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Start the new year in a Pa. state park with a First Day Hike

John Delcamp cross country skis along the edge of the frozen Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park while temperatures were in the single digits, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Portersville, Pa.
Keith Srakocic
John Delcamp cross country skis along the edge of the frozen Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park in January 2018, in Portersville, Pa.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will host dozens of guided hikes in state parks and forests on Jan. 1 to help ring in the new year.

The hikes are part of the national First Day Hikes program, which encourages people to start the new year by getting outside. First Day Hikes were first organized by the National Association of State Park Directors and have been held in all 50 states, including Pennsylvania, since 2012.

“Even though most people think of the outdoors as somewhere you go in the spring and summer and maybe late fall, winter is a great time to get outside as well and do outdoor recreation,” said DCNR press secretary Wesley Robinson, adding that winter camping, cross country skiing, and other outdoor activities are available in state parks in the winter.

“We don’t just shut down because the weather is cold outside. There’s plenty of stuff going on at state parks across Pennsylvania.”

Staff, educators and volunteers in 34 state parks and three state forests will lead nearly 60 guided hikes, including a sunset walk in Laurel Hill state park and pet-friendly hikes in Cook Forest and Sinnemahoning state parks.

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Many of the hikes are fairly easy and aimed at first-timers. Guides will point out wildlife and talk about conservation and climate change.

“But, you know, if you do want to do something more difficult or spend more time, that’s another benefit,” said Robinson. “You’ll have people there who can tell you where to go hike and maybe get a more difficult hike in or try something different.”

Other parks have trails with different levels of difficulty for hikers looking to challenge themselves.

“First Day Hikes are a great way to start the new year in natural spaces, which we [are] hopeful will continue throughout the year,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in a statement. “These hikes are also a reminder our state parks and forests are open for healthy outdoor adventures in all four seasons. I encourage Pennsylvanians, and those visiting for the holidays, to consider taking a hike and to make the time to connect with park staff and like-minded outdoors enthusiasts. Now is the perfect time to begin building meaningful bond[s] with our public lands.”

Robinson said the First Day Hikes can be a helpful introduction to state parks for novices and people who want to spend more time outdoors. During a guided hike, state park employees act almost like a “personal trainer,” Robinson said.

“It’s a person who can guide you through and get you set up with the very basics for the day,” he said.

Hikers should dress for the weather in warm and comfortable clothes and may want to bring water or a snack.

To find a participating state park and register for a hike, go to Find a full list of participating parks here.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at