Celebrate the New Year with a First Day Hike in a State Park Near You

Little Talbot State Park, Floridaopens IMAGE file

Little Talbot State Park, Florida

Rejuvenate and connect with your inner tree-hugger on New Year’s Day by participating in a First Day Hike in a state park near you. Here in the Sunshine State, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Florida Park Service is sponsoring free, guided hikes in nine state parks on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, as part of opens in a new windowAmerica’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative. Don’t worry if you won’t be in Florida on New Year’s Day because hikes and walks are being offered in all 50 states.

De Leon Springs State Park, Floridaopens IMAGE file

De Leon Springs State Park, Florida

Deets About First Day Hikes
As a solo traveler, this is a fantastic opportunity to participate in a (free) group activity.  America’s State Parks First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, meet new people, and welcome the New Year with (new) friends and family. Hikes and walks are lead by knowledgeable park rangers and average between one and two miles in length but vary by park.

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 promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, this is the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes. Isn’t this awesome?

Visit the America’s state parks website, opens in a new windowwww.americasstateparks.org, to find a First Day Hike nearest you and details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing.

First Day Hikes in Florida
From a opens in a new windowmedia release issued by the DEP, following is information about Florida hikes being offered on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012:

Torreya State Park, Bristol
Tel: (850) 643-2674
9 a.m.
Enjoy a two mile guided hike through the most diverse topography in Florida and the Steephead Ravine systems bring a vast array of rare and endangered plants and animals. The federally endangered Torreya tree is one example of the special features that call Torreya State Park home. Water and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended.

Camp Helen State Park, Panama City Beach
Tel: (850) 233-5058
10 a.m.
This two mile ranger lead hike winds through beautiful oak hammocks, coastal dune lake areas out to a gorgeous white sand beach. Water, insect repellant, sun screen and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, Cross Creek
Tel: (352) 466-6372
10 a.m.
Meet at the barn in the farmyard at this national historic landmark for a walk through the home of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Visitors can also explore the park’s two short trails through the park, the first trail goes from the front of the house in a loop through a Florida hammock and the second trail leads from the back of the historic property through a fern forest to the cypress trees.

Little Talbot Island State Park, Jacksonville
Tel: (904) 251-2320
12 p.m.
The Dune Ridge Trail meanders for two miles atop an ancient dune ridge under a canopy of live oaks, cedars and sable palms in a lush maritime hammock and concludes with a two mile walk along Little Talbot Island’s picturesque beach. Water, snacks, insect repellant, layered clothing and a camera are recommended. (Nearby is opens in a new windowBig Talbot Island State Park which is pretty fantastical, too.)

Fort Clinch State Park, Floridaopens IMAGE file

Fort Clinch State Park, Florida

Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach
Tel: (904) 277-7274
9 a.m.
This easy six mile hike winds along ancient sand dunes in a maritime forest of centuries old live oaks. Water and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended.

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach
Tel: (321) 984-4852
8 a.m.
Join a park ranger on an early morning stroll along one of the Atlantic Ocean’s dynamic beaches to learn about the drama of the endangered sea turtles, the importance of barrier islands and more. Water, comfortable walking shoes, insect repellant and sunscreen are recommended.

Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland
Tel: (863) 815-6761
10 a.m.
Participants should meet at the Mac Lake Pavilion for this two mile ranger led hike, meandering through pine flatwoods, around cypress domes and by bottomland forests. Along the way, visitors will have the opportunity to view native plants and animals while learning about the natural and cultural resources of the park. Water, insect repellant, sunscreen and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended.

Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House, De Leon Springs State Park, Fla.opens IMAGE file

Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House, De Leon Springs State Park, Fla.

De Leon Springs State Park, De Leon Springs
Tel: (386) 985-4212
1 p.m.
Join a park ranger for a four mile hike on the Wild Persimmon Trail. Deer, turkeys and occasionally a black bear are spotted on this trail. Water, insect repellant and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. (You can also opens in a new windowmake your own pancakes!)

Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin
11 a.m.
A knowledgeable volunteer will guide visitors down nearly a mile of the Osprey Trail. With an optional two mile hike, visitors should bring water, sunscreen, binoculars and appropriate shoes/clothing for weather conditions and terrain are recommended. For more information, call 727-738-2903.

For additional information about Florida State Parks, visit opens in a new windowwww.FloridaStateParks.org or opens in a new windowwww.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/.

Now go out and hike!


Author: Solo Travel Girl Admin

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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