First Day Hikes foster connection with nature and community on New Year’s Day.
Each New Year’s Day, people around the country rise early to join in on a U.S. State Parks tradition—First Day Hikes. At state parks and natural areas across the country, the ritual aims to foster a memorable and enjoyable experience for any age and any hiking skill to enjoy nature in the winter months.
Sean Hoppes, a park naturalist at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), usually leads a snowshoeing First Day Hike. “We enter a winter wonderland that appears sterile at first glance, but by the end, participants are remarking on how much life is still around in the winter if they know where to look,” Hoppes says.
Across the river in Wisconsin, nonprofit Wild Rivers Conservatory organizes a free First Day Hike. Conservatory staff will lead groups on a hike or snowshoe at a location near the St. Croix River. “We’ve done them for a number of years now,” says Wendy Tremblay, community engagement manager. “… We offer hikes to start the new year off with some fresh air [and] beautiful natural scenery.”
Whether one chooses to participate in a guided event or trek into the woods solo, the tradition of a First Day Hike fosters a connection with nature in the newest moments of the year. “I look at the flushed cheeks of smiling visitors and know that they literally started the year off on a good foot,” Hoppes says.
Last year, Minnesota DNR and Wisconsin DNR hosted a combined 21 First Day Hikes across both states, including strolls at Wild River State Park in Center City, Minnesota, and Interstate Park in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. Registration is required for some hikes, and anyone is welcome to join for free—though parking and entrance fees at state parks may apply.