Whether your goals for the New Year include getting healthier, losing weight, getting outside more or finding better balance in your life, starting the year off with a trip into nature for a First Day Hike is a wonderful way to kick-start those goals!

While the holiday season can be a rewarding time to get closer to family and friends and enjoy the many festivities happening around us, it can also be an extremely stressful period. Between travel, shopping, cooking, traffic, etc., it can be enough to raise your blood pressure and lower your mood! So how do you get rid of this stress? The answer can be as simple as (not to mention affordable) stepping outside! There is overwhelming evidence that getting out into nature has countless benefits for both body and mind. For that reason, doctors in Scotland have even started prescribing nature to their patients to help manage a myriad of health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression!

How to start the new year right with a First Day Hike by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it Baby

Join a First Day Hike

With New Year’s Day marking the end of the holiday season, it is the perfect time to start reaping the benefits of nature to help us let go of that holiday stress and get back to the balance of life. That’s where First Day Hikes come in. What started as a local movement in Massachusetts in 1992 grew into a nationwide program in 2012. On New Year’s Day, State Parks in all 50 states offer free, guided hikes and walks within their park boundaries. The intention of these hikes is to provide a means for individuals and families to celebrate the New Year by getting outside and connecting with the nature and history of their area. According to the America’s State Parks website, “People are invited to savor the beauty of the state park’s natural resources with the comfort of an experienced guide so they may be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.” Check out their interactive map to find a First Day Hike at a State Park near you.

Adopt a new family tradition

The First Day Hike movement has shifted beyond just state parks to individuals starting their own traditions everywhere. Here are just a few examples from members within our Hike it Baby community of how they have made (or plan to make) First Day Hikes a tradition in their own families:

• Patricia, Montgomery and Chester Counties Branch: We have been doing free hikes at state parks for the past few years. We do different parks every year. We live in Pennsylvania but are thinking of trying a new park in Delaware this coming year!

• Elizabeth, Holland MI Branch: Since age 18 (almost twenty years ago), I’ve ended and began my years with hikes. On New Year’s Eve, I like to go to the beach for a hike, sit on the beach with my boys, and take some moments to reflect on the past year and upcoming year. It’s a beautifully peaceful way to close out a year, and especially those that were more difficult years than others. We wake up New Year’s Day and go right back out to start our year on the trail!

• Becca, Kitsap Peninsula Branch: Growing up, my family would take long walks/hikes on January 1, planning out our “New Year’s Resolutions” and discussing how we plan to make the year a great one. I have continued this tradition with my own little family, and we try to plan out some small goals (like hike as many new trails as possible) and some bigger ones (like partaking in the 52 Hike Challenge or hiking a bigger mountain) as we enjoy our “nature therapy.”

• Vong, Kansas City Branch: Even though we just spent the entire evening on New Year’s Eve together, the whole extended family – ages ranging from infant up to 70 – gets out for a first-day hike at a local nature sanctuary and get in a few miles. Consequently, everyone feels so renewed during and after the hike.

• Laura, La Crosse Branch: Our branch is joining my favorite local hiking spot – Perrot State Park – for their First Day Hike/Snowshoe event! I’m excited to hopefully get some new families out on the trails with us who have the day off work! 2019 is going to be full of adventures – I can feel it!

• Suzanne, Tulsa Branch: This year I might do a moms-only sunrise hike with my branch!

Do you have any First Day Hike traditions? Do you plan on hitting the trails on January 1 with a local state park or with your family? Let us know in the comments below!

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Picture by Stephanie Jacobson.

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