Hargus Lake is the centerpiece of A.W. Marion State Park and gets all the attention for three seasons. Winter's kind of a ghost town in this Circleville park. But while boaters head home for the winter, hikers should stay put and visit the stunning five-mile Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail.

I can't think of a better cold-weather trek in Ohio, and I'll wager that Sunday, Feb. 6, was among the park's prettiest days ever. You know you've got a winner when a trail has frozen over with hundreds of footprints -- proof that it was worth trudging through poor conditions.

A.W. Marion State Park 7317 Warner Huffer Rd, Circleville 740-869-3124 [Homepage][Park map]

Here's a journey in photos, hiking clockwise from the boat-rental parking lot on the lake's northwest side.

Hargus Lake is the centerpiece of A.W. Marion State Park and gets all the attention for three seasons. Winter's kind of a ghost town in this Circleville park. But while boaters head home for the winter, hikers should stay put and visit the stunning five-mile Hargus Lake Perimeter Trail.

I can't think of a better cold-weather trek in Ohio, and I'll wager that Sunday, Feb. 6, was among the park's prettiest days ever. You know you've got a winner when a trail has frozen over with hundreds of footprints -- proof that it was worth trudging through poor conditions.

A.W. Marion State Park 7317 Warner Huffer Rd, Circleville 740-869-3124 [Homepage][Park map]

Here's a journey in photos, hiking clockwise from the boat-rental parking lot on the lake's northwest side.

View larger image Much of the trail hugs the lake and follows small inlets, coves and lagoons that line its shore. This small backwater was an early surprise.

View larger image Snow clung to every branch, twig, stone and remaining leaf -- a thick, white blanket of awesome.

View larger image A bit of sunshine pokes through the snow-laden clouds.

View larger image About a third of the way through, you stumble into one of the main camping areas -- picnic tables, pit toilets and abandoned sites. This scene had the look of a long-forgotten outpost.

View larger image Several rivers feed Hargus Lake, and you cross most of them. This is one of the biggest, and its lines recede far into the forest.

View larger image Another snow-covered lagoon. You'll see many -- and never tire of them.

View larger image These creek beds are likely dry in the summer, but wintertime requires some nifty footwork to avoid getting a soaker. Advice: Pick a line, keep on your toes and don't stop.

View larger image Some of the trail heads into the woods and over hills surrounding the lake. Then, before you know it, you're given a beautiful vista of an opposite shore.

View larger image Near the southern end of the park, a larger river has cut away rock faces into a series of falls and crags. It's a good place to grab a quick snack.

View larger image The park was fashioned in the middle of Circleville's sprawling farmsteads (those pumpkins don't grow themselves!), and you can see small houses poking through the trees. This house stands in a cornfield about 0.5 miles from the causeway.

View larger image Hargus Creek was dammed in 1948. Photographers looking for choice material should walk over the dam at dusk. From this perch, you can see much of the lake, capped here with a layer of ice.

View larger image Picnic tables, shelters and open coastline can be found near the memorial for the park's namesake.

View larger image Cattails wave gently in a breeze under a clear, blue sky. No better way to end a trip.