Tag Archives: Winter Fun

Welcome 2022 With a First Day Hike!

As the year and its challenges draw to a close, New Yorkers can look forward to 2022, hoping the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused so much stress and tribulation will recede from our lives.

During the pandemic, many people have embraced outdoor activity as a safe and healthy response, and the 11th annual First Day Hike events on Jan. 1 are a great way to ring in the New Year on public hiking trails across the state.

More than 80 such hikes will be held at State Parks, Historic Sites, state Department of Environmental Conservation lands, wildlife areas, Forest Preserve trails and environmental education centers.


In light of the ongoing pandemic, event options for hikes range from self-guided treks to small staff- or volunteer-led hikes to multiple event options that day, allowing participants the time and space to social distance while still enjoying nature’s winter wonders. 

Because of the recent surge in COVID-19, Governor Kathy Hochul last week announced new masking requirements for going inside all public places and businesses. Read more about that here.

There are a variety of hikes from seal walks, fire tower treks, lakefront trails, boardwalks, and canal towpaths, to walks along waterfalls, historic estates, military forts and more.

The walks and hikes are family-friendly, and typically range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions.  Some First Day Hike events may include drawings for an annual Empire Pass, as well as keepsake giveaways.

Click on this slideshow below to see previous First Day Hike events…


Click here for a listing of Parks events for 2022, or use this interactive map below to locate hikes.

Additional information can be found online at parks.ny.gov and dec.ny.gov. Interested participants are encouraged to check the details of their preferred host site and pre-register where required; alternate locations should be considered as capacity restrictions and registration limits may impact availability.  

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 2022 to welcome better days ahead!

Wonders of the Winter Beach

Getting cabin fever? Well, bundle up and take a trip to a beach-front state park! Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, Long Island parks or the many parks on small lakes: Glimmerglass, Green Lakes, Long Point-Chatauqua Lake, Allegany, or many others.

This is the time to explore the many interesting patterns and colors of wintertime “icescapes.”


For now, enjoy some spectacular views from Southwick Beach State Park and its wild ice formations on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario. With no other visitors in sight on this day, there was no problem for this intrepid explorer to keep safe distances while enjoying the scenery.

During such visits, dress warmly and in layers, as shorelines can be chilly, as well as windy. But it is the wind that makes for fantastic ice sculptures along the shores. Sometimes the nearby trees or dune grasses will be laden with frost and salt spray. Or you may find some interesting driftwood and shells tossed up on the shore by the waves and wind.

Look way out to the water’s edge and you will realize that maybe that is not water but rather the frozen froth of waves forming an icy ridge on the beach.

Finding animal tracks in ice, snow or even frozen sand also is often easier than in other seasons. Look for footprints; can you figure out who has been there?

Which Track is That? A Look at Winter Animal Tracks Throughout State Parks

Winter is a wonderful time of the year, there’s snow and ice everywhere in our State Parks. Within that snow and ice, you can see traces of what animals have been there – maybe even just moments before you arrive! One of the traces that can help you identify which animal it came from is … Continue reading Which Track is That? A Look at Winter Animal Tracks Throughout State Parks

Ice can take interesting or fantastical shapes, as shown by the picture above at Southwick Beach.

How does the ice form shapes like this? A breeze pushes waves against the upper shore and the water at the top edge freezes as it hits the frozen sand. Then thin layers of water build up at the icy edge forming this wild pattern of ledges extending a mile down the beach.

In a different section of beach, the ice forms a pattern much like rickrack, a form of braided trim in a zigzag pattern that was highly popular in the 1960s.


And wintertime can create its own interesting illusions, such as this picture above, in which it appears the forest is floating in the sky above the water. This phenomenon is known as a “superior mirage” which tends to happen in cooler weather, when the air is colder above your line of sight than below. In this case, the air temperature is colder than the lake water. On this day the air was about 20 degrees and the water 40 degrees.

Read more about the science of a superior mirage on Wikipedia.

There is so much to see along our shorelines even in winter. Get out in the fresh air, explore some winter beaches and take pictures to share.


All photos of Southwick Beach State courtesy of Kathy Faber-Langendoen

Post by Julie Lundgren, State Parks Ecologist, NY Natural Heritage Program


Prepare to Explore more of State Parks in the winter by reading these previous posts from the NYS Parks Blog.

Evangola State Park: Lake Erie’s Winter Playground!

Along the shores of Lake Erie, Evangola State Park becomes a winter sports mecca as the lake’s famous lake-effect snowstorms blanket the park! Lake-effect snow occurs when cold, Canadian air moves across Lake Erie evaporating its open waters and causing intense, local snow bands which can drop one to two inches of snow per hour. … Continue reading Evangola State Park: Lake Erie’s Winter Playground!

Winter Tree Identification Part II: Evergreen Trees

Evergreen means these trees keep their “leaves” throughout the winter. Though we may call them pine needles, they are actually very skinny leaves that serve the same function as the leaves on a deciduous tree. Identifying evergreens during the winter months is almost the same as in spring and summer, with the added advantage of … Continue reading Winter Tree Identification Part II: Evergreen Trees

Welcome 2021 With a First Day Hike

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

First Day Hikes 2020

Many New Yorkers thrive in winter and are eager for falling temperatures and consistent snowfalls. To these hardy adventurers, a few extra layers of gear combined with the snowy terrain of parklands is a winning recipe for fitness, togetherness and outdoor fun.

Welcome the new decade, enjoy the winter landscapes, and unwind after a hectic holiday season by joining a First Day Hike on January 1, 2020.

First Day Hike

There are more than 75 such hikes planned at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails and public lands across the state as part of the 9th annual First Day Hikes program. This map can help find one near you…

Hikes are being offered at more than 50 state parks and historic sites (with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill levels and destinations within the park) and 21 state lands, wildlife areas, Forest Preserve trails and environmental education centers run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers and partners at many sites, will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions. Remember to dress appropriately and keep this old Scandinavian saying in mind: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

First Day hikers at Taughannock Falls State Park.

A sample of this year’s programs feature a seal walk, walking history tour, snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, fire towers, and more. If weather conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Many host sites will be offering refreshments and giveaways.

Participants are encouraged to contact the park for information and pre-registration where noted.

Never too young to go out for a hike.

And know that you are part of something that is happening all across America. First Day Hikes, which started in Massachusetts in 1992, are now a national event taking place in all 50 states.

Last year nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country on the guided hikes.  Numerous others hiked state park trails throughout the day.

If you’ve never been on a First Day Hike, 2020 is the year!


Cover photo: First Day hikers at a DEC fire tower. These hikers are wearing traction gear on their boots, which is important in steep or icy conditions.

Post by NYS Parks Staff

Evangola State Park: Lake Erie’s Winter Playground!

Along the shores of Lake Erie, Evangola State Park becomes a winter sports mecca as the lake’s famous lake-effect snowstorms blanket the park! Lake-effect snow occurs when cold, Canadian air moves across Lake Erie evaporating its open waters and causing intense, local snow bands which can drop one to two inches of snow per hour.

Burning calories while relieving stress, cross-country skiing is a popular activity on the parks peaceful and tranquil trails.

ForestTrail
An unbroken forested ski trail at Evangola.

DistantSkier
The only sound while skiing is the soft crunching of the snow as you glide through the woods.

Cross-country skiing is a wonderful way to connect to nature!

SnowyScene
Fresh snow clings onto the branches, enhancing the beauty of trees and shrubs.

Three major trail systems are avaliable at Evangola State Park. The Evangola Snowmobile Trail is located on the east side of the park and snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails are on the west side.

Many snowshoers and skiers utilize the 3.5 mile snowmobile trail since it is lightly used by snowmobilers. The trail is fairly flat and easy for beginners.

SnowmobileTrail
Evangola Snowmobile Trail.

The Evangola Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe trail is an easy two mile loop trail through forest and shrubby wetlands.The trail starts at the baseball field located on the west side of the park and goes right into the woods.

Skiers
Snowshoers head out on the trail.

With a variety of tracks along the way…….

Tracks
A skier discovers eastern coyote tracks.

A fun activity while skiing or snowshoeing is to investigate fresh animal tracks. The tracks left behind are a magical record of a nocturnal creature’s travel, allowing a glimpse into their secret lives.

DECTracks
Four toed animals include the fox, coyote and dogs. Raccoon prints have 5 clear toes. Deer tracks resemble a divided heart. Image from NYS Dept. of Conservation

Deer
White-tailed Deer are often seen crossing the trail, photo by Ed Conboy Jr.

PorchNC
A skier checks out the Evangola Nature Center. The nature center is open Memorial Day to Columbus Day and is sometimes used as a resting spot during winter sports programs.

Bench1
When the snow gets deeper and the world turns quiet…

The Niagara Region Interpretive Programs Office has free snowshoes to loan to adults and children and many people bring their own snowshoes. It is easy to learn snowshoeing and participants become proficient on their first winter snowshoe hike.

ForestToLake1
The “Forest to Lake” snowshoe hike traverses Evangola’ s forested trails……

ForestToLake2
….and ends with a majestic look at the ice formations of Lake Erie!

Stunning Ice Formations

A spectacular winter trail at Evangola is the “Rim Trail” along towering cliffs over Lake Erie, where you can see all the way to Canada on a clear day! But clear skies or cloudy, check out some of nature’s ice sculptures all along the shore.

IceFence1
Even the rim trail fence can bow with the weight of wind driven ice waves!

IceFence2
The “Rim Trail’s” chain link fence with ice.

RimTrail
A lone skier checks out the “Rim Trail” view. During winter, arctic waterfowl and even an occasional Snowy Owl can be seen. Some of the biggest Red Oak in the park also occur along this trail.

SunnyLake
A winter icescape along the rim trail.

IceVolcano
Lake Erie ice volcano vents can be seen from above along Evangola’ s “Rim Trail”.

CoveredBridge
Throughout Evangola’s winter trails there is plenty to see including the iconic “Scotty’s Covered Bridge”!

Sunset
Evangola Sunsets during winter can be spectacular too!

Winter is a great time to get outside and explore Evangola State Park. So, come join our outdoor snowshoe hikes and cross-country ski programs or get out on your own to enjoy the park’s “lake-effect” snow trails.

Post by Dave McQuay, Evangola State Park environmental educator