TOPEKA – On New Year’s Day, Kansas state park staff want to help you get some exercise and experience some of Kansas’ finest hiking trails. First Day Hike events will be held at 19 Kansas state parks, and all hikers get a free “Hike Local” long-sleeved t-shirt.
“It’s just an amazing way to get things started for a New Year,” said Linda Lanterman, Parks Division director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “It’s great for people to get out into nature on the first day of the year. We’ve found people who go on these First Day Hikes are very likely to come back and do more hiking throughout the year. For many, that First Day Hike has been the first time they’ve hiked in a state park. It’s a fantastic introduction.”
Kansas’ 28 state parks offer access to more than 1,000 miles of Kansas hiking, cycling and horseback trails – ranging from short, paved paths to the 117-mile Flint Hills Trail.
First Day Hike outings are generally a mile or two of family-friendly terrain. Park staff lead the treks to help educate hikers along the way. Many hikes will be along the shores of large lakes, pass through tall, rugged woodlands and across native prairie. Odds of seeing bald eagles and other wildlife are high, so bring your binoculars.
First Day Hikes began in Massachusetts about 25 years ago. All states, including Kansas, came on board in 2012. Many are held in Canada, too. At many First Day Hike events, participants are invited to the park office for refreshments and snacks at the end of the hike, but hikers are encouraged to bring their own water and snacks to enjoy during the outing. Leashed pets are also welcome. Children must have adult supervision.
The guided hikes are free but participants need a vehicle permit to drive into the park. Daily passes are $5 and sold at self-serve stations in the park. Some park offices will be open to sell daily passes or $25 annual passes. Parkgoers can also purchase a 12-month Kansas State Parks Passport (annual pass) when registering a vehicle.
Consider attending a First Day Hike near you. More information, including news if hikes are cancelled due to weather, may be found on select state park Facebook pages.
- Cheney State Park – Meet at the park office at 2 p.m. for the three-quarter-mile West Side Nature Trail hike; easy to moderate terrain. All ages welcome.
- Clinton State Park – Meet at the park office at 1 p.m. to hike on the North Shore Trail. The two-mile route is moderate terrain ideal for hikers age five and older.
- Crawford State Park – Meet at the beach shelter house at 10 a.m. to hike the two-mile Spider Leg Bridge Trail, which includes moderate terrain suited for all ages.
- Cross Timbers State Park – Meet at the Chautauqua Hills Trail trailhead at 2 p.m. to hike 1.5 miles over moderate terrain. Hikers of all ages are welcome.
- El Dorado State Park – Meet at the Walnut River Cabins at 1 p.m. for a two-mile Walnut River Trail hike. The easy to moderate terrain is perfect for hikers of all ages.
- Elk City State Park – Meet at 8 a.m. at the Green Thumb Trail trailhead for a 3-mile hike over moderate terrain open to hikers of all ages.
- Fall River State Park – Meet at the Quarry Bay maintenance shop at 2 p.m. to hike the three-quarter-mile Post Oak Trail. The moderate terrain is ideal for all ages of hikers.
- Flint Hills State Park – Meet at the old depot in Ottawa at 2 p.m. to hike 2 miles of easy terrain perfect for all ages.
- Glen Elder State Park – Meet at the historic church at 9 a.m. to hike the 4-mile Waconda Trail. Hikers of all ages will enjoy this easy trail.
- Hillsdale State Park – Meet at the park office at 10:30 a.m. to hike on the Hidden Springs Nature Trail. The 1.5 miles of easy terrain is recommended for hikers age six and up.
- Kanopolis State Park – Meet at the park office at 10 a.m. to hike the Split Boulder Trail. The 1.6-mile trail can be negotiated by all ages of hikers.
- Meade State Park – Meet at the park office at 2 p.m. for the Eagle Trail hike. All ages are welcome for the 1.25-mile trail of easy terrain.
- Milford State Park – Meet at the group shelter parking at 1 p.m. to hike on the Eagle Ridge Trail. The 2.75-mile trail includes easy to moderate terrain and is open to hikers of all ages.
- Perry State Park – Meet at the Lake View parking lot at10 a.m. to hike the 2.5-mile Nature Trail. The easy to moderate terrain is recommended for hikers age eight and older.
- Pomona State Park – Meet at the park office at 2 p.m. for a 1.5-mile hike around several campgrounds. All ages of hikers are welcome to enjoy the easy to moderate terrain.
- Prairie Dog (Norton) State Park – Meet at the Nature Trail parking lot at 9 a.m. for a 1.25-mile hike over easy terrain open to all ages.
- Sand Hills State Park – Meet at the park office/cabin at 10 a.m. to hike the 1-mile Dune and Prairie trails, which include easy to moderate terrain.
- Tuttle Creek State Park – Meet at the park office at 10:30 a.m. to hike the Western Heritage Trail. This hike is open to hikers of all ages and includes easy terrain over 1 to 1.5 miles.
- Wilson State Park – Meet at the Cedar Trail parking lot at 1 p.m. to hike over easy terrain
Credit: Kansas Wildlife Parks and Tourism