It is almost time to put 2020 in the books, and bid farewell to a year that brought so much uncertainty and tribulation into so many people’s lives.
And to help New Yorkers do that, State Parks is again encouraging people to take part in the First Day Hikes program, now marking its tenth year in New York.
Of course, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this series of outdoor events will be a little different than before, with the addition of many self-guided hikes, requirements for social distancing, masking and capacity limits.
So, it is more important than ever to check in advance with any specific site that you may be interested in and pre-register if necessary, since restrictions on staff- and volunteer-guided events may limit the number of people who can attend.
The walks, hikes, and self-guided options are family-friendly, and typically range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions.
So, to give people more options for 2021, many First Day events will now be held multiple times over the course of the first weekend in January.
Hikes are being offered at more than 60 state parks, historic sites, state Department of Environmental Conservation lands, wildlife areas, Forest Preserve trails and environmental education centers.
Click here for a listing of Parks events, or use this interactive map below to locate hikes.
As New Yorkers adapted to COVID restrictions this year, which limited many forms of indoor activities, they turned to healthy and safer outdoor alternatives on hiking trails at State Parks and other state lands.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid, who last year took part in a First Day Hike at Thacher State Park, is again encouraging New Yorkers to take part in this annual family-friendly event.
According to the Commissioner, “First Day Hikes have grown into a popular tradition for many New Yorkers and we look forward to welcoming families and friends out on the trail at many of our parks and historic sites. While this year’s program may look a little different from previous events, exploring the outdoors is still the perfect way to enjoy the winter landscapes, unwind with loved ones and kick off the coming year.”
As always with winter hiking, remember to dress warmly and in layers, while keeping in mind this old Scandinavian saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
And with snow and ice possible on many hiking trails, make sure to use proper footwear, and consider adding traction devices, like Microspikes, for additional stability.
Whether maintaining a safe distance in a group or hiking on your own, remember that you are still part of something that is happening across the U.S. in all 50 states, and dates back to the initial First Day Hikes that started in Massachusetts in 1992.
So, get outside, keep safe, and let’s ring in 2021 to welcome better days ahead!
Post by NYS Parks Staff