Kick off the New Year right with a hike!
New Year's Eve is finally here and a whole new year of outdoor recreation lays in front of us. Now, you could spend the day on the sofa watching football, but why wait?
If you have New Year's Day off, it's time to start 2020 off on the right foot by spending time in one of America's state parks.
It's a good way to get the whole family out in nature enjoying our precious natural resources that too many people take for granted.
That's why every year, Stateparks.org works to host a "First Day Hike" at many of the United State's countless state parks for hikers looking for fun outdoor activities right out of the gate.
First Day Hikes
The First Day Hike initiative has been going on for a while now. By their stats, Stateparks.org says 55,000 people hiked 133,000 miles during the events last year.
Basically, park rangers and other state park staff in all 50 states host guided hikes appropriate for the whole family. You can see a map of all the available hikes on Stateparks.org.
The experience is going to vary from location to location. Some hikes are going to offer more of a challenge than others. Some of these organized hikes may be four to five miles round trip, but most we looked at were around one to two miles.
Just long enough to tire out the kids and burn some holiday calories (I don't know about you, but I ate way too many sweets in the past couple weeks!).
At the end of the hike, there are often refreshments like hot chocolate or cider. And if you're lucky, maybe your local park ranger will have a nice campfire going if you're getting bombarded with snow like we are in Michigan right now.
Rangers ask that people are prepared for the conditions with appropriate hiking shoes, snowshoes, water bottles or other equipment.
Depending on the intensity of the hike, you probably won't need much gear at all. See their websites for a list of hikes, meeting points and and other pertinent information.
Hikes we've got our eyes on
There are several hikes that we thought look interesting. The main Wide Open Spaces offices are in Austin, Texas and nearby McKinney Falls State Park is hosting two hikes. One is a New Year's Eve Night Hike and the other is a Leave No Trace First Day hike. Two for the price of one!
In Michigan, where I live, Yankee Springs Recreational Area is hosting a four-mile hike on the North County Trail. Considering we're getting hammered with snow right now, we're going to have to break out the snowshoes for that one. There are no cancellation plans; it happens no matter what the weather is!
I used to live in Wyoming outside of Cody, and a hike in Buffalo Bill State Park sounds like it will be a lot of fun. It's an extremely scenic area, especially in the winter time. If you're looking for something a little bit warmer, try the hike at Long Key State Park in Florida. Conditions should be prime for this two mile hike.
If you're looking for interesting scenery, Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is the place to go. You'll think you stepped into another world while hiking the Hoodoo Hike Among Goblins trail.
Again, these are just a few that jumped out at us while scanning the map. We'd recommend exploring the list yourself and seeing what's available in your area. One thing is for certain, we're making it a New Year's Resolution to explore more of the State Park system here in the U.S., and these hikes are a good way to get started on that!