Elephant Rock, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, United StatesCome New Year’s Day, state parks around the United States will be hosting something called First Day Hikes.
Introduced at the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Massachusetts more than 30 years back, the idea to offer free guided hikes around state parks has since spread so nearly every state in the country; for detailed state-by-state information, visit the pragmatic stateparks.org for guidance (what’s your deal, Illinois and Iowa?).
What’s even better about the First Day Hikes is that there is a variety of hikes ranging from novice to rather strenuous, covering — obviously depending on where in the U.S. you are at the time — deserts, forests, city views, small peaks, and a butte or two.
For example, the most recent state park that I visited was Valley of Fire State Park, less than a 1.5 hours drive from Las Vegas. (Embarrassingly, one reason I wanted to visit is because a scene from the sci-fi movie Total Recall was filmed there.)
Throughout 1 January, you can choose from a number of different hikes, starting at various points throughout the park. As a bonus, if you’re joining one of the First Day Hikes, admission to the park will be free!
For much of my life, I was all about the cities. It also had a lot to do with traveling solo most of the time. When exploring the wilderness, it’s generally helpful to have some company, for safety and for company.
But after some time spent in a handful of the world’s most densely packed cities, I did an about-face, and turned to nature for some cleaner air, casual bird-watching, and shinrinyoku (森林浴), a Japanese term meaning “forest bathing” that refers to a desire to be in touch with forests, and the serenity within them.
Which state park will you be visiting for First Day Hikes?