Many American firsts occurred in Massachusetts: the first Thanksgiving (1621, Plymouth Colony), the first public school (1635, Boston Latin), the first university (1636, Harvard, in Cambridge) and on and on through the centuries. Among the state’s the most recent firsts were the First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day. They were begun two decades ago by Massachusetts State Parks and now have become America’s State Parks program. It went national last year, with more than 400 FREE ranger-led outings attracting 14,000 participants who started the year on the right foot.
January 1, 2013, kicks off with some 600 First Day Hikes in state parks across the country. Most are interpretive and introduce visitors to wildlife, trees and geology. Many people, especially those in northern states, have never visited state parks in winter, so a First Day Hike can be a new experience in a familiar place. The easy-to-moderate hikes (1 to 4 miles) are suitable for families, though minimum age requirements might be in place. The routes include some that are wheelchair- or stroller-accessible. Dogs are permitted on some First Day Hikes, and park entry fees vary. Find a hike in your state (or wherever you might be spending the long New Year’s weekend) from either the click-on locator map of the drop-down menu on the First Day Hikes page.
You’ll find hikes from one end of the United States to the other. They include a one-and-a-half miler in Aroostook County State Park in far northern Maine, Bahia Honda State Park in far southern Florida, arid Anza-Borrega Desert State Park in California and often-rainy Fort Townsend State Park in Washington. In Alaska, the 49th state to join the Union, it’s a cross-country ski excursion at remote Independence State Historical Park, and in Hawaii, America’s 50th state, it’s a sunrise hike along the east-facing Ka Iwi State Historic Shoreline on the island of O’ahu. Most are neither that remote nor that exotic, but accessible to metropolitan areas.
“Hike-y” New Year.
Photo: Courtesy America’s State Parks.