First Day Hikes Start the New Year off on the Right Foot

Looking out the window at blowing gusts of snow while the thermometer reads five below zero, the idea of going for a hike isn’t top of mind. But temperatures are predicted to be back in the 50’s by New Year’s Day. After too many days indoors during the arctic blast, this is a perfect year to participate in a First Day Hike. 

Across the country, parks and recreation organizations, along with local, state and national parks are planning events around hikes on January 1, 2023. Stretching your legs and starting the new year off with physical activity outdoors is a great way to set the pace for the year. Resolutions often include getting in better shape and exercising more. Hiking on the first day helps set your mentality to accomplish both. 

Arkansas is known as the Natural State. It is a beautiful state in which to recreate outdoors, especially in the Buffalo River Region. Arkansas is home to 55,006 acres of state parks consisting of forest, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation facilities, and unique historic and cultural resources. 

“First Day Hikes have become a family tradition for many Arkansans,” said Shea Lewis, director of Arkansas State Parks. “Some families visit the same park every year while others pick a new park to visit each year. We applaud their efforts and challenge all Arkansans to join in and start a First Day Hikes tradition of their own.”

Hiking in a park is a very safe experience, but one must be prepared for the slight chance something could go wrong. Be sure to hike with essential safety items. Carry a first aid kit with you. Make sure you have plenty of water and food. Bring a map and compass, because cell phone batteries die. Don’t hike alone. 

The American Hiking Society offers several more tips for comfortable and successful First Day Hiking experiences, including: 

  • Dress in layers – Take several layers of clothes you can peel off or put on. Your base layer should be a wicking fabric that will pull your sweat away from the skin. Overheating is a dangerous threat since excessive moisture that isn’t allowed to escape can freeze and cause hypothermia.
  • Wear a hat – During the colder months it is important to keep your head covered to maintain function and not lose precious body heat. 
  • Don’t toss the sunscreen – While this is most important if you are hiking in a snowy region, winter hikers often forget about the sun’s glare reflecting off of white snow.
  • Be prepared for shorter days – Have a good idea of the usable daylight hours before going hiking. Always carry a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.

If you have young kids at home who have been spending too much of Christmas vacation starring at hand-held screens or playing video games, going for a family hike is a way to disconnect them from these activities. However, don’t feel like you have to force them to leave the phone behind. Doing so could make them resent the activity. Instead, if they insist on bringing their device, encourage them to use it to map the hike, monitor their progress, and to take pictures of the time spent together outdoors. Maybe those pictures will remind them of how much fun they had. 

See you down the trail…

Pic: A First Day Hike is a great way to begin the New Year outdoors focusing on improved health and wellness. 

For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on or anywhere podcasts are streamed.

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