First Day Hikes began as a way to get people outdoors. Now, over 400 hikes are scheduled in all 50 states to get kids and adults all across the country out and enjoying nature. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has over 100 hikes scheduled for New Year’s Eve and Day. Here are the ones we found happening close to Austin and Central Texas*:
Bastrop State Park – The Bastrop County Animal Shelter will bring dogs into the park to hike with park visitors on January 1, 2015. Come make the dog’s day as we hike along the trails, see the sights and discuss the various plants and animals of Bastrop State Park. You’re also welcome to bring your own (friendly) dog! They’ll be time for dog play, discussing hiking safely with dogs, and lots of time to get a chance to know these awesome shelter dogs. All dogs must remain on leashes. The event will begin at 2:00, with the hike at 2:30. The hike will be approximately 2 miles. Meet at the day use area by the playground.Visit the park after dark on New Year’s Day to experience the sounds of the night in the woods. We’ll walk approximately one mile on the Black, Red and Yellow trails, listening to the sounds of the night and potentially encountering nocturnal wildlife. As we walk, we’ll learn about the special adaptations that nocturnal animals possess. If the sky is clear, we might even discuss the moon that lights our way! Bring a flashlight, water and sturdy shoes. Some inclines and gravel, but a generally easy hike. Meet at the picnic area by the playground at 7pm.
Blanco State Park – Join us on New Year’s Day for a leisurely 1 mile hike along the Blanco River on the Caswell Nature Trail. All ages and pets encouraged to participate. Bring comfortable shoes, water, hat, sunscreen, and snacks. Start time is 10am.
Buescher State Park – Join a park ranger for a 1 mile guided hike at Buescher State Park. On this hike we’ll discuss birds, plants and other inhabitants of the park and also just enjoy the cool, brisk air. On a First Day Hike, you’ll be starting a new tradition with thousands of others across the United States. First Day Hikes occur in every state in the nation! Begins on New Year’s Day, and takes place from 9:30-10:30 am. Meet at Park Road 1C Parking Lot, north of the campgrounds. Bring comfortable shoes, water bottle, hiking stick (if desired), and sunscreen or bug repellent dependent upon weather conditions. Binoculars and a camera might also be useful. This will be a 45 minute to 1 hour hike. The trail is a 1 mile long loop so it will start and end in the same parking lot. There is also a First Day Ride starting at 11am. This ride will cover approximately 4 miles of ups and downs along winding single track trails through the pine and oak forest. We’ll meet at the new parking lot along Park Road 1C. All participants must stop at park headquarters to receive their entry permit. Bring your bike, water, helmet, etc. All participants must be 12 or older and provide their own bicycle. Maximum number of 15 participants. Previous off road bicycling experience encouraged. Pre-registration is required. To register, please call Buescher State Park at 512-237-2241 or e-mail Mick Haven at email@example.com.
Colorado Bend State Park – Come join Colorado Bend State Park, Central Texas Master Naturalists, and the Cooper Spring Nature Park team from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm as we enjoy the park on the first day of 2015. This park is a new addition to the Lampasas community. This 26 acre nature park offers tranquility, wildlife viewing, and a chance to enjoy the outdoors – all while being only 1 block from the Lampasas town square. We’ll have a hike, a nature program, and a campfire. Bring the entire family. Located on Hackberry Street between Ave. A and 2nd Street
Enchanted Rock – First day hikes will be going on throughout the day. Choose from the Loop Trail (4.5 miles), the Summit Trail (1.2 miles), Frontside Trail to Frog Pond (1.2 miles), or The Other Side of the Rock Hike (approx. 2.5 miles). These hikes will be going on every hour throughout the day starting at 9:00 am. Yoga will begin at 7:00 am, and a separate “Run with the Ranger” on the Loop Trail will start at 9:00 am. All hikes will begin at the Gazebo. Bring water, good shoes, clothing appropriate for the activity you choose whether it’s yoga, running, or hiking. Park entry is $7/per person age 13 and over; 12 and under are free. There is no cost to participate in any of these programs.
Garner State Park – Join us on 2.5 miles of scenic trails along the limestone hills of Garner State Park. We’ll hike up and down Old Baldy, explore the terrain along the Foshee Trail, visit the Old Rock Fence, rest on top of Painted Rock, and then make our way back down Bridges Trail. These trails vary in difficulty from moderate to very challenging. Children are welcome (age minimum 10 years). Healthy, friendly dogs are welcome (on a leash, please bring waste bags). Meet at the pavilion in the Oakmont camping area at 9am. Bring comfortable hiking shoes, water, hat (snacks optional). Return to the pavilion at noon. This event is FREE with paid park entrance fees. Later on that day, join us on 2 miles of scenic trails along limestone hills and the Frio River. We’ll hike along Wild Horse Creek Trail to Old Entrance Road, rest at an overlook with breathtaking canyon views, and walk the banks of the Frio on the Blinn River Trail. These trails vary in difficulty from easy to moderate. Children are welcome (age minimum 5 years). Friendly dogs are welcome (on a leash, please bring waste bags). Meet at the Visitor Center near Shady Meadows camping area at 2pm. Bring comfortable hiking shoes, water, hat (snacks optional). Return by 4pm to the Visitor Center. This event is FREE with paid park entrance fees.
Government Canyon State Natural Area – Join Government Canyon State Natural Area Rangers and Volunteers on either a hike, bike ride, or walk on the first day of the year. No matter which activity you choose, you will be able to boast being one of the First Visitors to enjoy the trails of Government Canyon in 2015. The Dino Track Hike is 7 miles and takes place from 9am-2pm. The Bluff Spurs Hike is 3 miles and happens from 9am until noon and also from 11:30am until 2:30pm. The Mountain Bike is 7 miles and runs from 10am until 1pm. All First Day activities are open to all ages; minors must be accompanied by an adult; no pets please. All hike group sizes are limited to the first 12 people who register; bike group size is limited to first 8 people who register. All bike participants must wear helmets. Dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes for hiking over rough terrain; bring two liters of water and a snack. Reservations are required and will be accepted through December 31, 2014. Sorry, no group reservations. Make your reservations online at http://friendsofgc.org/events/. Include names of each participant, age if under 18, email address and telephone number. Natural Areas fees apply. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (210) 688-9055. Ext 289. The First Day Black-eyed Pea Run is a beginner, 1 mile loop trail run for kids and begins at 2pm. Kids will get an award for finishing and starting the year off on a healthy note. There will be an aid station at 1/2 mile and finish equipped with refreshments. Event is free with park entry fee. Reservations are required – email email@example.com or call 210-688-9055 x292 to reserve a spot. Meet at Frontcountry Trailhead (Parking Lot C/Day Use Area).
Guadalupe River State Park – Join Friends board member and trained Honey Creek guide Tom Anderson for a special First Day hike through Honey Creek State Natural Area. This guided hike will give you the opportunity to view beautiful Honey Creek and learn about the cultural and natural history of this unique area. To participate in this hike, please be at the Rust House inside the park by 9 a.m. Please dress for the weather and wear sturdy hiking shoes. No reservations necessary. Later on that day, join us for a walk on the wild side of the Bauer Unit to welcome the new year. We’ll meet at Park Headquarters and drive to the Bauer Unit, hiking from there to the river and back. This hike will be between two and three miles in length. Be sure to dress for the weather, bring water and wear sturdy hiking shoes. This hike is for ages 10 and up. No reservations necessary.
Hill Country State Natural Area – On the morning of New Year’s Day 2015 (before the start of Cowgirl Round-up and Show-deo), the Hill Country State Natural Area is leading a FIRST DAY HIKE as part of a Texas Parks and Wildlife effort to get folks out for exercise and fun. This hike is a little more difficult and faster paced than the regular Nature Walks offered by the interpretive ranger. Be prepared to climb and hike a rocky trail and to stop occasionally for beautiful vistas. Your hike leader recommends that you wear a backpack with water, snacks, cell phone/camera, and layered clothing. Wear your best hiking footwear and bring a hiking stick and hat or cap. Monitor the weather report for your comfort because the hike will not be cancelled. Expect to be out enjoying the Natural Area for approximately two hours. Regular entry fees apply. Meet at headquarters at 9:45 to register. RSVP is always appreciated.
Inks Lake State Park – Join us for a 2.5-mile guided adventure hike led by park rangers. You will see gorgeous Hill Country vistas atop beautiful outcroppings that surround the lake. We will weave through oak forests, climb on rocks and leap over creek beds on our way to see Stumpy Hollow and the huge trees at Pecan Flats. Start a great tradition and get outdoors on the first day of the year. It will be fun for the whole family! Pay the entrance fee (children 12 and under are free) and then meet at the Pecan Flats trailhead right by headquarters. The program is free. Dogs welcome, but must be on a leash. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water and snacks. Don’t forget to dress for the weather!
Lake Somerville State Park – Nails Creek – This guided hike will take 30 to 45 minutes. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions. Meet at the Nails Creek State Park – open air pavilion. Bring water, insect repellent and any other items you may need. Wear comfortable shoes and loose-fitting clothing.
Lockhart State Park – Join our park Interpreter for a moderate 1-mile hike over the Creekview, Hilltop, and Chisolm trails. We’ll be on the lookout for important plants, birds, and other wildlife along the trails, and we’ll be talking a bit about the Civilian Conservation Corps, which built the park and parts of the trail we’ll be hiking on! The hike is open to the whole family, including any leashed pets. Please remember to bring water, and to wear weather-appropriate clothing as well as close-toed shoes or hiking boots. We will meet at the Creekview Trailhead, located at the far end of the camping area. There is parallel parking available at the roadside.
LBJ State Park and Historic Site – The hike will be approximately 2 to 2.5 miles in length. We will begin at the visitor’s center and hike to the Historic Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, which is set up as a working farm in the 1915-1918 time period. From there, we will hike to the LBJ statue, from which one can view the Texas White House, the home of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States of America. From there, we will travel to another historic homestead, the Danz cabins, which are set up as a mid-1800s dwelling. After viewing this dwelling, we will return to the Visitors Center and wrap up our hike.Meet at the State Park Visitors Center, 199 State Park Rd. 52, Stonewall, TX 78671, at 9 AM. This will be an easy to moderate difficulty hike on level terrain. Pets are welcome if they are on a six-foot leash. There is no minimum age for children, but they must be accompanied by an adult.
McKinney Falls State Park – Join a ranger for a nighttime exploration of McKinney Falls State Park on New Year’s Day. We will listen for owls, search for scorpions, and gaze at the stars. Water, hiking shoes, and warm dress are recommended. Not recommended for dogs. Begins at 6pm.
Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site – Park staff and volunteers will lead First Day Hikes through the park beginning at 10am. Weather permitting, different hikes will be led through the historic sites and along the scenic bluff that overlooks the Colorado River and the city of La Grange. Multiple hikes will include different levels of difficulty and length from an easy ½ mile walk to a more strenuous one mile hike. Bring a smile, good walking shoes/boots, weather appropriate clothing, and water. Pets are welcomed but must be on a leash at all times. Be prepared to clean up after your pet.
Mother Neff State Park – One-mile and three-mile hikes will begin at 10 a.m., and then again at 2 p.m. The one-mile hike will last one hour, while the three-mile hike will last about two hours. Join Retired Park Ranger Marianne Van Houtte on New Year’s Day for a hike at Mother Neff State Park. Nothing fancy is required; just a comfortable pair of shoes and a water bottle (dress for the weather). The first 100 people will receive a free bandanna. Pets are welcomed, but must be on a leash no longer than six feet. There is no charge for the guided hike; however, park entrance fees do apply.
Palmetto State Park – Join a park ranger for a First Day Hike at Palmetto SP, beginning at 2pm. We’ll complete 2 miles of easy hiking suitable for families. The trails take us from the Ottine Swamp to a nice stretch along the San Marcos River. You may want to bring a hiking stick, sturdy shoes and drinking water. After your hike, enjoy free coffee and hot chocolate around a campfire at the CCC Refectory building.
Pedernales Falls State Park – The first hike is approximately 5 miles and will take us to some places off the main trail to experience some of the coolest spots and best views that are along some of the trails that are so new that they aren’t even on the park map yet. Be sure to wear good hiking shoes & bring plenty of drinking water. Meet at 9am at the gravel parking area on County Road 201 marked with the orange cones. Stop by the park headquarters before the hike for directions and to obtain visitor permits. Two other hikes are posted later on New Year’s Day: one at 2pm and one at 4pm. At the 2pm hike, take a one-mile hike down to the Pedernales Falls to see how the awesome forces of nature formed this spectacular site. The hike is fairly rugged and steep so be sure to wear good walking shoes and bring plenty of drinking water. Meet in the Falls Parking Area. At 4pm, you can join a ranger for a short (1/2 mile) hike to one of the most special areas in the park. We will talk about some of the interesting plants and animals that call the park home while hiking to the Twin Falls scenic overlook. The trail is fairly rugged so be sure to wear good walking shoes and bring along plenty of water to drink along the way. Meet at the Nature Trail parking lot in the camping loop at 2pm, by site number 21.
*This information was posted on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website, so we’d recommend contacting the park to confirm details before you head out.