What better way to ring in the New Year than with a free guided hike through the backcountry? First Day Hikes are the highlight of a nationwide initiative to inspire people to spend more time in the outdoors and reconnect with nature. All 50 states have chosen to participate in the event, offering tons of opportunities for hiking nationwide.
The event is aimed at kids and adults alike, with individual parks providing guided hikes of varying difficulties at different times throughout the day. The program began in 1992 in Blue Hills Reservation State Park, as reported by Gear Junkie. All states were involved with First Day Hikes by 2012, serving as one of the most comprehensive hiking initiatives in the country.
In 2016, nearly 55,000 people participated in First Day Hikes, amassing more than 133,000 miles of guided hikes across the nation. Many other individuals hiked state park trails on their own, supplementing the primary goal of the program: To get people outside. Guided hikes offer the ideal opportunity for people to exercise, breathe in the fresh air, and soak in the natural surroundings of the forests, fields, and mountains. Experienced state park staff and volunteers are recruited to organize the hikes in different locations around the country. Although the length of the hikes, terrain, distance, and weather conditions may vary — the unifying goal is the same.
America’s State Parks and America’s National Parks comprise America’s Great National System of Parks. First Day Hikes encourages participants to appreciate the beauty of state parks’ natural resources in the hopes of garnering future support and supplementary visits throughout the year. The hikes will involve a variety of outdoor education opportunities including mountain climbing, hiking through wetlands, strolling along beaches, wildlife expeditions, and bird-watching. Many of the guides will provide information on the park’s geology, history, and local fauna and flora.
The American Hiking Society has offered some recommendations for cold weather hiking, including dressing in layers, wearing a hat, keeping your water bottle warm, wearing sunscreen, and preparing for the shorter winter days. No matter where you live, there is likely a First Day Hike near you.
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