Across the nation thousands of Americans started 2017 off on the “right foot” by attending a First Day Hike in America’s State Parks. On January 1, 2017, more than 1,300 First Day Hikes were offered in all 50 states from Alaska to Florida to 61,800 participants covering over 111,850 miles. “America’s state parks offer diverse and unique natural and cultural resources. First Day Hikes are a way park rangers, naturalists and volunteers can bring history to life and share their insights of nature,” said Ellen Graham, First Day Hikes Coordinator and Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. Iowa almost tripled the number of participants and miles hiked in 2016. This year they added nine new parks and the annual event is becoming a family friendly tradition with returning hikers in spite of the 30-degree temperatures.
As a hiker in a Washington State Park stated, "I like walking in the park in the winter, no snakes and no bugs, and it is so quiet I can hear my heartbeat."
Despite temperatures that never got above freezing in South Dakota, they saw the highest attendance in six years. Two parks got out the snowshoes and one even had cross-country skiers! In Montana with sub-zero temperatures and heavy falling snow in many areas, there were hearty souls hiking along the trails. Over 700 hikers braved 5-12 inches of snow in in New Hampshire parks and enjoyed the winter wildlife, spotting 3 bald eagles. In Hawaii some hikers began their trek to see the sunrise at 2:30 a.m. over the ocean with views of Molokai and Maui from 560-foot cliff top perches. Several states hosted fun runs and fitness challenges. In Indiana there were over 200 participants for a 3.5 mile run. As an Arkansas hiker stated, "We were here last year and enjoyed it so much we wanted to come back this year!"
### The National Association of State Park Directors promotes and advocates for the state park systems across America in providing for conservation and management of natural and cultural resources, quality outdoor recreation experiences, connecting children and families to nature and the outdoors, and more. With more than 10,200 park areas and visitation of 760 million annually, the economic impact to local communities is estimated to exceed $20 billion each year. America’s State Parks is an alliance of state park systems in all 50 states. Below is a brief video link from Hawaii on their pre-dawn hike, as well as a sampling of the media reports from various states.