What better way to kick off 2018 than to join family and friends in the outdoors on New Year’s Day for a First Day Hike. On January 1, New York State Parks and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be hosting a set of guided hikes as part of a nationwide effort to encourage people to get outdoors. Now in its 7th year, New York’s First Day Hike (FDH) program will offer 75 hikes across every region at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas and trails.
Each year, this enjoyable holiday tradition draws more and more visitors with multiple hiking options from Western New York to the tip of Long Island. Additionally, since some FDH events are held in the afternoon, there’s no need to get up early for those who like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with gusto!
Hikes are being offered at 59 state parks and historic sites, with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill level and destinations within the park; and at 14 DEC wildlife areas, trails and environmental educations centers. Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles in length, depending on location and weather conditions.
“First Day Hikes have become a popular outdoor tradition for families and friends; a healthy way to kick off the New Year amidst the stunning beauty of our state’s most scenic natural backdrops,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “This year’s program includes an expanded variety of winter walks and hikes and is the perfect reminder that New York’s parks are open year-round, offering world-class recreation and enjoyment for people with varying interests and abilities.”
Some host locations welcome dogs on leashes and several have flat, even surfaces for strollers. Participants are encouraged to contact the park for information and pre-registration where noted. A sample of this year’s programs feature a seal walk, a walking history tour, a snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, military musicology, canal towpath walk, and more. New entries for 2018 include a bird survey, full-moon hike, mountain trails, views from a fire tower, and a walk through a maritime forest.
The First Day Hikes program originated in neighboring state Massachusetts in 1992 for their state parklands. Since 2012, the program has been held in all 50 states and branded as America’s State Parks First Day Hikes. January 2018 marks the year that First Day Hikes will become an international movement with Ontario Parks in Canada offering these family favorites as well.
If conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with equipment for rent if available or participants can bring their own. Many host sites will be offering refreshments and giveaways. A map and details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain, registration requirements and additional information are listed at parks.ny.gov.
Last year’s event featured nearly 4,000 participants, who hiked a total of 7,900 miles amidst New York’s winter beauty. So, start your own tradition, grab some sturdy footwear and a warm jacket, and join in the fun!