Usher in 2020 with other outdoor lovers at one of the many First Day Hikes offered Jan. 1 at Indiana’s state parks.
First Day Hikes are a healthy way to start the new year and provide a chance to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and connect with friends.
The guided hikes are organized by Indiana State Parks in cooperation with America’s State Parks (stateparks.org and facebook.com/Americas-State-Parks-205324976548604). Hikes will take place in all 50 states.
First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. The program was launched to foster healthy lifestyles and promote year-round recreation at state parks.
First Day events at Indiana State Park properties are (all times are local):
• Brookville Lake, Mounds State Recreation Area, 4 p.m. Meet at the Campground Shelter (across from Wildlife Wander Trail), 0.7 miles, easy, approximately 45 minutes. This is an interactive hike during which Indiana wildlife will be discussed. A warm fire, hot cocoa and S’mores will follow.
• Brown County State Park, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Meet at the Nature Center, 2 miles. 1.5 hours, bike it or hike it. Dress for the weather. This is a new hike, at your own pace, with plenty of space. Hikes will be set up through the time period listed. Interpretive stops will be offered along the way, including one for hot chocolate.
• Chain O’Lakes State Park, 2 p.m. This hike is approximately 2 miles and should take about an hour. Meet at the Sand Lake beach parking lot for a guided hike followed by hot cocoa and cookies (as supplies last). In the case of extreme cold, the hike will still take place but may be shortened.
• Charlestown State Park, 10 a.m. Meet at the parking lot for trails 3 and 4 for a 2.5 mile hike to Rose Island that will take approximately two hours. Dress appropriately for the weather.
• Clifty Falls State Park, 1 p.m. Meet at Poplar Grove Shelter for 3 mile rugged hike to journey back through time. Hear how the park was formed, see two of the park’s waterfalls, and walk part of the old railroad path while discovering its unique story. This hike, which is for ages 8 and older, will take roughly 2 to 2 ½ hours — bring water and wear good hiking shoes. Cookies and water will be provided after the hike.
• Falls of the Ohio State Park, 1 p.m. Meet at the Interpretive Center to hike the fossil beds. This 90 minute hike will go along the upper fossil beds and offer the chance to learn about Devonian sea life, and plants and animals that live along the river’s edge. Bring binoculars to look for winter birds. The Interpretive Center will open for a few minutes before and after the hike for access to restrooms and water fountains, but will otherwise be closed on Jan. 1. Inclement weather will cancel the program due to the hazardous nature of a slippery, uneven, rocky surface. A $2 pay-to-park fee applies, but the program is free.
• Ferdinand State Forest, 11:30 a.m. Meet at the Sycamore Shelters (below the property manager’s residence) to begin a moderate hike lasting two to three hours on property roads and the South Ridge Trail. For more information, call 812-827-2857.
• Fort Harrison State Park, 1 p.m. Meet at the Delaware Lake Shelter for a 2 mile, approximately 1 hour hike. Strollers and dogs on a leash are permitted. Friends of Fort Harrison will provide hot cocoa while supplies last.
• Hardy Lake, 10 a.m. Meet at the main trailhead across from the beach access road for a 2.75 mile, 1 hour healthy quick-paced hike. Wear sturdy shoes and bring water.
• Harmonie State Park, 10 a.m. Meet at the pool parking lot for a moderate 2 mile hike lasting approximately 90 minutes. Dress for the weather. Cookies and cocoa provided by the Friends of Harmonie will follow. Dogs on leashes and strollers welcome.
• Indiana Dunes State Park, 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center for a 1.5 mile, 90 minute hike. Explore the park landscapes and learn about the three tallest dunes on the Indiana lakeshore. At the end, hikers will be welcomed by park volunteers with warm drinks, snacks and a campfire provided by the Friends of the Indiana Dunes. Indiana Dunes Tourism will give completing participants a 3-Dune Challenge sticker. Dress for the weather.
• Lincoln State Park, noon. Meet at the Nature Center for a 2 mile hike lasting approximately two hours around Lincoln Lake. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather and boots or sturdy shoes for the trail. Friends of Lincoln State Park will provide light refreshments.
• McCormick’s Creek State Park, 2 p.m. Meet at Canyon Inn for this hike. Pick one of two different guided hikes, enjoy refreshments courtesy of Canyon Inn afterward, and enter your photos into the photo contest. Contest registration begins at 1 p.m. in Canyon Inn.
• Monroe Lake, Fairfax State Recreation Area, Monroe Lake will host its seventh annual First Day Trail Run/Walk. Registration/check-in runs from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. at Bay View Shelter. The run/walk starts at 3:30 p.m. The event is not timed. Participants can choose from a 1.3 or 3.7 mile course. Registering in advance costs $15 and includes a post-hike buffet. The advance registration deadline is Dec. 30.
• Mounds State Park, 5:30 p.m. Meet at the Nature Center Front Porch for a quarter mile easy hike lasting approximately 45 minutes. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather. Arrive early for warm beverages before the hike and share your nature’s new year resolutions.
• Mississinewa Lake, 5:30 p.m. Meet at Miami State Recreation Area’s Bostwick Pond for a 1-mile hike that will last about 30 minutes. S’mores and a fire will be available after the hike. Advance registration is requested by calling 260-468-2127.
• O’Bannon Woods State Park, 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the nature center to walk with the park’s oxen, Forrest and Gump, and its donkeys, Garth and Gracie. The walk will be on a roadway for about 1 mile. Enjoy refreshments upon return to the nature center. The event is contingent on weather and road conditions. Call the Nature Center for more information if the weather is questionable.
• Ouabache State Park, 11 a.m. The hike will start and end at the bison enclosure parking lot. Hike will be on Trail 1, around the bison enclosure, with a stop at the feeding station where guests will be able to observe American bison up close. It’s an easy trail with a gravel surface, but there are a few wet areas — boots or tennis shoes are recommended. Pets must be leashed.
• Patoka Lake, 1 to 2 p.m. Meet at the nature center for a ¾ mile hike. Grab a cup of hot chocolate before and after the hike inside the Nature Center.
• Pokagon State Park, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Meet at the CCC Shelter for a 3 mile hike. Hikers will be treated to a bonfire, cocoa and treats after the hike. Parking will be in the South Beach parking lot or near the basketball courts.
• Potato Creek State Park, 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at the nature center for a 2 mile moderate hike with views of the lake. Please dress for the weather, including warm socks and appropriate footwear. Snacks served afterward in Peppermint Hill Shelter. Craft stations available in the nature center from 1-5 p.m.
• Prophetstown State Park, 10 a.m. Meet (and park) at the far east end parking lot near the basketball court. This moderate hike will follow the high side of Trail 3 through an oak bluff, passing over groundwater-fed seeps. Dress for the weather. Hot drinks and cookies will be provided at the Visitor Center after the hike.
• Raccoon SRA (Cecil M. Harden Lake), 3 p.m. Meet at the Campground Gatehouse for this 1 hour rugged hike through the sandstone canyons on Trail 4. It’s good wildlife viewing for owls, eagles, deer or waterfowl.
• Salamonie Lake, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Meet at the Interpretive Center for this moderate hike down the Salamonie Tree Trail. Dress for weather. Advance registration is requested by calling 260-468-2127.
• Shades State Park, 3-4 p.m. Meet at the Hickory Shelter for this 1 mile moderate to rugged hike. Participants must be able to lift their leg to a 90 degree angle. If the weather is not conducive for a hike into the canyon on Trail 1, a shorter and easier alternative will be offered.
• Spring Mill State Park, 9-10:30 a.m. Meet on the front porch of Spring Mill Inn for this moderate to rugged 2 mile hike. Dress for the cold weather and trail conditions. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served in the Lakeview Room at the inn after the hike.
• Starve Hollow SRA, 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the Forest Education Center to enjoy a fire and hot chocolate before the hike. Dress for the weather and expect to see a lot of wildlife and woodland scenery. For more information, call 812-358-3464.
• Summit Lake State Park, 10:30 a.m. Meet at the beach parking lot for warm drinks and doughnuts. Hike on Trail 3 begins at 11 a.m. and lasts 45 minutes.
• Tippecanoe River State Park, noon to 1 p.m. Meet at the fire tower parking lot for this half-mile hike to the fire tower. Information about the fire tower will be shared during the hike. Walking up the tower is optional. Dress for the weather and bring extra layers — the top of the fire tower is extremely windy.
• Turkey Run State Park, noon to 1 p.m. Meet at the nature center for this 1 mile hike. This trail is rugged and potentially slippery. Hiking boots are required. Attendees must be able to lift their leg to a 90 degree angle. If the weather is not conducive for a hike into Rocky Hollow, a shorter and easier alternative will be offered.
• Versailles State Park, noon. Meet at the Oak Grove parking lot by the Trail 2 kiosk for hot chocolate and cider. At 12:30 p.m., the 2.75 mile hike over moderate terrain will start. Wear hiking shoes and appropriate clothes for weather.
• Whitewater Memorial State Park, 1 p.m. Meet at the Poplar Grove Shelter, 2.5 miles/moderate, approximately 90 minutes. While you hike, join in a trivia game with your friends and family. A warm fire, hot cocoa and s’mores will follow.
If you don’t see the property nearest you listed, check the website at calendar.dnr.IN.gov for updates.