Hike into the New Year

“First Day” hikes available in state parks

Afton State Park

ST. PAUL — Minnesota will offer free, guided hikes in four state parks on New Year’s Day Tuesday as part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s state parks to get people outdoors, according to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“First Day Hikes” are scheduled in all 50 states. State park directors across the country are encouraging friends and families to participate.

“The hikes are an invigorating way to start the New Year,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the Minnesota DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “The exercise burns extra calories, cures cabin fever and is a great way to connect with friends and family while enjoying the outdoors.”

“Last year, we hosted more than 14,000 people who hiked more than 30,000 miles in our state parks across the country,” said Priscilla Geigis, president of the National Association of State Park Directors. “To start 2013, we’re inviting kids and adults to get their hearts pumping and experience the beauty of our state parks at one of more than 400 hikes nationwide.”

The hikes are scheduled at these Minnesota state parks on Tuesday:

Afton State Park in Hastings, 1-2:30 p.m.: Join park naturalist and Minnesota State Parks and Trails director on hike to find one thing that inspires or intrigues participants or increases their awareness.

Lake Carlos State Park in Alexandria, 1-4 p.m.:A naturalist will guide hikers through the park and talk about its history, natural resources and cultural significance. Bring snowshoes if conditions warrant (rentals are available; call ahead to reserve a pair, 320-852-7200). Meet at the Lake View Group Camp (near the beach).

Minneopa State Park in Mankato, 10-11:30 a.m.: An area naturalist will lead a hike from the Upper Falls to the Minneopa Creek Gorge and will discuss the natural and historical significance of the area. Meet at the picnic shelter on the falls side of the park.

Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton, 1-2:30 p.m.: A naturalist will lead a snowshoe hike through the park (child and adult snowshoe rentals are available; call ahead to reserve a pair, 218-384-4610, ext. 229). Hikers will meet at the River Inn Interpretive Center.

All “First Day Hikes” are free with a valid state park vehicle permit ($5 per daily or $25 annually). The new 2013 Minnesota State Park vehicle permit, which features a photograph of Sakatah Lake State Park, is available for purchase Tuesday at state park offices.

Visit the DNR events calendar to find more outdoor-oriented programs scheduled at state parks in 2013.

Minnesota features dozens of premier cross-country ski trails and many of its state parks groom trails. Snow depth and trail condition information from Minnesota’s state parks, state trails and state forests is made available on DNR website. Visit the DNR’s skiing page to find parks that groom trails and offer ski rentals.

For more information, including directions to the parks, visit the DNR’s website or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Additional information on America’s state parks “First Day Hikes” is available online.