enthusiasts in the winter,” said Dan West, Ohio State Parks chief. “Located in some of Ohio's most scenic natural terrain, state parks provide surroundings that are good for both the body and the spirit.”

Findley State Park in Lorain County will host its 23rd Annual Winter Hike, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 1. Hikers should meet at the nature center in the campground and choose one of three supervised itineraries: a 5K hike around Findley Lake; a 10K hike that travels partially around the lake and through a nearby woods; and a naturalist-led 5K interpretive hike around the lake.

Park manager Jim Tuttle judges the terrain for all three as "easy to moderate" walking. A lunch of beans and cornbread will be served at the conclusion of the event. Additional information is available from Tuttle at 440-647-5749.

Caesar Creek State Park in Warren County will hold its 22nd Annual Winter Hike, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 8, at the Wellman Meadows Boat Ramp. Self-guided hikes along a five-mile loop around Caesar Creek Lake and into Flat Fork Gorge will start continuously until noon. Guided walks will depart at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Park naturalist Carol Fassig said the terrain is moderate for walking, with some steps involved. Strollers are discouraged.

“Flat Fork Gorge has 30-foot cliffs and a waterfall,” Fassig said. “And our park has some of the best fossil-hunting territory in the state.”

Fassig said signs along Route 73 will direct hikers to the starting point. Pets on leashes are welcome. A local Boy Scout troop will serve bean soup to hikers at the conclusion. Additional information is available through Fassig at 513-897-2437.

Participation in the annual Sweethearts Hike at Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County is growing each year, according to park naturalist Pat Quackenbush. This year's hike is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 15. Hikers will meet at the Ash Cave Parking Lot for a short quarter-mile walk down a handicap-accessible trail into Ash Cave, the largest recess cave in Ohio. Park volunteers will be waiting in the cave to welcome hikers with a campfire, hot chocolate and cookies.

“Several years ago, it snowed during this hike,” Quackenbush said. “Being in the cave during a snowfall felt just like being inside a snow globe!”

Additional information about the hike is available by calling 740-385-6841.

Popular Malabar Farm State Park in Richland County has scheduled its annual Winter Hike For Health from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 15. The hike is co-sponsored by the Alliance for the Promotion of Physical Activity.

The hike will begin and end at the Pugh Cabin, located near the center of the park. Hot bean soup, chili, corn bread and beverages will be available. The event is for hikers of all age and ability levels who want to view nature's splendor. Additional information is available through the park office at 419-892-2784.

All hikes will be held as scheduled, regardless of weather conditions. Hikers should dress appropriately in multiple layers and wear sturdy walking shoes.

Additional information on wintertime activities in Ohio State Parks is available from the individual parks or from the ODNR web site at ohiodnr.com .
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