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!
Evangola State Park FDHers, hiked along Lake Erie.
Walking through the snow at Moreau Lake State Park just north of Saratoga Springs.
FDH are for both young and not-so young. This pair was at Wellesley Island State Park along the St. Lawrence River.
Don’t let the snow deter you from exploring State Parks – just grab or borrow a pair of snowshoes and head out to the trail. Go snowshoeing on a trail in a nearby park or try one of State Park staff’s favorite snowshoeing spots.
In western New York, Tina’s favorite snowshoeing spot is at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park located on Lake Ontario in northern Niagara County in Wilson. This is where you will find the Red interpretive trail nestled along the east branch of Twelve Mile Creek. As you snowshoe through the changing landscapes, you’ll pass through successional fields, marshland, and finally through a mature forest of old growth beech and hemlock trees. Keep your ears open for calls of the pileated woodpecker.
At Allegany State Park in Salamanca, Adele recommends the Bear Paw Trail located across the road from the Art Roscoe cross-country ski area on the Red House side of the Park. Bear Paw Trail is the newest trail built for the snowshoeing enthusiast. The 2.4-mile long, easy to moderate trail has 15 interpretative sights and runs along the ridge above Salamanca to historic Stone Tower. The trail loops through large stands of Black cherry and White ash trees. Look for small secret plants such as wintergreen and princess pines along the trail. Each Monday evening in January and February, the park offers sunset snowshoe hikes. The Environmental Education Department has a few pairs of snowshoes to borrow during programs.
In central New York, Katie’s favorite part about snowshoeing is how the landscape constantly changes during the winter. Even if you snowshoe at your favorite local park, in her case Clark Reservation State Park in Jamesville, everything looks different in the winter.
After the leaves fall off the trees, you can see so much farther into the woods. You will be snowshoeing along at Clark Reservation, and suddenly notice that the ground drops away not far from the edge of the trail into a steep ravine. You might never notice the ravine in the summer because rich greenery hides it from view. Winter’s arrival reveals forests secrets. Soon though, they are covered up again, this time with ever changing blankets of snow. Nature’s snow sculptures change daily, so you really need to hit the trails often so you don’t miss out!
About once a year, the park gets special permission to host a moonlit snowshoe hike it’s amazing how bright the forest is with the light from a full moon reflecting off the snow. You can even see your shadow! Keep your eyes on the calendar to find out when this year’s Moonlight Snowshoe Hike will be, or come out on your own any day to check out this special place.
At the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center at Wellesley Island State Park, Thousand Islands, Molly notes that there are four trails open to snowshoeing. Probably the most heavily snowshoed trail is North Field Loop. Only a half mile long, it meanders through a forest full of white pine trees, passes through a seasonal wetland, and into a forest of towering red oak trees. School groups explore this trail on snowshoes and the nature center staff lead moonlight snowshoe hikes on the trail throughout the winter months. There is nothing prettier than snow covered woods on a moonlit night. The park has both children and adult snowshoes available for rent for $3 a pair.
In the Capital Region, Liz at Grafton Lakes State Park suggests the Shaver Pond trail loop. Just under two miles, it offers picturesque views of Shaver Pond, with a trail winding through forest of hemlock and maple trees over easy terrain. Inquisitive visitors may see mink or fox tracks along the way. Trail maps are for sale & snowshoe rentals are available at park office on a first-come, first served basis for $5 for four hours.
At Moreau Lake State Park, Rebecca mentions that the park has 30 miles of trails and there are new places to explore as the seasons change. The parks offers snowshoe hikes and classes for all ability levels, including first timers. The park also has snowshoes available for rent to hikers or people who want to go out and try it on their own for $5 for a half day and $10 for a full day rental.
At Thacher State Park, the Fred Schroeder Memorial Trail is one of Nancy’s favorite snowshoe walks. This three mile loop in the wilder northern part of the park takes you through beautiful woodlands of mixed hardwoods with stands of spruce and hemlock trees and across a couple of open fields, without much elevation change. Midway on the loop, you can take in the scenic snow-covered views from the cliff edge at High Point. Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center rents snowshoes to the public.
In the Hudson Valley, Kris at Fahnestock Winter Park mentions two unique snowshoeing trails. If you’re looking for more rugged terrain, and challenging descents, “Appalachian Way” treks along a ridge line to a stunning overlook of Canopus Lake. The trail “Ojigwan Path” offers the beginner and intermediate snowshoer a snaking walk through hemlock groves and strands of mountain laurel. Both routes take around 2.5 hours to complete. Snowshoe rentals are located in the newly renovated winter park lodge, where you can also warm up with a cup of delicious chili!
Laura D. recommends a snowshoeing trail that will lead you to expansive cliff top vistas, through the globally rare dwarf pitch pine barrens, and around the glacially carved Lake Maratanza. The Loop Road at the Sam’s Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve is the perfect trail for viewing these breathtaking vistas. While on the three-mile Loop Road, stop at the Sam’s Point Overlook, where on a clear day, you can see four states! Snowshoe rentals are available at the Sam’s Point Visitor Center for $15 per adult and $14 per junior (17 years and under) for the day or $5 to join a public program.
A novice snowshoer will find the modest Mossy Glen Footpath loop just right for a snowshoe trip.at Minnewaska State Park Preserve notes Laura C. This approximately four-mile route follows the Mossy Glen Footpath as it hugs the edge of the scenic Peter’s Kill stream, winding through quiet forests. At the end of this Footpath, take the Blueberry Run Footpath to the Lower Awosting Carriage Road back to your starting point. This loop begins at the Awosting Parking Lot.
These are just a sampling of the many trails you can explore on snowshoes . We hope to see you out on the snowshoe trail this winter.
This New Year’s Day, many New York state parks and historic sites are inviting the public to celebrate 2017 in the outdoors with a First Day Hike. The guided hikes are part of the sixth annual First Day Hikes program taking place throughout the nation, giving people of all ages an opportunity to connect with nature and experience the guided walks with family and friends.
Here in New York, fifty hikes are being hosted, nine more than the previous year, at 44 state parks and historic sites with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill level and destinations within the park. State park staff and volunteers will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles depending on the location. This past year’s program welcomed more than 2,860 people who hiked a total of 6,897 miles.
The start of the new year is the perfect time to leave the hectic holiday pace behind and embrace the outdoors with a walk or hike in New York’s breathtaking scenic settings. First Day Hikes are a family-friendly tradition that offer a fresh seasonal perspective of the state’s natural treasures and vast opportunities open year-round at State Parks.
Among the many programs being offered this year are a seal walk, winter woodlands, a walking history tour, a snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, canal artifacts, nature detectives and more. New entries for 2017 include the Jones Beach boardwalk, Gilbert Lake’s wilderness trail, Green Lakes’ hike around the lakes, Seneca Lake and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, exploring Grafton’s lakes and following along the Old Croton Aqueduct.
If weather conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Many hikes will be offering refreshments. A listing and details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain, registration requirements and additional information are available at nysparks.com.
Ah, the winter solstice is here, that longest night and shortest day. The solstice (sols=sun; tice=stand still) occurred at 11:48 EST on Monday, December 21, 2015. This was the moment when the sun was directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere (see Figure 1). Once it reached this point, the earth started to slowly tilt northward and the days began to get longer. Because the tilting of the earth’s axis is so slow, the day length is the same (stands still) for a day or two after the winter solstice.
Then we slowly gain a minute or two of daylight each day until summer solstice (longest day) in June (Figure 2).
Winter is a great time to explore New York’s State Parks and Historic Sites. Some Parks offer opportunities to try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and, ice fishing. Bring your own skis, ice fishing gear, snowshoes, snowmobiles, or skates to create your own winter fun in a Park or Historic Site. Or take a hike go wildlife watching or attend a program. Just remember to dress for the weather and you’ll have a grand time!
Ice fishing at Grafton Lakes State Park. Photo by OPRHP.
Snowmobiling at Lake Taghkanic State Park. Photo by OPRHP.
Ice skating at Saratoga Spa State Park. Photo by OPRHP.
There’s no time like the present to incorporate a new tradition into your holiday celebration! New York State Parks will be hosting more than two dozen “First Day Hikes” on New Year’s Day at Parks and Historic Sites ranging all the way from Long Island to the Thousand Islands to Western New York. This effort is a part of a nationwide initiative to connect children and families to the outdoors. To date, over 400 hikes have been scheduled across the country!
Parks on Long Island, including Montauk Point State Park and Jones Beach State Park, will host beach hikes to explore marine geology as well as observe varies species of winter birds. Participants will also have the chance to observe up to four different species of wintering seals that are common near Long Island this time of year, including the grey seal, harp seal, ringed seal, and hooded seal.
Above: Snowshoeing at Moreau Lake State Park.
If you live in the Buffalo area, be sure to pay a visit to New York’s newest State Park, Buffalo Harbor! This “First Day Hike” will feature a 2-mile route along the Gallagher Beach Bike Path, with views of the historic waterfront, towering grain elevators, shipping ports, and the Buffalo River Lighthouse. Participants are encouraged to bring cross-country skis if there is snow on the ground.
No matter which hike you choose, “First Day” hikers can expect to be surrounded by the tranquil beauty of our State Parks in wintertime, with views and lookout points unimpeded by dense foliage. Hikers are advised to dress in warm layers, bring appropriate footwear or snowshoes/skis and water for your group. Most hikes range from one to three miles in length.
Click here for a complete listing of “First Day Hike” events and registration instructions.