|Wisconsin DNR photo|
On a First Day Hike, visitors can enjoy exciting 1- to 2- mile walks through diverse, beautiful natural areas, led by park rangers and volunteers. Most hikes include additional activities such as campfires, s'mores, crafts, costume contests and storytelling.
America's State Parks and American Hiking Society are teaming up with state park programs across the country to promote First Day Hikes as a healthy and memorable way to start the New Year.
All 50 states are participating in the fourth annual event that invites families and friends to celebrate the New Year amid the sights, sounds and wonder of our natural world with fun, guided hikes.
In Wisconsin, First Day Hikes will be held at the following properties:
- Buckhorn State Park - Join the Friends of Buckhorn on a First Day Hike adventure of the Barrens Nature Trail. Bring your snowshoes or skis, or check out a pair of snowshoes from the park office. Half the trail will be packed for snowshoes, half tracked for skiing. Pets are not allowed on groomed snow trails. If there is no snow, there will be a hike. The trail is 1.5 miles and is fairly easy and level. Visitor will also be able to try finding geocaches along the trail and can check out a GPS unit from the park office with the coordinates already loaded to learn how to do this fun activity. Hot chocolate, coffee and treats will be available at the park office to warm up after the hike. Meet at the Barrens Nature Trail parking area. 2 to 4 p.m. For information call 608-565-2789. For more information about geocaching in Wisconsin State Parks, visit www.wi-geocaching.com/wga-state-park-series.
- Devil's Lake State Park - Take a twilight hike/snowshoe through Roznos Meadow. Dress warm and bring a flashlight and snowshoes. The park will have snowshoes to loan as well. 3:30 to 5 p.m. For information call 608-356-8301.
- Harrington Beach State Park - Join staff and volunteers for a First Day Hike, ski or snowshoe around frozen Quarry Lake or along the Shuttle Trail. This will be an easy hike. The Shuttle Trail provides picturesque views of Lake Michigan. This is also a winter Open House Day at Harrington Beach. No vehicle admission sticker will be required. The Friends of Harrington Beach will be hosting an open house, complete with warming fires, hot chocolate and treats. 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. For information call 262-285-3015.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest - Lapham Peak Unit / Ice Age National Scenic Trail - Meet at the Hausmann Nature Center parking lot to hike or snowshoe for 3-4 miles. Wisconsin state park entrance fee will be waived on this day at Lapham Peak. Join us at the Hausmann Nature Center afterwards for beverages and snacks. Feel free to bring a lunch and hang around for a while. 11 a.m. to noon. For information call 262-594-6200.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest - Pike Lake Unit - Meet at the Beach Parking Lot off of Kettle Moraine Road in Hartford at noon. Leashed dogs are welcome on this hike. Noon - 1 p.m. For information call 262-670-3400.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit - Meet at the John Muir Trailhead and hike the 4 mile white loop. 1 - 2 p.m. For information call 262-594-6200.
- Mirror Lake State Park - Bring snowshoes or winter boots for some fun winter hiking around the park. A trail guide will show some of the beautiful highlights of Mirror Lake and a little its history. The adventure starts at noon from the Winter Recreation Area (aka Beach-Picnic area). Snowshoes are not available at the park but are available for rent through local vendors. Sponsored by the Friends of Mirror Lake. Noon to 2 p.m. For information call 608-254-2333.
- Peninsula State Park - Celebrate the New Year with a hike or snowshoe up to 3 miles with the Friends of Peninsula State Park. Meet at Weborg Shelter. Bring water bottle, binoculars, field guide and dress for the weather with hiking boots or snowshoes. Following the hike, enjoy a hot beverage around a warming fire. Purchase admission sticker at park headquarters or self-registration station. No pets please. 10 a.m. to noon. For information call 920-854-5976.
- Richard Bong State Recreation Area. Join in the celebration to start your year off right! Meet at the Visitor Center. 1 to 2 p.m. For information call 262-878-5601.
- Whitefish Dunes State Park - The park will hold two First Day Hikes. In the morning there will be a First Day Winter Detectives Hike - Hike in search of animal tracks and other clues to uncover the secret lives of animals at the park and in your yard. Join the naturalist for a short hike then warm with hot beverage. Meet at the Nature Center. 9 - 10 a.m. In the afternoon there will be a Winter Wears First Day Hike - Join the naturalist for a short hike then warm by the shelter building fire with hot beverage. Meet at the Nature Center. 2 to 3 p.m. For information call 920-823-2400.
On Jan. 1, 2014, 190 participants hiked a total of 605.7 miles at nine different state park properties, up from 165 participants who hiked a total of 396 miles in 2013.
Nationwide last year, more than 27,000 people took part in more than 800 hikes in all 50 states - an increase of 5,000 participants over 2013, according to the National Association of State Park Directors.
For helpful cold weather hiking tips, visit the American Hiking Society's website at www.americanhiking.org. For a complete listing of all State Park events, including First Day Hikes, search the DNR website for keywords "get outdoors."
All participants are encouraged to log their First Day Hike adventures on social media with the hash tag "#firstdayhikes."