Ring in the New Year With a First Day Hike in America’s State Parks


By Anna Wadhams, SCA Alumni Council

Want to start 2019 in the great outdoors? On January 1st you can join a nationwide initiative to support state parks with a First Day Hike. All 50 state park systems will celebrate the New Year with guided hikes for the seventh consecutive year. Park rangers, naturalists, and volunteers will share their knowledge of each state’s natural resources and cultural features.

State parks have long been considered a close-to- home outdoor recreation resource. They offer 14,672 trails with over 52,603 miles to explore — that’s more than twice the equatorial circumference of Earth!

There were over 807 million visitors to America’s state parks in 2017. As a comparison, there were just over 330 million recreation visits to national park sites in the same year.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) has contributed to the conservation of state parks over the years. Last year, SCA had crews working in state parks in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, California, and North Dakota. SCA had 450 members working with state agencies, many with state parks in those states.

First Day Hikes originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation – a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. More than 33,000 people participated on January 1, 2018 and covered over 70,500 miles on 1,100 hikes across the country.

“America’s state parks are stunning year-round, but there’s nothing quite like a First Day Hike to really take in the great outdoors and kick off the New Year in a healthy way,” said National Association of State Park Directors President Linda Lanterman. “On January 1, grab your family and friends, lace up those boots, and seek out a new adventure at a state park. Friendly staff and spectacular views will surely be waiting for you!”

Find details on First Day Hikes in your state at www.stateparks.org. Participants are encouraged to share their adventures on social media with #FirstDayHikes.

Photo by Marie Laudeman, Indiana Dunes State Park Interpreter.