Pierre, SD – Start the New Year off right with a nature hike. Four South Dakota State Parks are hosting hikes on New Year’s Day as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.

America’s State Parks First Day Hikes offer individuals and families opportunities to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking healthy hikes on Jan.1 at a state park close to home. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family.

“We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks,” said State Parks Director Doug Hofer. “The First Day Hikes are a great way to cure cabin fever and burn off those extra holiday calories with an invigorating walk or hike in one of our beautiful state parks.”

“What better way to kick off the New Year than with a hike at a state park?” said Ruth Coleman, President of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD). “Think of it as the start of a new and healthy lifestyle for the whole family. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, join us at one of America’s State Parks on New Year’s Day.”

The nationwide program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year-round recreation at state parks. This is the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

In South Dakota, First Day hikes include:

  • Riddle Hike, Newton Hills State Park, sunrise to sunset
    Grab your hiking boots, snowshoes or skis and head out to the park for a self-guided winter adventure! Stop at the welcome center at the park entrance during daylight hours and grab a scavenger hunt list and instructions from the provided dispenser near the front door. It will guide you to items strategically placed throughout the park. See how many you can find. Fun for the whole family! Info: 605-368-6824
  • Wonderful Winter Walk, Palisades State Park, 3 p.m. CT
    Join us on a winter walk through Split Rock Creek Trail. Discover nature in the winter. There will be snowshoes to try and fun activities along the way. We’ll warm up with a fire and hot apple cider and hot chocolate at the lodge afterwards. Dress for the weather, with warm coats, gloves, hats, good winter walking shoes/boots, and an extra pair of dry socks. The walk begins at the lodge. Info: 605-594-3824
  • New Year’s Get out and Go, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 1-4 p.m. CT
    Grab your cross country skis, snowshoes or hiking boots and head out to Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve from 1-4 p.m. CT. Stop by the Visitor Center and grab a scavenger hunt list and instructions from the provided dispenser near the front door. While traveling on skis or foot, visitors will find items throughout the park. A great way to get the family outdoors for some winter fun and exercise! Info: 605-232-0873
  • First Day Out, Custer State Park, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. MT
    Start the New Year with a refreshing self-guided trek on the trails of Custer State Park. Stop at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. MT, and we’ll help you on your way. Pick up a scavenger hunt list, check out snowshoes for free, or grab a trail guide to help you explore a new trail. Prizes to those who finish the scavenger hunt. Info: 605-255-4464

In addition to those organized events, Hofer encourages people to go to their local parks for hikes. South Dakota state parks are open year-round, and the 2011 Park Entrance License is valid until May.

“Studies have proven that getting outdoors is a good way to relax and recharge the body, mind and spirit,” Hofer said. “We hope that hiking along a trail in a state park will become part of an individual’s or family’s regular exercise routine.”

America’s State Parks is committed to promoting outdoor recreation in state parks as a way to address obesity, especially among children. Getting kids outside and unplugged from video games and other electronic media creates a unique connection with nature that promotes physical and mental well-being and encourages creativity and stewardship of our shared resources.

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