Join walkers from coast to coast during a First Day Hike at a state park

First Day Hikes will take place at numerous Minnesota state parks on Tuesday, Jan. 1, as part of a nationwide effort to connect people with the outdoors. 

Spearheaded by the America’s State Parks (ASP) organization, First Day Hikes offer opportunities for  individuals, families and groups in all 50 states to take guided walks that vary in distance and vigor. ASP reported that last year, more than 33,000 people welcomed the new year by taking one of the 1,180 guided hikes that covered 70,500 miles.

The naturalists leading the First Day Hikes at Wild River and Jay Cooke state parks are planning First Day Snowshoe Hikes, provided there is enough snow by Jan. 1. Afton State Park in Hastings is combining its First Day Hike with its annual Christmas Bird Count, which challenges participants to walk, bird watch and count all at the same time. Note that registration is required for some First Day Hikes, particularly those with a limited number of snowshoes available.

The hikes are free, but a vehicle permit ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit) is required to enter Minnesota state parks.

Hikers are advised to wear boots and layers, such as a non-cotton shirt under a sweater plus a jacket, hat and mittens. As hikers get moving and warm up, they may want to shed some of those layers, so the hike leaders advise bringing a light backpack where they can stash those items, along with a water bottle, a snack, binoculars and a camera.

Park naturalists encourage anyone unable to attend a guided hike to get out with their friends and families on New Year’s Day for their own self-guided hike. Recommended routes can be found online using the Parks and Trails Division’s HikeFinder.

For a complete schedule of the First Day Hikes at Minnesota state parks, including directions to the parks and whether advance registration is needed, visit mndnr.gov/firstdayhike or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).