December 25, 2018

Start the New Year with Arkansas First Day Hikes

The New Year is often a time of reflection on the past as well as a time of planning to make a change in the future. As it marks the end of a holiday season filled with turkey and trimmings, cookies, candies, and general overindulgence — the New Year is also a time of resolve to get fit and healthy. The television will be filled with commercials promoting the latest diet or fitness craze. Store displays will feature meal replacement options, fancy exercise equipment and promises for a “New You!” The hype is rarely more than just hype and reality tells us that one of the best ways to get fit and healthy is to get up and move. Luckily, many Arkansas State Parks are hosting Arkansas First Day Hikes to help you do just that.

The concept of First Day Hikes began in Massachusetts in 1992. Patrick Flynn, the former supervisor for the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts just outside of Boston was concerned about the decrease in tourism at Massachusetts State Parks during the winter months. Flynn recalled working at a park in Ohio in the 1970s that offered free guided hikes during February. He believed if he offered the same but included the invitation of a bowl of hot soup following the hike, people would come to the park. Flynn was right, and over 380 people attended the inaugural First Day Hike at Blue Hills Reservation in Massachusetts on January 1, 1992.

Massachusetts continued to grow their program over the years and in 2011, Priscilla Geigis, Director of State Parks and Recreation for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, reached out to other state park directors in the Northeast, encouraging them to offer First Day Hikes in their own states. Park directors across the nation heard about the program and embraced the idea. On January 1, 2012, more than 400 First Day Hikes were hosted in parks across all 50 states.

Many Arkansas State Parks have participated in the First Day Hikes initiative since 2012 and will continue to do so this year. Below is a list of scheduled First Day Hikes at Arkansas State Parks. If your local state park is not listed, please check with your park office. Additionally, many city parks and local trail systems not managed by Arkansas State Parks are also offering First Day Hikes.

Lake Fort Smith State Park — Mountainburg

Meeting Place: Visitor Center
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.
Trail: Start the year right by joining a park interpreter at the visitor center for a short trek on the Ozark Highlands Trail to see our seasonal waterfall! Be prepared for a fun, moderate 1 ¼-mile hike. Don’t forget to bring water and a snack, dress in layers, and wear sturdy shoes.

Petit Jean State Park — Morrilton

Meeting Place: Bear Cave Parking Area
Admission: Free
Time: 8:30 a.m. — 9:15 a.m.
Trail: Join Park Interpreter BT at the Bear Cave parking area for an interesting walk among the giant sandstone boulders and slot canyons of the Bear Cave area. This is a relatively easy ½-mile hike that is great for the whole family. Please wear sturdy shoes and dress warmly. This program will last about 45 minutes.

Meeting Place: Cedar Falls Overlook Parking
Admission: Free
Time: 11:15 a.m. — 11:45 a.m.
Trail: Join Park Interpreter BT at the Cedar Falls Overlook parking area for this easy, handicap accessible, ¼-mile stroll. We will talk about some of the things that make Petit Jean State Park a special place, as well as enjoy the view of Cedar Falls from the overlook. This program lasts about 30 minutes.

Meeting Place: Rock House Cave Parking Area
Admission: Free
Time: 1:30 p.m. — 2:15 p.m.
Trail: Meet Park Interpreter Matt at the Rock House Cave parking area to hike to the park’s archaeology site, Rock House Cave. We will view American Indian rock art. This hike is ¼-mile long and will take about 45 minutes. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring along drinking water.

Cane Creek State Park — Star City

Meeting Place: Pavilion #1 (Pavilion by the Playground)
Admission: Free
Time: 8:30 a.m. — 10:30 a.m.
Trail: Come with a park interpreter on this refreshing morning walk through the gorgeous forests of the Timberlands, and the meandering bottomlands of the Delta. Hikers of all ages and experience levels are encouraged to join. Feel free to bring binoculars or cameras and make sure to bundle up! The hike will end with a toasty campfire and hot chocolate or coffee.

Crater of Diamonds State Park — Murfreesboro

Meeting Place: Little Missouri River Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 9 a.m. — 10 a.m.
Trail: The Little Missouri River Trail offers an easy, 1-hour walk featuring an overlook of the Little Missouri River. Educational panels along the way highlight native plants and animals and two exercise stations offer a variety of physical fitness challenges. Half of the 1.2-mile loop is paved and is the longest wheelchair-accessible trail in this part of the state. The unpaved portion of the trail is easily walked and features a wooden footbridge. Please note that all park facilities, including the diamond search area, will be closed on January 1 for New Year’s Day. 

Lake Ouachita State Park — Mountain Pine

Meeting Place: Visitor Center Picnic Tables
Admission: Free
Time: 9 a.m. — 12 p.m.
Trail: Three hikes of varying difficulty will be offered. Hikes will follow the Caddo Bend Trail and will be led by an experienced hike leader. A campfire and warm drinks will be available at the start. 

Mount Nebo State Park — Dardanelle

Meeting Place: Summit Park Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 9 a.m. — 10 a.m.
Trail: Hike with a park interpreter on a strenuous 1-mile portion of the Summit Park Trail. Participants have the opportunity to hike through wooded areas and along the top of Mount Nebo. Bring plenty of water, and dress for the weather. 

Village Creek State Park — Wynne

Meeting Place: Lake Austell Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 9 a.m. — 10:30 a.m.
Trail: Tennis shoes or hiking boots Yare recommended for this 1.5-mile hike. 

Meeting Place: Big Ben Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 2 p.m. — 3 p.m.
Trail: Start your year off right with a hike at Village Creek State Park. Even if getting healthy and losing weight is not your goal this year, the New Year is the perfect time to plan for a hike. Tennis shoes or hiking boots are recommended for this .5-mile hike. After the hike, please join us for delicious Dutch oven biscuits and hot chocolate as we make our New Year’s resolutions. 

Lake Poinsett State Park — Harrisburg

Meeting Place: Visitor Center
Admission: Free
Time: 9:30 a.m. — 10:15 a.m.
Trail: Tennis shoes or hiking boots are recommended. Pets are welcome on a leash.

Meeting Place: Great Blue Heron Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 2 p.m. — 2:45 p.m.
Trail: Start your year off right by joining a park interpreter or going for a self-guided, refreshing hike through the forest here at Lake Poinsett State Park. Come be part of an annual tradition taking place across all 50 states! Tennis shoes or hiking boots are recommended for this leisurely 1.1-mile trail. Pets are welcome on a leash.

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Lake Charles State Park — Powhatan

Meeting Place: Visitor Center
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 11 a.m.
Trail: Take a hike around Lake Charles State Park. Dogs are welcome on a leash. Meet a park interpreter at the visitor center for a 1-mile hike.

Devil’s Den State Park — West Fork

Meeting Place: Visitor Center Flagpole
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.
Trail: From a waterfall to sandstone crevices, the Devil’s Den Trail is one of the most fascinating areas of Devil’s Den State Park. Join Park Interpreter Mystina to discover some of the animals, plants, and natural forces that can be found along this beautiful, scenic trail. This moderately strenuous trail is a 1 ½-mile loop and will take about 1 ½ hours to hike. Please wear sturdy shoes as the trail may be icy. Meet at the visitor center flagpole.

Meeting Place: Yellow Rock Trailhead near Camp Area A
Admission: Free
Time: 2 p.m. — 03 p.m.
Trail: Join Park Interpreter Mystina for a hike to explore the Yellow Rock area and take in the views from the Yellow Rock Overlook. The program will end at the overlook with a warming cup of hot cocoa. You then have extra time to spend there or continue the trail on your own.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park — Little Rock

Meeting Place: Rocky Valley Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 12 p.m.
Trail: Join a park interpreter for a guided New Year’s hike on the beautiful and least well-known trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park: the Rocky Valley and East Quarry Trail! The East Quarry Trail offers a fantastic panoramic view of the entire area, including the Arkansas River and Big Maumelle River! Make sure to bring plenty of water and wear sturdy shoes. Hot chocolate will be provided at the pavilion in the West Summit Picnic Area afterward!

Meeting Place: West Summit Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 12 p.m.
Trail: Join a park interpreter for a guided New Year’s hike on the beautiful West Summit Trail up Pinnacle Mountain! Be prepared for a wonderful panoramic view at the summit, which is definitely worth the strenuous climb up 700 feet! Make sure to bring plenty of water and wear sturdy shoes. Hot chocolate will be provided at the pavilion in the West Summit Picnic Area afterward!

Crowley’s Ridge State Park — Paragould

Meeting Place: Lake Ponder Trail
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 10:45 a.m.
Trail: Join a park interpreter on a guided Strutt your Mutt hike at Crowley’s Ridge State Park. This hike will take place on the Lake Ponder Trail, which is a 0.45-mile paved walking trail that is ADA and stroller accessible. Bring your furbaby on a leash to walk the walk, while we talk the talk. While walking around the trail, we will discover the history of the CCC, Lake Ponder, and talk about dog-friendly activities for you and your furbaby to do at the park. After all, a walk a day keeps the vet away! The hike lasts approximately 45 minutes. Please be mindful of others by making sure your dog is friendly and not aggressive toward other people and dogs. All dogs must be on a leash.

Lake Chicot State Park — Lake Village

Meeting Place: Visitor Center
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 11 a.m.
Trail: Join a park interpreter for a guided hike along the Delta Woodlands Nature Trail. Visitors can experience the sights and sounds of nature while making memories. Visitors will also learn about the positive and negative effects we have on nature. Cameras, field guides, and binoculars are welcome as we experience the nature at Lake Chicot State Park while enjoying a leisurely walk along our trail.

Powhatan Historic State Park — Powhatan

Meeting Place: Courthouse
Admission: Free
Time: 10 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.
Trail: Join in the First Day Hike movement and set yourself off on the right foot for a new year. Join the park interpreter for this free historic townsite tour. This hike is 1-mile long and will last about 1.5 hours. The tour will take visitors to each of the five historic buildings in Powhatan Historic State Park.

White Oak Lake State Park — Bluff City

Meeting Place: Beech Ridge Trailhead
Admission: Free
Time: 10:30 a.m. — 12 p.m.
Trail: Join park staff as well as many other people around Arkansas and throughout America in this national movement to help people to connect to parks. The 2-mile hike is on our Beech Ridge Trail, located near our tent camping area. After, we will warm up beside a campfire and enjoy some taco soup prepared the old-fashioned way in a Dutch oven, but supplies are limited. Please remember to bring a chair.

Daisy State Park — Kirby

Meeting Place: Visitor Center
Admission: Free
Time: 1 p.m. — 2 p.m.
Trail: Bring your family and friends to get started on your resolution for spending more time outside. You can explore nature and engage in physical activity while taking a family friendly excursion at Daisy State Park. Please dress for the weather and bring water with you.

Davidsonville Historic State Park — Pocahontas

Meeting Place: Visitor Center Porch
Admission: Free
Time: 1 p.m. — 3 p.m.
Trail: Celebrate the beginning of the new year with a hike on the adventurous side at Davidsonville Historic State Park. Discover the quiet beauty of Northeast Arkansas in wintertime as we explore 100+ acres of undeveloped woods and wetlands and learn about the impacts we have on the land. After the hike is over, join us at the visitor center for hot chocolate and hot cider around the fireplace. Pets welcome on a leash.

Mount Magazine State Park — Paris

Meeting Place: Lodge Lobby
Admission: Free
Time: 2 p.m. — 3:30 p.m.
Trail: Start your year off with a healthy hike to Arkansas’s highest point. This guided walk through winter woods is a good way to explore Mount Magazine State Park and welcome the new year! 

Mississippi River State Park — Marianna

Meeting Place: Trotting Fox Trail
Admission: Free
Time: 2 p.m. — 2:30 p.m.
Trail: If you are new to hiking or it has been a while since the last time you went for a hike, this is a terrific way to get started; or if you want some company while you hike. We will be taking advantage of the relatively flat topography of the Trotting Fox Trail to help to keep this ½-mile hike easy. Please make sure you dress for the weather and wear sturdy shoes. Don’t forget to bring water.

Photos provided by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. 

Julie Kohl

Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and virtual assistant while raising her young son. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas. Julie loves adventure. Not necessarily "scare-your-pants-off" adventure but the kind where you seek out new and exciting things. New foods, new places, new experiences. On her blog, Seek Adventures, Julie shares about the outdoor and travel adventures of her family as they camp and standup paddleboard across the South. You can also learn more about her writing on her site Seek Adventures Media.

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