First Day Hike – Start Your Year On The Right Foot

Winter Lake

2019 is on it’s way, ready or not. How are you going to set out in the new year? For the last 5 years my family has taken part in a First Day Hike. It’s a great way to start the new year outdoors and supporting a local or state park.

What is a First Day Hike?

A First Day Hike is a hike that takes place on January 1. While you can certainly plan your own First Day Hike with friends or family, it’s a great opportunity to join an organized hike. Many times the hike is guided by a park ranger or volunteer. The guide will share their expertise about the area that you are hiking through. Many times they have expertise in the local history of the area you are hiking through, or specialized information about the flora and fauna that you may encounter on the hike.

If you do your research (or get lucky) the park or organizers will provide coffee, hot cocoa or even cookies at the end of the hike. If not, feel free to bring your own beverages and snacks (remember to follow Leave No Trace) and pack-in, pack-out.

Fairy house interior
No friends home!

How do you find a First Day Hike?

The easiest way, by far, is to Google “First Day Hikes near me”. Google is way smart and likely will come up with something that is appealing. If your Google-fu is weak, you can try checking with your local parks and recreation authority to see if they have anything planned. Alternatively, you can check with you state parks events pages to see what they have. At this point First Day Hikes are planned in all 50 US states, so there’s really no excuse to skip it.

The authoritative list is available from the American Hiking Society. You can find a link on their homepage to help you find a First Day Hike near you.

Do check out the details about the hike that you choose to join. While many hikes are family and pet friendly, some are vigorous or difficult and may require more expertise or gear. You will want to know the time that the hike begins and where to meet, in addition to the length and difficulty level of the hike.

Carry your 10 essentials in a day pack
Bring a bag for your water and snacks

How to prepare for your First Day Hike?

Definitely find out the who/what/when/where details and bring your 10 essentials.

Who is the hike for?

Kids? Pets (on leash? Off leash?) Easy? Moderate? Difficult?

Fairy House at base of tree
You never know what you might find!

What do you need to bring?

How should you dress? (will it be 60F? 40F? 20F?) Do you need blaze orange to prevent being accidentally shot by hunters? Do you need sturdy boots? or are sneakers ok? Do you need snow shoes/spikes/crampons/cross country skis?

When are you meeting the leader?

How long do they plan for the hike to take?

Where are you going?

Which trail? How far? Are there special parking instructions?

Have your 10 Day Hiking Essentials, and customize for your expected conditions, trail and activity.

Hikers in winter coats
You will probably want to bundle up for your First Day Hike.