Cold weather can put a damper on some outdoors activities, but state parks offer many ways for families to enjoy the outdoors during winter.
On New Year’s Day, America’s State Parks in all 50 states offer free, guided First Day Hike programs.
The hikes provide a way for individuals and families to welcome the new year in the outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature.
First Day Hikes originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation – a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. Last year, more than 62,000 people took part in guided hikes that covered over 114,165 miles (183,730 km) on 1,300 different hikes across the country.
Guided First Day Hikes are led by knowledgeable state park staff and volunteers. The hiking distance and difficulty vary from park to park, but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for all ages.
People are invited to savor the beauty of the state park’s natural resources with an experienced guide so they may be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.
During First Day Hikes, park rangers, naturalists and volunteers share their knowledge of each state’s unique natural and cultural features, and hikers are encouraged to share their adventures on social media with #FirstDayHikes.
Plan ahead—that’s the key, and for success, dress properly.
Hiking during a cold winter day will stay fun when you plan for the weather. If you’re new to hiking, the American Hiking Society offers some basic tips. You can find them by clicking here.
The simple essentials include dressing in layers and wearing raingear if rain is a possibility. Equally important, wear a hat and the right kind footwear, and carry food and water. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses, no matter where you hike.
Begin to plan for your First Day Hike in your state by clicking on the interactive map of America’s state parks here.
First Day Hikes are as varied as the state parks that welcome First Day Hikers.
In Maryland, Park Service rangers, staff and volunteers will lead more than 30 hikes on public lands and state parks. In 2017, more than 2,000 First Day Hikers logged more than 4,000 miles statewide.
The hikes offer a range of outdoor adventures and experiences for every level of hiker and walker, while providing unique access to Maryland’s cultural, historical and natural resources and treasures. Some hikes are even pet-friendly!
In many states, state forests and wildlife management areas will also be open for self-guided treks.
In Texas, Galveston Island State Park near Houston will give First Day Hikers a chance to explore beaches and hunt, identify and collect shells with a Beachcombing 101 program.
Kansas families, friends and leashed pets can enjoy a guided 1-mile hike along Dune and Prairie trails and learn about unique-to-the-area dunes that were created thousands of years ago.
Missouri hikers who select Crowder State Park can choose among three hikes ranging from a half-mile to 7 miles long. Each will take hikers through a variety of habitats where local wildlife includes wild turkeys and deer.
In New Jersey, hikers can welcome the First Day with choices between one of 24 guided hikes, two mountain bike rides and a horseback ride.
If you can’t make it to a First Day Hike, don’t fret. You can always take advantage of the resources state parks offer any time of the year. Here’s a good place to learn more: http://www.stateparks.org/.
Resources: Missouri Department of Conservation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources