Start the New Year Off with a First Day Hike

With New Year’s Day just around the corner, people everywhere are zeroing in on their new year’s resolutions for 2013.

First Day Hikes 6460810215_b6a5b965f7Some will vow to add more exercise into their routines, and others will promise not to stay indoors as much.

You can start the New Year off on the right foot, the left foot, or any foot by tackling both those resolutions at once and at the same time create a new family tradition by participating in a “First Day Hike” at a park near you, and together start off your year in a new direction.

America’s State Parks announces that all 50 state park systems will sponsor guided First Day Hike Programs on New Year’s Day 2013.

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks.

State involvement has grown to the point where, for the first time in 2012, all 50 state park systems joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

America’s State Parks anticipated 50 events but were amazed at the number of Americans willing to skip New Year’s Eve revelry in order to get up early January 1 and hit the trails.

They ended up with 400 outings that drew 14,000 people, hiking a total of more than 30,000 miles.

This year will be even bigger, with more than 660 events from a cross-country ski outing in Alaska to a sunrise hike in Hawaii.

A perfect holiday tradition for the whole family, a First Day Hike will help make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle while appreciating the beauty of nature.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Ring in the new year with a Summit Trail Hike. Come climb the rock and see what amazing geology, ecology, and cultural history Enchanted Rock has to offer. Meet at the gazebo at 9:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. for a 2-hour hike. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose from guided hikes led by rangers, volunteers, or Master Naturalists or choose your own trail with a hike that meets your desired difficulty and length.


Eighteen of Pennsylvania’s state parks will sponsor free, guided hikes on New Year’s Day to help visitors ring in 2013 with healthy exercise and a glimpse of nature’s winter beauty.

“We are excited to join in hosting these hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan said.

“For the second consecutive year, First Day Hikes offer a great cure for cabin fever and a chance to burn off those extra holiday calories.”


Last year 3,708 people hiked 5,583 miles as part of Virginia State Parks 2012 First Day Hikes. Hikers are encouraged to bring field, guides, a natural journal, and a camera.


The Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails are offering eight guided hikes on New Year’s Day at venues statewide. It’s the second year Wyoming has participated. More than 500 people participated in the four hikes the state held last year.

Park staff and volunteers will lead the coming hikes, which average one to two miles or longer depending on the state park or historic site.


In Texas the First Day Hikes vary in difficulty and fitness levels, and range from short, leisurely nature walks through forested trails and along boardwalks, to special bird watching hikes, to climbs into the mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Most hikes are guided by state park staff and volunteers and feature an interpretive message about native plants, animals, or park history. The walks average one to two miles in length, but many also offer shorter or longer trek options as well. There’s something for everyone!

America’s State Parks

Bring a  hat, sturdy shoes, binoculars, camera, warm clothes, and water to Alamo Lake State Park in Arizona. The one mile hike begins at 9 a.m.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bring a hat, sturdy shoes, binoculars, camera, warm clothes, and water to Alamo Lake State Park in Arizona. The one mile hike begins at 9 a.m. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s State Parks is committed to promoting outdoor recreation in state parks as a way to address obesity, especially among children. Getting kids outside and unplugged from video games and other electronic media creates a unique connection with nature that promotes physical and mental well-being and encourages creativity and stewardship of our shared resources.

Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s State Parks website.

To find a First Day Hike near you click on your state park of interest.


Worth Pondering…

So many trails…so little time…

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Virginia State Parks to Honor Veterans with Special Programs

Gov. McDonnell recently announced that Virginia State Parks will continue the tradition of honoring veterans by waiving parking and admission fees for all visitors on Veterans Day, Sunday, November 11.

Special programs will also be offered in all 35 Virginia State Parks, managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“Veterans Day is an important opportunity to honor the legacy of the one-in-eight Virginians who serve or have served in the armed forces. They deserve our eternal thanks for putting themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom,” McDonnell said.

“In addition to special programs around the state we are pleased to offer free admission to Virginia’s State Parks for all visitors on November 11, in recognition of the valiant service of our veterans. This is a small gesture of appreciation for the women and men who have given so much to defend our liberty and freedom. I encourage Virginians to visit a state park and discover first-hand our Commonwealth’s beauty and wonders.”

Flag retirement ceremonies will be held at Caledon in King George, Chippokes Plantation in Surry, Douthat in Millboro, Fairy Stone in Stuart, First Landing in Virginia Beach, Grayson Highlands in Mouth of Wilson, Hungry Mother in Marion, James River in Gladstone, Kiptopeke in Cape Charles, New River Trail in Foster Falls, and Natural Tunnel in Duffield.

Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park

Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park in Rice will light 500 luminaries and host guided battlefield walks. The personal accounts of Civil War veterans from the Battle of Staunton River Bridge will be read at Staunton River Battlefield in Randolph. Storytellers will detail military service from the Revolutionary War to the current war against terrorism in a nighttime campfire program at Mason Neck State Park in Lorton.

Sky Meadows State Park

Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane and the Friends of Sky Meadows State Park will  host a 5K walk-a-thon to support the Wounded Warrior Project. There will be prizes for the highest pledge amounts. Music by the Carolina Mountain Band and a guest speaker will round out the activities.

Leesylvania State Park

Visitors to Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge are invited to create a temporary wall of honor by providing a photograph of a friend or family member who served in the military.

Belle Isle State Park & Pocahontas State Park

Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster and Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield will hold workshops to create care packages for patients of McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond.

Westmoreland State Park

Local VFW posts and American Legion chapters will hold a special Veterans Day flag ceremony at Westmoreland State Park in Montross.

Wilderness Road State Park

Re-enactors will honor those who have served, from the Revolutionary War to present day with a passing of historical flags at Wilderness Road State Park in Ewing.


Virginia State Parks

You’ll find plenty of programs, events, and activities at Virginia’s 35 state parks—thousands of campsites, hundreds of cabins, more than 500 miles of trails, and convenient access to Virginia’s major waterways. Beaches, picnic shelters, family lodges, meeting facilities, festivals, concerts, nature programs, cultural happenings… the list goes on and on.

From Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, there’s something for everyone at Virginia State Parks. Whether you’re after a relaxing picnic or a two-week vacation, leave life’s daily pressures behind and reconnect with nature and your family at a nearby state park.

Virginia State Parks are open year-round and, with the changing foliage and special programs, fall is fast becoming a popular time to visit.

Address: 203 Governor Street, Suite 306, Richmond, VA 23219-2094

Phone: (800) 933-PARK (7275)


Worth Pondering…

On the whole, I find nothing anywhere else…which Virginia need envy.

—Thomas Jefferson

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