A hiker overlooks the Arkansas River Valley from high atop Pinnacle Mountain State Park. (photo courtesy of Arkansas State Parks)
After being largely holed up indoors over the course of the pandemic, it might be a good idea to start 2023 off with a refreshing stint spent out under the wide-open sky. At the same time, you could jumpstart those New Year’s resolutions by burning off excess holiday calories with some fresh-air exercise.
The U.S. State Parks are collectively encouraging Americans to do just that—enjoy the great outdoors and soak up the many health benefits of time spent in nature—by offering free guided hikes at state parks from coast to coast on New Year’s Day.
“It’s our way of wishing health and happiness for the coming new year,” Lewis Ledford, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors, said in a statement.
Guided ‘First Day Hikes’, available to the public free of change on January 1, are led by park staff members and volunteers with expert knowledge of the protected lands in their respective regions. The distance and difficulty of these trails will vary, but are designed to be enjoyed by park-goers of all ages. Guests can also opt for self-guided hikes and trail challenges.
“Recent research is confirming the benefits of just 30 minutes a week spent in nature, and what better way to start a new healthy habit for 2023 than taking advantage of hikes being offered in state parks across the nation,” said Ledford. “Our hope is that this event will stimulate a passion for the outdoors and a desire to explore our local treasures throughout the entire year.”
This year, over 1,300 of these guided hikes are available at state parks across the nation. Hikers can choose from a variety of guided hikes to find one that best suits their physical ability and comfort levels, and go explore trails that wend through forests or deserts, walk along lakes or beaches, climb hills or mountains, or even venture out on birdwatching or wildlife expeditions.
“Each state enjoys unique outdoor features and wildlife on its public lands,” Ledford said. “And no matter your weather preference, whether it be snow in the north and across the Rockies or mild temperatures across the south and southwest, you can experience it all with First Day Hikes.”
Free ‘First Day Hikes’ were first introduced more than 30 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Massachusetts, and the annual practice has since been extended to state parks all around the nation.
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