Usher in 2024 with other outdoor lovers at one of the many First Day Hikes offered Jan. 1 at Indiana’s state parks and lakes.
First Day Hikes are a healthy way to start the new year. They offer a chance to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, and connect with friends. Find one near you at on.IN.gov/INStateParkEvents.
The hikes are organized by Indiana State Parks in cooperation with America’s State Parks. They will take place in all 50 states. First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to foster healthy lifestyles and promote year-round recreation at state parks. For more information, visit America’s State Parks website at stateparks.org.
In addition to the hikes, Indiana state park inns will be open for meals. Abe Martin Lodge at Brown County State Park, Clifty Inn at Clifty Falls State Park, Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park, and Turkey Run Inn at Turkey Run State Park will have a brunch beginning at 10 a.m. The Garrison at Fort Harrison State Park and Canyon Inn at McCormick’s Creek State Park invite hungry hikers to check out their great salad bars. More information is at IndianaInns.com.
The hikes are listed below. More may be added, so check the website if your favorite place isn’t listed. Make sure to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes on all hikes and dress for the weather.
- Brookville Lake. Meet at the Campground Shelter at Mounds State Recreation Area at 11 a.m. to hike the Wildlife Wander Trail, a .75-mile hike that should take approximately 45 minutes.
- Brown County State Park. First Day hike and ride are available. The self-guided hike will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Start at the Nature Center and walk or bike to the CCC Vista. There will be a fire and hot chocolate nearby. Horseback riders can enjoy a group ride at 11 a.m., meeting at the Green Horne Shelter.
- Chain O’Lakes State Park. Meet at the Boat Rental Parking Lot at 11 a.m. This guided hike is about 1.5 miles over easy terrain and should last about 1.5 hours. Hot cocoa and cookies will be served after the hike as long as they last.
- Charlestown State Park. Meet at the parking lot for trails 3 and 4 at 10 a.m. for a 2.5-mile hike to Rose Island. This hike takes approximately two hours and is considered moderately rugged.
- Clifty Falls State Park. Meet at Clifty Shelter at 10 a.m. The two-hour moderately rugged hike is along Trail 8, which meanders along the west side of Clifty Creek and provides scenic views of the canyon below. Refreshments will be provided after the hike.
- Deam Lake State Recreation Area. Meet at the Lake Vista trailhead at 10 a.m. This hike is rugged with some short, steep stretches that lead to rock outcroppings and the property’s highest point. Refreshments and prizes will be provided after the hike. At noon, there will be a trail ride beginning at the Oak Barn in the Horse Campground along the 6-mile Deam Horse Trail loop.
- Falls of the Ohio State Park. Meet at the Interpretive Center at 1 p.m. for an exploration hike to the fossil beds. Learn about Devonian sea life as well as plants and animals that live along the river’s edge. Bring binoculars to look for winter birds. The Interpretive Center will offer access to restrooms before and after the hike but will otherwise be closed.
- Fort Harrison State Park. Meet at Delaware Lake Shelter at 1 p.m. for a 2-mile hike on Harrison Trace, a paved trail. Hot chocolate will be provided while supplies last.
- Hardy Lake. Meet at the Main trailhead for a 3-mile moderate hike at 11 a.m. to learn about the land before the lake.
- Harmonie State Park. Meet at the campground overflow parking lot at 1 p.m. CT for a hike of Trail 5. Hot cocoa and cookies will be available afterward.
- Indiana Dunes State Park. Meet at the Nature Center for a hike along Trail 7 from 10 a.m. to noon CT. See the park landscapes and learn about park history. Enjoy snacks and a cozy campfire provided by Friends of the Indiana Dunes.
- Interlake Off-road State Recreation Area. Participants are encouraged to festively decorate their ORVs for a parade through the park. The ride will leave Big Kate Shelter in the main parking lot at 10 a.m. CT and will conclude with a group photo. Participants must provide their own ORV. All ORV rules and regulations apply.
- Lieber State Recreation Area. Meet at the Hilltop Shelter for a 1-mile hike at 10 a.m. Bring binoculars for birdwatching. Hot chocolate, cookies, and a warm fire will be available afterward.
- Lincoln State Park. Meet at the Nature Center at noon CT for a 2-mile hike around Lake Lincoln.
- McCormick’s Creek State Park. Two hikes, one rugged and one moderate, will be offered. Meet at Canyon Inn at 11 a.m. for a hike of Trail 4 (rugged). Meet at Canyon Inn at 2 p.m. for a moderate hike to the waterfall. There will also be a photo contest from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Multiple age categories will be judged anonymously by a volunteer panel. Each winner will receive a 2024 annual entrance pass. Registration card will include submission instructions.
- Mississinewa Lake. Join Upper Wabash Interpretive Services staff at 10 a.m. at the Blue Heron Trail in Miami State Recreation Area for a 1-mile stroll through the woods. Dress for the weather. Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome, too. Advance registration is requested by calling 260-468-2127.
- Monroe Lake. Meet at the Bay View Shelter in Fairfax State Recreation Area for the annual First Day Trail Run/Walk. Registration/check-in runs from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m., and the untimed run/walk starts at 3:30 p.m. Participants can choose from a 1.3-, 2.9-, or 3.7-mile course. Advance registration is available through Dec. 30 for $15. at bit.ly/monroefirstday and includes a hot foods station, event patch for the first 300 registrants, and an entry to the prize drawing. Same-day registration is $20, cash or check only.
- Mounds State Park. Meet at the Nature Center at 5:30 p.m. The naturalist will lead a hike to the Great Mound. The hike is easy to moderate and will last approximately 45 minutes. The Nature Center will open at 4:30 p.m. to welcome hikers.
- O’Bannon Woods State Park. The park’s “Walk with an Ox” will be at the Nature Center at 10 a.m. Meet oxen Gump, Cash, and Carter, and donkeys Garth and Gracie. The walk will be on a roadway for about 1 mile. Refreshments and photo opportunities will be available afterward.
- Ouabache State Park. Meet at the bison enclosure parking lot at 10 a.m. for a hike around the bison enclosure. The hike is on a mostly level gravel surface and includes a stop at the feeding station to observe the bison up close.
- Patoka Lake. Meet at the Nature Center at noon for a hike of Trail 4, along which you will learn about prescribed burns. Hot chocolate will be available afterward, and a drawing for a 2024 annual entrance pass will take place.
- Pokagon State Park. Enjoy a self-guided 2.5-mile hike through the park’s beautiful winter landscapes. The hike will begin and end at the CCC Shelter, where refreshments and a cozy fire will be provided by Friends of Pokagon from 2-4 p.m. Parking is available in the Main Beach parking lot and near the basketball courts. No modern restrooms will be available near the CCC shelter, but a vault toilet will be open.
- Potato Creek State Park. This 1-mile, moderate hike on Trial 3 meets at Quaken Aspen Shelter at 1:30 p.m. and takes about an hour. Please wear hiking or snow boots. This hike has vistas of Potato Creek and Worster Lake. Bring binoculars to enjoy eagles and other wildlife.
- Prophetstown State Park. Meet at the Coneflower Shelter in Prairie View Picnic Area at 1 p.m. for an easy 2-mile hike. Afterward, enjoy hot chocolate and apple cider by the fire. This hike will also be offered on Jan. 2 at 1 p.m.
- Raccoon State Recreation Area. Meet at 1 p.m. at the Payne Shelterhouse for a hike of Trail 1.
- Redbird Off-road State Recreation Area. Meet at the office at 3 p.m. for a motorized “hike” along Trail 3.
- Shades State Park. Meet at 2 p.m. for a rugged hike of Trail 1.
- Salamonie Lake. Hike along Salamonie Lake’s Tree Trail and enjoy s’mores afterward. Meet at the Interpretive Center at 5 p.m.
- Shakamak State Park. Meet at the Group Camp Mess Hall at 1 p.m. for a hike on Trail 2. Hot chocolate and cookies will be provided afterward.
- Spring Mill State Park. Two hikes, one long and one short, will be available. The long hike begins at 9 a.m. at the Donaldson Cave parking lot. It is moderately rugged and should take about 90 minutes to complete. The short option is a 30-minute hike on the paved Trail 6 and begins at 9:30 a.m. Meet at the Grissom Memorial. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served at the activity center after both hikes.
- Starve Hollow State Recreation Area. Meet at the Forest Education Center at 10 a.m. for a 1-mile walk around the campground to spot wildlife and discuss winter survival. Light refreshments will be provided afterward.
- Summit Lake State Park. Meet at the park office at 9 a.m. to get a photo with Smokey Bear and enjoy coffee and snacks. At 10 a.m., join park staff for a prairie hike.
- Tippecanoe River State Park. Meet at the fire tower parking lot at noon for this 1/2-mile hike, which will include a talk on where the local fauna goes during the winter.
- Turkey Run State Park. Meet at the nature center at 2 p.m. for a guided hike on the “Best Trail in the Midwest” (Trail 3). Learn about some of Turkey Run’s geology along the way on this very rugged trail. Bundle up and bring plenty of water.
- Versailles State Park. Meet at the Mountain Bike trailhead at 11 a.m. for a challenging 3.8-mile hike on the Shadow Run Mountain Bike Trail. Refreshments provided afterward at Trailside Shelter.
- Whitewater Memorial State Park. Meet at Poplar Grove Shelter at 2 p.m. for a 2.5-mile hike of the Memorial Loop Trail that should take approximately 90 minutes.
SOURCE: News release from Indiana Department of Natural Resources