Celebrate the new year with fun, fresh air and scenic views by participating in a First Day Hike in one of America’s state parks. These guided hikes are organized annually from Hawaii to Maine to encourage individuals and families to start the year on the right foot – by getting outside and connecting with nature. Several Missouri state parks and historic sites are participating in this national initiative again.
This year there are more than 1,000 hikes available in state parks around the country. The distance and rigor of the hikes vary from park to park, but they all aim to create a fun experience for the whole family. Savor the beauty of the natural, cultural and historic resources our state parks offer, and be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.
“I am thrilled to see the continued growth and success of the First Day Hikes program,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors. “This initiative has become a cherished tradition, providing individuals and families with the opportunity to embrace the outdoors, and kick off the year with a commitment to health and well-being.”
Hikers can choose guided hikes that fit their comfort level, including mountain and hill climbs, walks along lakes, exploring trails that wind through forests, and wildlife expeditions. If hiking isn’t within your interest or ability, explore the other offerings at state parks near you, from boating or fishing to horseback riding, or simply enjoying a peaceful moment from a park picnic table or bench. There is something for everyone in our nation’s parks.
First Day Hikes began more than three decades ago at the Blue Hills Reservation state park in Massachusetts in 1992. Since 2012, all 50 states have participated. America’s State Parks hopes to make 2024 a record-breaking year as the annual event approaches major milestones, including inching closer to 1 million miles hiked and 500,000 participants in the program’s history.
The following hikes are planned for Jan. 1 at Missouri state parks and historic sites:
Bennett Spring State Park, 26250 Highway 64A, Lebanon. Join the team at the trailhead at 10 a.m. for a 7.4-mile hike on the Natural Tunnel Trail.
Big Sugar State Park, 6727 Big Sugar Creek Road, Pineville. The 3.3-mile hike begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Ozark Chinquapin Trail Trailhead.
Nathan and Olive Boone Homestead State Historic Site, 7850 N. State Highway V, Ash Grove. Starting at 2 p.m., hikers will gather at the picnic shelter to go a 2-mile hike.
Bryant Creek State Park, 1204 Private Drive 3422, Ava. Starting at noon, participants will hike the 3.25-mile Pike Hollow Trail.
Crowder State Park, 76 NE Highway 128, Trenton. Participants can choose from two hikes here. The first hike will begin at 10 a.m. with a 3.2-mile trek on Tall Oaks Trail. Meet at Shelter 3 parking lot. For those who want to sleep in, the second hike begins at 1 p.m. with a 3.8-mile hike on the Thompson River North Loop. Hikers will meet at the Equestrian Parking Lot.
Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park, 800 Guy Park Drive, Wildwood. Meet at the Guy Park Trailhead at 10 a.m. to hike the 2-mile Dogwood Trail.
Graham Cave State Park, 217 Highway TT, Danville. At 9 a.m., guests can meet at the Park Visitor Center for a 1-mile hike.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park, 1491 State Road D, Camdenton. Meet at the Lake Parking Lot at 9 a.m. to hike the Spring Trail.
Hawn State Park, 12096 Park Drive, Ste. Genevieve. At 2 p.m., guests will meet at the White Oaks Trail Trailhead for a 2-mile hike.
Jefferson Landing State Historic Site, 100 Jefferson St., Jefferson City. Meet at the Lohman Building at 1 p.m. for 1.5-mile hike over sidewalks and bridges.
Katy Trail/Rock Island state parks, Katy Trail Trailhead in Windsor. Hikers should plan for a 2-mile hike starting at 1 p.m. at the Katy Trail Mile Marker 248 or GPS coordinates of 38.535939, -93.524355.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park, 403 Highway 134, Kaiser. Starting at noon, hikers should meet at the Hidden Springs Trail Trailhead for the 2.5-mile trek.
Mastodon State Historic Site, 1050 Charles J. Becker Drive, Imperial. For a shorter hike, try this 0.8-mile loop on the Spring Branch Trail starting at 2 p.m.
Meramec State Park, 115 Meramec Drive, Sullivan. For a 3-mile hike, meet at 11 a.m. at the Visitor Center.
Missouri Mines State Historic Site, 4000 State Highway 32, Park Hills. This 1-mile hike starts at 9 a.m.
Montauk State Park, 345 CR 6670, Salem. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Nature Center for this 2-mile hike.
Roaring River State Park, 12716 Farm Road 2239, Cassville. Starting at 1 p.m., visitors should meet at the Devil’s Kitchen Trail Trailhead, which is across the river from the CCC Lodge. This trail covers 1.5 miles.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, 5901 S. Highway 163, Columbia. Several options are available here. The first follows 1.75 miles along the Sinkhole Trail and Devil’s Icebox. Two more begin at noon, with one on the 3.75-mile Deer Run Trail and the other along the 2.5-mile Gans Creek Wild Area. The day wraps up with a 2:30 p.m. hike along the Grassland Trail, which covers 2 miles. Once you register, you will receive instructions on where to meet.
St. Francois State Park, 8920 US Highway 67N, Bonne Terre. Meet at the trailhead in the campground at 1 p.m. to hike the 3.15-mile Swimming Deer Trail.
St. Joe State Park, 2800 Pimville Road, Park Hills. Starting at Shelter 6 at Monsanto Lake, hikers will meet at 1 p.m. to cover 1.25 miles.
Table Rock State Park, 5272 State Highway 165, Branson. At noon, hikers will begin at the Lakeshore Trail Trailhead to hike 2 miles.
Thousand Hills State Park, 20431 State Highway 157, Kirksville. Meet at 10 a.m. at the trailhead by the lake to hike the 2-mile Red Bud Trail.
Harry S Truman State Park, 28761 State Park Road, Warsaw. Gather at noon to hike the 1-mile 1000th Mile Trail.
Wakonda State Park, 32836 State Park Road, La Grange. For a 2-mile hike, meet at 10 a.m. at the Jasper Lake Trail Parking Lot.
Washington State Park, 13041 State Highway D 104, De Soto. Join team members for a 1.5-mile “Hike, Bike or Trike” event. The fun starts at 1 p.m. at the Thunderbird Lodge. Here, participants can hike, bike or trike down the trail.
Preregistration is required for all hikes, as some have a maximum number of hikers who can be accommodated. To register, visit icampmo.com.