Kacey Klonsky

Looking to get outside on New Year’s Day? U.S. state parks have you covered with dozens of fun, free guided hikes—some with hot chocolate at the end

Dakota Kim  – December 18, 2019 | Updated December 20, 2019

You wake up, stretch, yawn, and look at your phone. It’s the first day of 2020, and you’re already feeling the pressures of fulfilling New Year’s resolutions. If the new year is an opportunity for a fresh start, how will you put your best foot forward on its first day?

For many Americans, that day will be spent recovering from the previous night’s hangover, but for others, it’s a chance to get outdoors. America’s state parks will be offering free guided First Day Hikes in every single one of our 50 beautiful states, and the West has some of the best, naturally. The guides are nature-savvy state park staff and volunteers, and the hikes go from super easy to quite challenging. 

Sponsored by the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), the hikes have intention behind them: to get folks using state parks more, to get kids and adults out exercising for their health, and to encourage love and preservation of our parks.

Last year, almost 55,000 people celebrated the New Year by doing a First Day Hike, logging over 133,000 miles collectively. That’s not even counting the people who didn’t take an official guided tour.

From an educational stroll to learn about old-growth redwoods (the “Old Tree” is over 1,200 years old!) and banana slugs at Portola Redwoods State Park, to a dog-friendly, kid-friendly loop around the reservoir at Buffalo Bill State Park in Wyoming, check out the possibilities for your First Day Hike (and find California’s here—some state hikes are separately listed). 

Big cold-weather bonus: Some of the first day hikes will be offering coffee, hot chocolate, donuts, and even prizes or campfires at the end of hikes. That’s even more motivation to lace up your 8 and head out into the wilderness this January 1.