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Minnesota state parks and trails offer ‘First Day Hikes’ as part of nationwide effort to start new year in healthy way

by Scott Hanson

Looking for an invigorating way to kick off the New Year? The Department of Natural Resources encourages people to ring in 2014 with a First Day Hike on Wednesday, Jan. 1, at a state park or trail. All 50 states are participating in the third annual event that invites everyone to celebrate the New Year amid the sights, sounds and wonder of the natural world with fun, guided hikes.
 
“We have five First Day Hikes taking place at Minnesota state parks and trails on New Year’s Day,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division, “but if you can’t make it to one of those events, remember that Minnesota state parks and trails are open every day, even in winter, so come out and hike whenever and wherever it’s most convenient.”

Check out the maps online or ask a staff person to recommend a route. "They know best, and we want you to have a good time so you come back,” Nelson said.

First Day Hikes will take place in Minnesota on Jan. 1, at:

  • Afton State Park (Hastings) 10-11:30 a.m.Join naturalist to find one thing that inspires, intrigues or increases awareness of the natural world.
  • Gateway State Trail (St. Paul), 2-3:30 p.m.This naturalist-led hike will take place on a paved trail through a scenic part of metro area. Meet in the parking lot of the Ramsey County District Court building at 2050 White Bear Ave.
  • Jay Cooke State Park (Carlton), 1-2:30 p.m.: A naturalist will lead a snowshoe hike through the park (child and adult snowshoe rentals are available; call ahead to reserve a pair, 218-384-4610, ext. 229). Meet at the River Inn Interpretive Center.
  • Lake Carlos State Park (Alexandria), 1-2:30 p.m.: A naturalist will guide hikers through the park and talk about its history, natural resources and cultural significance. Bring snowshoes if conditions warrant (rentals are available; call ahead to reserve a pair, 320-852-7200. Meet at the Lake View Group Camp (near the beach). 
  • Minneopa State Park (Mankato), 10-11:30 a.m.: Learn natural and historic facts about area on a naturalist-led hike from the group campground to the confluence of Minneopa Creek and the Minnesota River. Meet at picnic shelter on falls side of park.


A vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks ($5 for a one-day permit or $25 for a year-round permit). Those who don’t already have a Minnesota state parks vehicle permit (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/permit.html) can purchase one at any of the parks.

Last year, First Day Hikes hosted 22,000 people, who covered nearly 44,000 miles in 700 state parks all across the country, according to Priscilla Geigis, president of the National Association of State Park Directors.

“These family-friendly outings provide a great chance to get outside and experience the beauty of our parks, stay fit and build lasting traditions with loved ones,” Geigis said.

First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation — a state park in Milton, Mass.

America's State Parks and American Hiking Society are teaming up to promote these hikes as a healthy and memorable way to start the New Year. 
 
For cold weather hiking tips, visit www.americanhiking.org/cold-weather-hiking.
 
For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov/ptcalendar or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or call 651-296-6157, toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 
4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.