MADISON – People looking to start their New Year’s resolution for better health can start the year off on the right foot by participating in any of a dozen First Day Hikes that will be held at Wisconsin State Park System properties on January 1.
Hardy New Year’s Day hikers had fun on the 2 mile snowshoe trail where they ventured out to Echo Rock along the lakeside.
Photo Credit: DNR
On a First Day Hike, visitors can enjoy walks through diverse, beautiful natural areas, led by park staff or volunteers. Most hikes include additional activities such as campfires, naturalist guides, wildlife tracking and hot beverages after the hike. A 2017 Wisconsin state park admission sticker is required for entrance to most parks for these events, although the Lapham Peak and Pike Lake units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest are waiving the sticker requirements for their First Day hikers.
All 50 states are participating in the sixth 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.
On Jan. 1, 2016, 802 participants hiked 2,300 miles at 9 different Wisconsin state park properties, up from the 507 participants and 1,191 miles hiked at 10 different parks in 2015.
In Wisconsin, First Day Hikes will be held at the following properties:
- Buckhorn State Park. Snowshoe or hike the 1.4-mile Central Sands Nature Trail. Bring your snowshoes, or check out a pair at the start of the hike (a limited supply of snowshoes are available). Hot chocolate, coffee and treats will be available at the south picnic shelter to warm up after the hike. Meet at the South Picnic Shelter parking lot. 1-3 p.m. Phone: 608-565-2789.
- Devil’s Lake State Park. This year at Devil’s Lake, take a 2-mile twilight hike/snowshoe through Steinke Basin. Dress warm and bring a flashlight and your snowshoes (if there is snow). There will be some snowshoes to loan as well. Meet at the Steinke Basin parking lot on County Highway DL. Daily or annual state park admission sticker required. 3:30-5 p.m. Phone: 608-356-8301.
- Harrington Beach State Park. Celebrate the First Day of 2017 with an easy 1.5-mile hike on either the Quarry Lake or Shuttle Trail. The Friends of Harrington Beach will provide a warm fire in the Welcome Center along with complimentary hot chocolate, apple cider or coffee. Bring your lunch and kick off the New Year at Harrington Beach. This event is sponsored by Friends of Harrington Beach State Park. Daily or annual state park admission sticker required. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone: 262-285-3015.
- Interstate State Park Hike or snowshoe 2 miles at Interstate to see the frozen St Croix River, spring-fed ponds, frozen waterfall and the quarry where the rock was taken to build many structures and trails by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Meet at the Camp Interstate Shelter. The hike/snowshoe will take place on the Silverbrook and Quarry trails. The Friends of Interstate Park will provide refreshments and a bonfire will be available to warm up. 9-11 a.m. Phone: 715-483-3747
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Lapham Peak Unit. The Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance will be hosting a First Day Hike at Lapham Peak. Vehicle admission fees will be waived for the day. Warm up with hot beverages and snacks at the Center afterwards. Hike 3-4 miles on the Ice Age Trail. Meet at the Hausman Nature Center parking lot. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone: 262-646-3025.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit. Hike or snowshoe 2 miles on part of the Ice Age and Green trails. Meet at the beach parking area by the north shelter. The hike will end at the Forest Headquarters with a chance to warm up and drink hot chocolate. Bring snowshoes if you have them or contact Expedition Supply for snowshoe rental – www.expeditionsupply.com. Sponsored by Friends of Pike Lake. Noon to 2 p.m. Phone: 262-670-3400.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit Meet at the Forest Headquarters on Highway 59 and start the new year off with a new nature journal. This 3-mile hike on the Ice Age Trail will examine just how dormant the world really is in winter. After hiking, warm up with hot chocolate in the museum and make your journal entries. Feel free to bring a new or existing journal or notebook. Some basic supplies are available if you don’t have a journal. This hike is geared at families, but also great for adults interested in starting a nature journal. No drawing skills required. Hike will only be cancelled if weather is severely cold or roads are dangerous. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Phone: The trail hotline, 262-594-6202, will be updated if the hike is cancelled.
- Mirror Lake State Park. Bring your snowshoes or winter boots for some fun winter hiking around the park. This will be an easy hike on the Echo Rock Trail. Sponsored by the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park. Daily or annual state park admission sticker required. Noon to 2 p.m. Phone: 608-254-2333.
- Newport State Park. This will be an easy 2-mile hike on the Upland Trail. Bring snowshoes or hiking boots, depending on the weather, to hike or snowshoe through upland woods, an old root cellar, ancient shoreline and an old field. Pets welcome. Sponsored by the Newport Wilderness Society, the park Friends Group. The Friends will also be offering hot cider and hot chocolate after the hike in our interpretive room. Meet at the visitor center parking lot. 10 a.m. to noon. Phone: 920-854-2500.
- Pattison State Park. Snowshoe or hike the 2-mile Beaver Trail. Bring warm clothes, proper footwear and a camera as you enjoy the trail’s rolling terrain, some steep hills and steps, with views of Interfalls Lake, the Black River and the CCC bridge. Meet at the shelter building near the main parking lot. 1-3 p.m. Phone: 715-399-3111
- Peninsula State Park. After hearing 5-minute updates about Eagle Tower and the Nature Center addition, join Peninsula’s Naturalist for a brisk wellness walk. This classic nature walk features people who once lived near the park entrance: the Dyer sisters, Lettie Doolittle, the boy who watered horses, the beekeeper and the Carlson boys. Learn to ID a few trees, too. Depending on weather and trail conditions, Peninsula’s First Day Hike will be 20 to 60 minutes, and 1-3 miles. Afterwards, visitors can enjoy a cup of hot cocoa inside Weborg Shelter. Dress for the weather! Supported by the Friends of Peninsula State Park. Meet at Weborg Shelter. 10 a.m. to noon. Phone: 920-868-3258.
- Richard Bong State Recreation Area. Meet at the visitor center for a 1-mile hike. Dress to be outside. Event will be cancelled only if a blizzard or bitterly cold. Daily or annual state park admission sticker required. 3-4 p.m. Phone: 262-878-5601.
- Stower Seven Lakes State Trail. First Day Hike, Bike or Ski. Meet at the Nye parking lot. Fat bikes and cross-country bikes are also welcome! You can choose your own distance between 1 and 22 miles. There will be hot chocolate furnished by the Brothers Country Mart. There are no entry fees but a 2017 State Trail Pass is required to bike or cross-country ski. Passes will be available and are valid for the calendar year on all state trails. This event is sponsored by Brothers Country Mart and Friends of the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail. 10 a.m. to noon. Phone: 715-485-9294.
For helpful cold weather hiking tips, visit the American Hiking Society’s website at www.americanhiking.org (both links exit DNR). 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.”