A family of deer beat me to the trail Friday morning, though they vanished in secret, leaving only a string of footsteps etched into a new quilt of snow. Everything else seeming remote and still, like a Rocky Mountain outpost.

A family of deer beat me to the trail Friday morning, though they vanished in secret, leaving only a string of footsteps etched into a new quilt of snow. Everything else seeming remote and still, like a Rocky Mountain outpost.

Snow had closed roads throughout Mohican State Forest, and few cars passed along the narrow causeway atop Pleasant Hill Lake dam. You could almost hear the flakes touching down on exposed leaves or frozen shards of bark when I sidestepped down the steep earthwork into Clear Fork Gorge.

Mohican's state park and forest, which sprawl across Ashland County, offer long mountain-bike runs, snowmobile trails and unbroken forest tracts for horsemen. This is big country in Ohio, the type that amazes with sheer size and strength.

It's an expansive outdoor playground, yet the sliver of Clear Fork Gorge lies in its own quiet corner.

Once at the bottom of the dam, I took the Pleasant Hill Trail, which flanks Clear Fork, a tributary of the Mohican River. Hemlocks, pines and frosty rivulets line both sides of the ravine, and rock formations peek through the dirt and snow.

The trail runs less than a mile and as flat as the water itself until meeting a covered bridge that spans the coldwater stream, one of only three in Ohio that support stocked populations of brown trout.

From here, the two-mile Lyons Falls Trail ascends the gorge and ventures deeper into the woodlands that surround it on all sides. This is tougher terrain that rewards with top-down views of the waterway, wooden boardwalks lined with evergreens and a pair of waterfalls.

In the frigid conditions, the cave walls of Big Lyons Falls were spiked with icicles and a frozen pillar forged by a steady stream of persistent drips. It was accented by snow and sparkled beneath sporadic bursts of sunlight.

Little Lyons Falls eventually dumps into a skinny crevasse, before the path slowly climbs out of the ravine onto the top of the dam.

The trail itself won't take you all day, but be sure to leave plenty of time to stop, gawk and explore.

Need more winter hike ideas? Find reviews and photos of trails near and far on the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.